Administrators devise 6 ways to boost online course enrollment

Extended campus sees initial course enrollment spike thanks to a six-part, administrator-led strategy.

enrollmentBoosting course enrollment for online learning may seem easy, but for an extended campus that relies not only on adjunct faculty, but funding from tuition, boosting course enrollment is not always the no-brainer it’s made out to be.

According to a new report, that’s what Brigham Young University’s (BYU) Salt Lake Center administration came to find as it tried to keep itself financially afloat by offering the same portfolio of courses they offered from the year before, as well as offering courses that were filled to capacity at the main campus—some 46 miles away in Provo, Utah.

Long story short, the Center, which opened in 1959 and currently serves about 2,000 total enrollments each semester, experienced a gradual decline in course enrollments in the years following its relocation in 2007 to its current site. The decline in enrollments proved extremely detrimental to the Center, since it’s financially self-sustaining, receiving no financial appropriation from the main campus and relying solely on tuition paid by students.

Another challenge is that each course must have at least five students enrolled or it will be cancelled, since the course must warrant financial investment and lend itself to peer and group work for pedagogical reasons. In the past, the Center sought to offer the same portfolio of courses they offered from the year before, with the hope that each course would reach the minimum number of enrollments by the first day of the semester. If, after the first day of class, the minimum number of enrollments was not met, the course was cancelled.

Yet, this course enrollment framework caused problems, considering that since the cancellations occurred after the first day of class, students were left little time to find another section of the same course. Also, the instructor—always an adjunct and, therefore, with limited teaching availability (most work full time at another job or teach elsewhere)—who had arranged their schedule to teach the course was, rather suddenly, left with no course and fewer options on short notice.

Looking to research, as well as library subject experts, administrators at the Center found little to help in their process of boosting course enrollment. Taking initiative, these administrators brainstormed six questions, or strategies, to help optimize their academic schedule, increase enrollments, and better serve their nontraditional students.

These strategies, largely tech-based and implemented within the last year, have led to a 27 percent increase in annual enrollment numbers—the first time the Center has experienced an increase since 2010.

(Next page: The 6 enrollment strategies)