On Thursday, October 1, 2020, Meteor Learning COO Donna Ritchie joined a panel of higher education marketing leaders at LeadsCon to discuss the challenges and strategies involved in supporting adult learners in the current landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic. Joining moderator Bruce Douglas, CEO at Education Dynamics, along with Donna were Marcelo Parravicini, CEO and Principal at Cygnus Education, and Susan Bogle, VP Product Marketing at Southern New Hampshire University.
As an organization focused on connecting education to outcomes for adult learners through employer-aligned programming, Meteor Learning experienced the same rapid disruption that many other organizations faced at the outset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. So how was Meteor able to connect with students during this time?
“At Meteor, we worked with our higher ed partners to shift our messaging approach to reflect the realities of the world that prospective students are facing, including frontline workers such as nurses and teachers, ” explained Donna. “By connecting with these students in an authentic way, we were able to continue the conversation during what has been a very difficult time.”
“We are fortunate. Everything we do at Meteor Learning focuses on the student. Our mission is to put ‘students first.’ If you examine everything we do from that perspective, we’re in a great place when it comes to genuinely connecting with students,” explained Donna.
What about the role of government in helping students before and after the election?
“The real issue that our industry is facing and will continue to face is the alignment of value and price. I think the industry is going to play a much bigger role than government in allowing institutions to work through this,” Donna added. “As an example, we have worked with one of our partners to create a new pricing approach for a bachelor degree completion program which is student-friendly, transparent and aligned to career outcomes.”
The conversation shifted to the ways degree programs are suited to the current climate and the new skills that professionals will need in the workplace. With Meteor Learning’s alignment with industry, Donna was able to provide a unique perspective: “It’s not just about technical skills, it’s also about non-cognitive skills. The days of taking five years to develop a program are over because, by the time the program launches, those skill needs have evolved. This is the time when institutions need an agile framework that responds to shifting employer demands.”
“We see innovation across all the four Ps of marketing. We are working with our partners on Product to ensure the programming is relevant and career aligned. Our students receive a competency transcript outlining their skills and skill development and how they align with the industry’s careers. Students entering this new environment need the confidence they are gaining the right skills, and employers also need the confidence that graduates have the right fit for the role,” explained Donna.
“In terms of promotion, we are going to continue to see more engagement with employers as a pathway for students to determine what kind of programming will help them in their careers. This connection between developing talent at employers and using higher ed as a strong partner in building those skills will become even more important. We’re continuing to see this partnership as the tip of the spear in how employers are supporting skill development.”
“Students also need a clear value proposition as it relates to ROI, with pricing that supports salary and career progression outcomes. The current crisis is exposing the need for that return to be real, and for students to fully understand the new salaries they are going to receive and the new career opportunities that are going to be available to them.”
When asked about potential government involvement with the OPM (Online Program Management) industry and government policy, Donna remarked:
“At Meteor Learning, we’re a B-Corp, which is a very rigorous accreditation. Many companies such as Ben & Jerry’s and Athleta, are B-Corps. This is about transparency above all, which is important for all types of organizations.”