Recruiting and Providing Student Services for Online Programs at a Traditional, Public University

“Traditional recruitment has to change to suit the online market,” said Rebel Smith, Director of Recruitment and Enrollment Management for Online and Distance Education Programs at the University of Arkansas. “We can’t keep using the same methods we’ve always used. The online, off-campus population is very different.”

In her upcoming AACRAO SEM Conference Session “Recruiting and providing student services for online programs at a traditional public university,” Smith will talk about some of the key perspective shifts that have to happen in order for traditional public universities to successfully recruit and retain online students. She’ll also encourage attendees to share their own experience with online students and programs so participants can get a sense of what has and hasn’t worked among their peer institutions.

In advance of her session, Smith shared these insights on online recruitment:

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Rebel Smith

Director of Recruitment and Enrollment Management for Online and Distance Education Programs 

University of Arkansas

Recruiting and Providing Student Services for Online Programs at a Traditional, Public University

Monday, November 02, 2015 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM


AACRAO: How is the off-campus population different?

Smith: They’re often working professionals. They’re not usually students looking to move to a new town and immerse themselves in a program. They aren’t focused on one campus as their dream campus; they’re finding out information on programs online. It’s very competitive. They are looking for options that are convenient and affordable, so you’re marketing different strengths than when you’re bringing students to campus. In contrast, when I was an on-campus recruiter and could get a student to come to Fayetteville, which is beautiful, I had a good chance of recruiting. Those students wanted to be a Razorback.

AACRAO: So how did your university find success with the online market?

Smith: We’re not new in the online market. We’ve had a program online for several years but it’s definitely growing. To handle such significant growth, we’ve had to develop new strategies for how to recruit for these programs, retain students and provide student services based on different models than for on-campus students.

We had to develop pathways for the programs to move online so they would be successful with promotion, marketing and recruiting. When a program wants to develop an online market, they go through a proposal and approval process that takes about a year, and then I step in and help them reach their enrollment goals.

AACRAO: What will attendees take away from the meeting?

Smith: I’ll talk about the changes we’ve made to be successful—for example, changing our coding for better data tracking and better student service; charging online students in-state tuition to make the program competitive, and working with the graduate programs to identify and recruit their ideal online class.

I hope session participants will discuss the difficulties we’ve encountered on our various campuses regarding online students and how we serve them, so we can all learn from each other and benefit from our collective experience.