Using the power of student communities to transform enrollment

October 4, 2020
  • 2020 SEM Conference
illustration of 8 people standing and sitting near chat bubbles

As the nation’s largest nonprofit online university, Western Governors University (WGU) has a vested interest in being at the forefront of technological innovation. Through its research and development arm, WGU Labs, they invent, build, and invest in education technology. 

“Building on social psychology, learning science, and industry insights, WGU Labs accelerates EdTech startups and develops usable, effective educational resources and technology built for implementation and scale,” their website states. “Labs employs efficacy testing with WGU students in real-world settings, ensuring that each product positively impacts student success.”

Jason Levin, Executive Director, WGU Labs, recently spoke to AACRAO Connect about a new endeavor to leverage technology and community to improve enrollment conversion rates.

Community connections

“We’re using a technology called InScribe, embedded in our enrollment portal, to connect prospective students with current students, faculty, alumni, and other prospective students,” Levin said. “InScribe is a community tool for education. Although it’s organic from the student’s perspective, it allows for moderation and gives us the ability to curate factual and accurate information for students.” 

InScribe offers a set of flexible tools for creating different topical threads with content and chat around each topic.

This application of the InScribe platform to the enrollment portal, launched last month, is still in the testing phase. WGU is conducting a randomized controlled trial, displaying this opportunity to every 10th student. Because of WGU’s scale, this means approximately 4,000 prospective students are in the experimental sample, enabling them to detect relatively small changes in conversion. They plan to run the experiment for two months.

“We created the community with a user-centered design process,” Levin said. “We interviewed students, alumni, and enrollment counselors to discover what they didn’t like about the enrollment process, and used those interviews to design the initial content for the community. It’s not like talking to an admissions counselor. It’s a chance to talk to real students regarding their WGU experiences and alumni to hear how their degrees are working out for them.”

Learn the results

Levin hopes to have detailed data to share at his AACRAO SEM Conference session later this month, "Redefining Student Enrollment Success through the Power of Student Community."

"Especially in this new age of online learning post-COVID, the power of student communities may transform how we think about enrollment processes,” Levin said. 

Learn more about "Transforming SEM" at the virtual AACRAO SEM Conference, October 28-30, 2020. Early bird registration extended through this Friday, October 9.