Incorporating Intelligence to Enhance the Education Experience

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Customer Experience
Customer Experience
2013 Customer Champion Joeri Weyenberg, vice president of marketing, Kaplan University, blends behavioral data, analytical assessments, and student support to facilitate educational experiences that foster career success.

Though one's educational pursuits demonstrate an investment in long-term personal success, such an undertaking also requires great financial commitment. But when Joeri Weyenberg came into his position as vice president of marketing at Kaplan University, he recognized that, in order to create meaningful relationships, the student's investment of time and money needed to be met with an equal contribution to betterment and experience on the school's end.

Thus, Weyenberg lead the development and inception of the Kaplan Commitment, an innovative program that enables educational exploration by allowing current and prospective students to enroll in real classes so they may determine whether the coursework meets their educational needs before making the financial commitment.

"At the heart of our mission are high-quality educational offerings that foster student learning with opportunities to launch, enhance, or change careers in a diverse, technologically sophisticated, and globally connected world," Weyenberg says. "In 2010, Kaplan University realized, however, that most withdrawals occur relatively early in a student's academic career. By analyzing longitudinal data, Kaplan University observed that low first-term grades were directly associated with both lower graduation rates and higher loan default rates."

By putting great emphasis on building mutually beneficial relationships, Weyenberg also worked with Kaplan University's admissions department to bring students a flexible educational experience. The two departments removed many of the barriers to student success by not only introducing the experiential learning assessment, by also by providing credit for prior learning, simplifying academic credit transfers, and increasing student scholarships. Eliminating the pressure of definitive commitment allows potential students to become familiar with Kaplan's offerings, using everyone's time and resources to decide wisely. This strategy incorporates inherent financial benefits, while also building a trustworthy foundation that proves Kaplan's dedication to the student experience.

During this introductory period, students can test drive their chosen classes, while the university conducts academic assessments to help determine whether students are likely to be successful in their chosen course of study. Students can then chose to enroll and earn credit for successfully completed courses, or withdraw without penalty within the Kaplan Commitment timeframe. Those that withdraw or do not pass, therefore, will not have to pay for their classes, not collect financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education, thus avoiding loan default complications. The Kaplan Way, built upon four common priorities-student success, a great place, continuous transformation, and shared values-preserves the student experience by offering a flexible, innovative way to foster success.

Now, Kaplan University systematically tracks student outcomes to determine the percentage of those who fail or withdraw during the Commitment period so as to identify better qualified students and improve engagement. Within the last year, Kaplan has conferred 18,350 degrees, an increase of 15 percent over the 2010-2011 academic year. Data also shows that, since its launch, the Kaplan Commitment has seen 65 percent of students continue past the introductory period into their selected program. Yet, while 16 percent didn't enroll due to poor academic performance, and another 19 percent didn't matriculate due to other various other obstacles, Kaplan University still views these "failures" as successes because the students didn't waste resources. They saved their own money, as well as the Department of Education's, and allowed the school to focus on recruiting capable, committed students who are more likely to complete their coursework and graduate.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION