For the past several years, DELTA’s Marketing and Partnership Development (MPD) team has worked to craft a career-focused, centralized student-recruitment strategy for NC State’s 111 accredited online and distance education (ODE) programs. Associate Vice Provost Kay Zimmerman and Associate Director, Marketing Operations and Strategy Katie Bean developed a multi-pronged approach to show prospective students the path to a rewarding career. In fiscal year 2019-2020, the project’s critical pieces came into place, resulting in a first-of-its-kind student recruitment initiative unique to NC State and online student recruitment in higher education.
The new strategy tackles recruitment from several different angles, characterized by a comprehensive shift from program-centered marketing to career-centered marketing. Millennials, more so than other age groups, tend to require career assurance before diving into a degree program. The career-centered approach appeals to new audiences while maintaining effectiveness across differing demographics.
When prospective students tour NC State Online’s program pages they are not only met with a thorough overview of the degree program, but a glimpse into where it can take them. Users can browse various job titles related to the program; the Master of Science in Computer Engineering, for example, features titles such as cyber security engineer, software developer and systems architect, to name a few. Each title comes with comparisons and projections regarding salary, employment trends, skills, education and experience. MPD collaborates with DELTA’s Online and Distance Education unit and the program coordinators to ensure that the program effectively prepares its students for the careers listed. By exploring career pages, prospective students can accurately gauge the impact of a degree.
NC State Online’s program and career pages are rooted in data. Career pages incorporate data from the Burning Glass Labor Insight™ platform, a data-driven analytics software that tracks labor market trends in real time. Labor Insight™ data is leveraged on NC State Online program and career pages in addition to social media and digital advertising, which target specific locations with job growth based on the program. NC State Online’s social media strategy has also transitioned to career-focused messaging.
If a prospective student doesn’t know what type of career they want, Burning Glass Career Insight™ comes into play. Potential students who visit the website will have access to a questionnaire where they can supply information about their personal interests, skill sets and aspirations. Career Insight™ takes this information and pairs it with career opportunities supported by NC State Online degree programs.
Programs offered by NC State Online are meant to provide students with opportunities for meaningful advancement in their careers and industries. One new program especially demonstrates the relevance and possibilities of online education. The Graduate Certificate in Renewable Energy Assessment and Development prepares students to consider the technical, policy and financial aspects of renewable energy project development. The interdisciplinary approach allows individuals to gain a comprehensive understanding of renewables and better incorporate their professional experience and expertise in the industry.
MPD hopes to share career data and strategy with the NC State community for effective use across platforms and initiatives. The team consistently supports campus partners in other ways as well. MPD and DELTA colleagues assisted the McKimmon Center for Extension and Continuing Education and the Office of Professional Development with an independent SWOT analysis. MPD has worked closely with the McKimmon Center to share marketing best practices and research as the group transitions to a more comprehensive marketing strategy and explores digital marketing opportunities. During COVID-19, the McKimmon Center introduced more online offerings with the help of DELTA. The team has also worked with colleges and programs across NC State to complete competitive market research projects centered around higher education and careers.
Throughout fiscal year 2019-2020, MPD’s focus has been on students. Each project, initiative and support service is aimed to point NC State Online students on a path to a rewarding career. Team members are driven by the results they see on a regular basis, particularly in NC State Online graduates, who consistently illustrate the way an online degree program can transform a career.
Spring 2020 graduation was upset by the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that NC State Online graduates would not be able to attend commencement in person. Instead, their stories of resilience and dedication were highlighted in 15 DELTA News articles. The graduates shared their journeys, advice and plans for the future, serving as a source of inspiration and a testament of what is possible for members of the Online Pack.