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8 Reasons Why Noncredit Programs Need Their Own System

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Schools that use systems specifically designed for their noncredit programs have seen significant positive outcomes. Discover 8 reasons why your noncredit program can and should run independently.

Today most continuing education and workforce development (CE/WD) programs that offer noncredit education are operating as a separate entity by choice or simply because their business model is different from the academic side of the house. Colleges and universities often make the mistake of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole by running both the CE/WD programs with the same tools and resources they use for the academic side. This happens when leadership insist the noncredit programs utilize the same enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or student management system used by their associated for-credit programs. To operate at maximum efficiency, a correctly fit system must be in place. Perhaps in the mix of running daily operations bogged down by an inefficient system, program leaders often fail to acknowledge or even measure how much of their resources are spent in vain. CE/WD programs can operate and flourish to their potential when given the proper tools, support, and management system. Consider the following 8 reasons.

1. Noncredit programs run differently from credit programs.

Credit Student, Non-Credit Student, Credit Staff, and Non-Credit Staff all have arrows pointing to the Credit System. Credit System: System of Record, System of Work, System of Transaction.

Figure 1. Credit and noncredit working with one system

Noncredit students do not undergo the admission procedure, tuition complexities, nor the same course selection process that credit programs require. Noncredit programs are often as simple as an online transaction, like buying a book from Amazon. Credit systems are designed with the back end in mind (e.g., the admissions office), whereas noncredit systems are designed with the student in mind (e.g., an e-commerce solution). Programs that try to use their credit systems for noncredit students risk losing transactions midway. Students who want to register for a $100 class want to finish the transaction within a few clicks. They don’t want to go through an admissions process like a credit student.

Using a student enrollment program that is designed to work specifically for noncredit students can simplify operations on both sides of the interface: the front end for the student and the backend for operational management for the staff. Students can explore your website just like the online shopping sites they frequent. Imagine your students registering and purchasing their classes just like they shop on Amazon.

2. You can have the best of the breed with an integrated solution.

With a fully integrated solution, the ERP system for the credit side can continue to run as a system of record while the CE/WD system becomes the system of work and system of transaction. Vital data such as registrations, financial transactions, student and instructor profiles, courses and classes, etc. can move between the ERP and the CE/WD system in real time for state reporting, payroll, room management, etc. Using real-time integration reduces duplicate efforts and manual data entry into the system of record, saving hundreds of hours while improving data quality and integrity. In this scenario, the ERP continues to be the system of record while the CE/WD solution becomes the system of transaction and system of work for staff and students.

Credit Student and Credit Staff feed into Credit System: System of Record. Non-Credit Student and Non-Credit Staff feed into Non-Credit System: System of Work and System of Transaction.  Credit System and Non-Credit System both have 2 way arrows to Middleware: Student Profiles, Financial transactions, Courses, Classes, Registrations, Companies, Instructors.
Figure 2. Credit and noncredit working with best-of-breed systems

3. You can outsource the liability.

If you are accepting credit card payments online, you are required to meet the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Obtaining and maintaining these standards can cost upwards of $30,000 annually. When you are using a solution that is specifically designed for CE/WD programs, you are also outsourcing the liability that comes with online transactions. The vendor who provides the solution must maintain PCI compliance. All proper security measures need to be in place to ensure safe transactions for your programs. The vendor also must maintain a large amount of cybersecurity and general liability insurance to protect your school from cyberthreats and the risks associated with taking online credit card payments.

4. You can minimize IT resources.

Most solutions for CE/WD programs are not bound by the limits of the ERP systems, and most likely they are hosted solutions in the cloud. When these systems are hosted in the cloud and maintained by the vendor, IT staff maintenance time is virtually eliminated. Once your site is live, your IT department requires little to no involvement with your CE/WD programs. There is no need for hosting and maintaining software in servers, no need for IT to run reports, and no need to ask IT to customize the software or change a process. CE/WD programs are empowered to collect the data they need, run their own reports, and create their own processes. Some schools experience resistance from their internal IT departments to have a separate solution for their CE/WD programs. In exploring the option of running an independent CE/WD student enrollment program, some believe this will cause a drain on their resources—to have yet another student management system in operation. However, with the right solution, you are outsourcing the maintenance and support of the software, freeing internal IT resources.

5. Your revenue will grow when you have the right system for your users.

Most programs see an increase in revenue simply because their student enrollment program is easier to use. If the CE/WD programs are using a solution specifically designed for their needs, it will include search engine optimization, social media integration, and other online marketing tools. This makes it easier for students to find the classes they are interested in, leading them directly to the website to register. With this streamlined approach, it's easy to understand why students increase the number of classes they take. An e-commerce solution with a recommendation engine and ability to offer classes the student might take based on data analytics will increase enrollments. Marketing automation features enable schools to set up workflows that email students to notify them of upcoming classes based on interests and previous class data. Repeat customers are a key element for the business success of CE/WD programs. ERP systems generally lack the features to market appropriately to noncredit students. When CE/WD programs are operating a student enrollment program specific to their environment, it minimizes confusion, which results in fewer class cancellations.

6. Reporting made for the right program.

CE/WD programs have unique data to gather in order to make informed decisions. Most programs typically have to request reports from their IT department. Generally, there is a lapse between time of the request and the delivery of the report, often rendering the data obsolete. With an independent student enrollment system, reports are available immediately—in real time. Staff can run reports at their convenience and schedule reports in advance for delivery. Management should be able to see their go/no-go numbers instantly to decide whether a class will be profitable to run or not. The program can then take immediate action, either to further promote or cancel the class.

7. State reporting is more accurate and simplified.

The integration and data-transfer options revealed throughout this article enhance reporting to a state entity and may be used to satisfy state-specific needs and/or requirements. Some schools are directed to improve their data integrity by using auditors who are tasked with remedying errors and duplications. Other schools have reported that working with their ERP system of record integrated with their student of work system resulted in easing the state reporting from weeks of preparation to only hours.

8. You'll save money in resources and labor costs.

When you have the right student enrollment system for the CE/WD program, students can create their own profiles, shop classes, register, and pay right at the time of registration. There is no need for staff assistance, as all of this can be accomplished independently by each student. Many noncredit programs that depend solely on an ERP system end up taking registrations manually over the phone, by mail, or in person to bypass the burden of the ERP system. This increases the opportunity for duplication and data-entry errors. In addition, your staff becomes less efficient due to interacting with one registration multiple times. When you invest in the right CE/WD system, your staff is not entrenched in registrations or billing. This enables their focus to be available for more important tasks like analyzing their data, identifying which classes are most profitable, which teachers are getting the best reviews, which zip codes are delivering the best customers, and how they can increase their repeat rates as well as reduce their cancellation rates, etc. With the right software specifically designed for CE/WD programs, many schools report that their staff allocation for student registration is reduced by 50–75%

Cem Erdem is Founder/CEO of Augusoft. Augusoft develops and maintains Lumens, the first SaaS enrollment management system specifically designed for the corporate and continuing education and workforce development programs.

© 2019 Cem Erdem