Are there characteristics that your students all share?
They have careers that they want to change. In the process, they're looking for a better life. They all own or lease cars. They tend to be renters. Many of them could be characterized as lower middle class. Most are bi-lingual, English/Spanish, or come from a household that's bi-lingual. They are surprisingly healthy. Over 15 months, they very rarely miss classes, even if classes are held every night following a full day of work. About 60 percent of them are married, and they believe their families will benefit from this particular student experience.
What future are they most concerned with, short-term or long-term?
They are investing in the future for themselves or their loved ones. They're not purchasing anything from us for immediate gratification. My observation is that they expect a payoff in the job market within a few months after graduation. But they expect dividends over a lifetime.
What have you learned about admissions for young adults?
First, a little background. My first job after college was as an admissions representative. I quickly learned that particular job is not necessarily a sales job. In fact, I consider myself possibly the world's worst salesman. Admissions is about understanding another person's needs and being willing and able to help meet those needs. A talented admissions representative displays empathy and patience while building a relationship with each student.
So what tools and techniques do you use to attract prospects?
I'm still fine-tuning our web marketing programs at Fremont. I hope that a year from now our word-of-mouth recommendations will exceed our use of the web. Events create word-of-mouth leads. Successful graduates produce infectious exuberance. In this instant-messaging and Facebook-driven world, our actions and results are more evident than ever. Our students and graduates are our ultimate ambasadors.
What recruiting techniques do you use that might surprise a Gazette reader?
When an incoming lead is received by web, a hallelujah chorus plays on a computer in the admissions department that is heard throughout the office. That music throughout the day keeps everyone in a distinctly right frame of mind. It also reminds the admissions team to communicate with the prospective student within five minutes.
What admissions closing techniques work well?
We conduct two interviews within a three-step process. I'll tell you about step one. During the first interview, our admissions representative solicits the students' objectives, hopes, dreams, fears and possible areas of excitement. The objective of that first interview is to find a good fit. Interestingly, much of that time is spent 'clearing the fog' during which we actually help our prospects know themselves better. Once they know themselves better, they can see their future more clearly. And we can decide jointly whether Fremont is likely to help them get there.
After the first admissions interview, what happens next at Fremont College?
At this point, both the student and our admissions representative have decided to pursue admission at Fremont. During a second interview we discuss the academic program, finances and the road to the student's objective. We also deal with the fear factor that's often present within people who have been away from education for awhile. Laying out a specific roadmap helps make the student comfortable.
How is that affected by your own current personal educational endeavor?
I went back to school to study brain-mapping and research how people learn. Executive education is a big ticket purchase in Ivy league schools, where the buyers require immediate results. I want to learn how to adapt the same style of education to Fremont's student population. Our students may not be executives, but they are adults, want fast results and need to apply their knowledge to work immediately.
How have you applied your studies to Fremont's offerings and administration?
We use a student ambassador program that incorporates peer tutors and peer coaches. In addition, a peer concierge helps integrate newly admitted students into the classroom experience. Comfort level is very important, so we practice high touch. Increase a student's comfort level, and we can help that student learn with speed and enthusiasm.
Can you scale a high-touch mode for growth?
We expect to grow online. My doctoral dissertation is aimed at adapting high-touch, high-tech learning to an online environment. A successful online curriculum requires more instructional design than classroom curriculums.
Why is more instructional design necessary for online learning?
A classroom student benefits from several support mechanisms. One such is the instructor and any assistants he or she may utilize in classroom. Support is also provided by the physical presence of other students. Yet another is various extracurricular activities. To keep a variety of online individuals engaged and increase the user experience, these support mechanisms must be structurally pre-designed and delivered through technology.
Do you now differentiate between teaching and learning?
Teaching is guiding, instructing and training. Learning is a cognitive process of transformation through acquiring knowledge and understanding it. Each college needs a holistic approach that fits its clientele. That holistic approach will include awareness of what's motivating the students.
How is motivation involved?
Educational psychologists who have studied learning stress the importance of human motivation. Those psychologists have categorized motivation in three silos: behaviorism (Skinner), cognitivism (Piaget), socio-culturalism (Vygotsky). Regardless of the theory, each college must know what's motivating their students, select its learning culture and design it accordingly.
What motivates the Fremont student?
To design Fremont's approach, I went down the Vygotsky path to learn through team work and collaboration. Our student's first motivation is desire for a better career and desire for a life change. To facilitate their life changing experience, during the admissions process, we filter out prospects who are not motivated to collaborate or participate in group activities. As they become immersed in the learning at Fremont, we require them to collaborate with teammates and learn from each other as well as by teaching back formally. Each student is assigned to a team and required to take a role and ask one burning question. Then the team answers each question by collaborating what was presented in the lecture. Each team presents their findings to the entire class to critique and discuss.
What upcoming milestone are you looking forward to?
Our classroom learning model and its instructional design is solid and effective as well as popular with our students. I designed the online learning model and will be implementing it in 2009 to be operational soon.