From education to employment

3 Ways to Boost Learner Enrolment in 2024

Skills Network kids sitting in the classroom

January is the month we all tentatively ease ourselves back into regular work-life routines and try to remember our passwords. But January also marks the start of a new year and with it, a renewed sense of opportunity and optimism. Colleges, local authorities and independent training providers across the country will look for new and exciting ways of how to attract learners in 2024 and ultimately maximise their funding uplift from the Adult Education Budget (AEB).

Back in 2020, the adult education sector was fondly named ‘the crown’ with community learning ‘its jewel’. Fast forward to 2023 and some within the sector reported that adult education is no longer engaging anywhere near the number of adults it once was.

2023 saw a 50 per cent fall in adults taking qualifications at level 2 and below, alongside a 33 per cent fall in the number of adults taking level 3 qualifications since 2010. By 2020, that meant about four million “lost learners” with 63 per cent fewer adults in literacy and numeracy classes, according to the Learning & Work Institute.

Now is the time to reinvigorate your delivery

With a general election on the horizon and plenty in the policy pipeline, all FE providers must maximise their AEB spend and attract prospective learners with expert solutions and resources.

But how do you successfully market your FE provision as somewhere learners WANT to learn in 2024?

Here are 3 top tips on how to boost your student enrolment numbers

  1. Offer Flexible Online Learning
  2. Expand Your Online Course Portfolio
  3. Deliver up-to-date Learning Content

Let’s break it down…..

Tip One | Offer Flexible Online Learning

This should come as no surprise. Much of the growth we see today regarding flexible online learning delivery models can be attributed to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many adult learning organisations to swiftly close their doors and transition to remote learning formats.

A considerable number of students, particularly those managing work alongside their studies, have since been increasingly drawn to flexible methods of online learning due to its convenience and accessibility in contrast to the traditional in-person classroom setting.

A McKinsey survey revealed that 65% of students who had been transferred to a flexible online learning model during the COVID-19 pandemic, preferred online learning for 3 key reasons:

  1. Recording classes and making them available to watch later
  2. Easy and free access to online study materials
  3. The flexibility that allowed them to work and study

To bolster this point further, data from Growth Engineering has revealed the two most popular reasons for choosing flexible learning are ….

  • 95% choose flexible learning so they can learn at their own pace
  • 84% choose flexible learning to save time and cost on travelling

By aligning your college or further education (FE) institution with a flexible online learning delivery model, you are casting your net wider for diversified learner intake and making adult education accessible to those who have previously encountered barriers when considering an FE learning journey.

Tip Two | Expand Your Online Course Portfolio

By drawing down your AEB funding, strategically expanding your regulated online learning course portfolio and introducing hybrid learning into your current curriculum, FE providers can…

  • Raise their profile within the sector
  • Attract new learners and increase enrolment
  • Gain valuable data insight
  • Futureproof their offering in an evolving further education landscape

Choosing an online or blended learning delivery method for your expanded course portfolio can open up a wealth of data-rich resources. Tutors, Curriculum Leads and Ofsted Inspectors alike can gain instant access and visibility to progress reports, learner insight and accurate GLH evidencing.

Institutions that neglect the development of a diverse range of online courses and subsequent data-driven approaches may jeopardise their prospects for future growth and learner enrolments. Creating a comprehensive online portfolio can take time and careful investment in AEB funding. However, armed with the right expertise, FE providers can efficiently expand their online offerings with both time and cost efficiency.

Expand your course portfolio in 3 simple steps:

Develop a strategic roadmap for online course expansion – Conduct thorough, data-driven market analyses and program planning to determine the best mix of online and hybrid programs for your organisation. A detailed examination of your market positioning, as well as that of competitors, labour market data, and the desired prospective learner demographic, can reveal key areas of future development.

Assess your current resources and capabilities – Conduct a comprehensive audit of current technology, tools, systems, and resources that your organisation currently has to hand. Audits help identify areas where new resources or solutions may be necessary.

Consider support from external partners – Consider working with an external FE partner who can bring advanced expertise and resources to your provision. Given the rapid growth in technologies supporting high-quality online learning, specialised education technology providers can offer a range of services and tools to enhance and support FE providers who wish to grow their provision and ultimately, boost learner intake.

Tip Three | Deliver up-to-date learning content

If educational material provided by a college, independent training provider or local authority does not reflect the latest research, best practices, and industry standards, students may receive an incomplete or inaccurate understanding of their field.

Not only might this be detrimental to the organisation’s reputation, but it will also deter learners seeking a high-quality education.

Regular reviews and updates to course content and curriculum ensure that the education provided uses up-to-date terminology and most importantly, meets current standards including the Ofsted inspection framework.

Providing up-to-date learning resources encourages a culture of lifelong learning.

This is critical for those who work in fields such as Childcare and Health and Social Care, as they are expected to fulfil a set amount of CPD hours, stay updated on industry practice and are more likely to continue learning throughout their careers, ensuring that their skills remain relevant over time.

How can you ensure learning resources are always up to date?

In practice, ensuring your provision is always utilising the very latest learning content can be resource-heavy, costly to implement and time-consuming, particularly for organisations that still rely on paper-based learning models.

Organisations that utilise hybrid or online learning models will be at a significant advantage when it comes to keeping their resources up to date, given that updates can typically be implemented remotely with speed and at a minimal cost.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to consider a paper-free delivery method.

Here we have explored 3 top tips for maximising AEB spending and ultimately, boosting learner intake.

FE organisations must be prepared to offer flexible online learning, expand their funded online course portfolio and ensure course content is up to speed with the latest developments. Without these crucial 3 commitments, FE organisations will fall victim to the creeping decline in adult learning engagement figures.

By The Skills Network

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