Bernard J. Luskin, Ed.D., LMFT

The Media Psychology Effect

Online Learning: A Tour de Force for Enrollment Management

Expanding online and distance learning can help with declines.

Posted Jul 26, 2017

Luskin Learning Psychology Series, No. 37

Enrollment Management is a well-planned array of strategies designed to shape and achieve the enrollment targets of an institution to meet established goals.          

Ohio Univ.
Source: Ohio Univ.

     The strategies for enrollment management are central to achieving specific targets in enrollment.  This article is drawn from my decades of experience in successfully managing enrollment. During my career, I have served as a Dean of Admissions and Counseling, Registrar, President and CEO of eight colleges, Chancellor, and as a solutions architect for many institutions having enrollment needs.

     Managing enrollment is critical for sustainability. Relevant and significant changes are now happening in our society. Trends include changing student demographics, the flattening of state funding in public colleges and universities, increasing numbers of categorical programs with specified targets, pressures for sustainability and the improved and burgeoning digital landscape. These and other social changes prompt me to express my belief that blended, online and distance education are now uniquely important areas of instructional effectiveness. Changing learning configurations, student lifestyles, and enrollment management needs in colleges and universities are increasingly converged. 

     The acceptance of distance education and online or media-centric courses is now common across all segments of higher education. All the critical obstacles to online learning in wide use have now been overcome to a level at which they are no longer overwhelming barriers to growth. We have now passed critical availability of sufficient numbers of individuals having the component skills to make it happen widely. Powerful and effective technology is available, the research data shows positive results, there is wide acceptance by students, faculty and the general population, and there are financial incentives and ways to achieve acceptable costs.

     If you think for a moment about the burgeoning digital landscape, you quickly envision expanded television networks, satellite and AM/FM radio, smart phones, iPads, broadband internet, online video. Over the Top technologies, examples of which include email, instant messaging, Facebook, You Tube, Pandora, Hulu, NetFlix and versions of social media such as Twitter, LinkedIn, podcasts and new forms of location-based services. The growing digital rainbow now leads to a clear and viable pot of gold.

google images
Source: google images

     Recently, as Chancellor of the Ventura County Community College District, we began to focus on distance education, including blended and online courses as an important part of our enrollment management planning. I say this to offer a case study of one important initiative that helped us to succeed with an overall enrollment management plan. The increases in online enrollment made the difference in reaching our targets. In 2015, just under 15% of our enrollment was in online courses. Over the last two years we grew to 19.8% of our approximately 50,000-student headcount enrollment. This allowed us to maintain our enrollment levels even though traditional local demographic populations declined, public funds are flattening, dependence on earmarked categorical programs increased, limitations on available space at key times grew, and a number of physical class sizes were limited by small rooms and seating availability. Adding online courses diversified the delivery and access to our offerings so that more programs were available to more students at more times.

Examples of areas where there is enrollment management opportunity include:

  • Time of day.
  • Changes in curriculum that require one or two class sessions.
  • Adding increased online interaction and study in individual courses.
  • Corporate offerings that allow flexibility of schedules and access, opening the door for partnerships with companies, some of which now allow employees to enroll in courses while they work.
  • Increased demand among military personnel. Ventura County Community College District has a Naval Base in our county.
  • Correctional institutions now encourage inmates to enroll in online classes.
  • Concurrent and dual enrollment is now adding a new and exciting dimension to high school curriculum, allowing students to take college courses while attending high school. This adds many new benefits to students. My definition of concurrent enrollment is a currently enrolled K-12 student who is approved to take an online college course with their school’s permission.  Dual enrollment is when credit is recorded on both the student’s high school and college transcripts. Dual and concurrent enrollment students learn more and are more likely to enroll in college upon graduation.
Luskin International
Source: Luskin International

Trends amplifying the future of online, blended and distance learning include:

  • Teacher education programs educating the new generation to be familiar with learning management systems, methods and techniques. The way we teach and learn is changing so teacher education programs must change apace.
  • Libraries and librarians are now changing significantly to serve a changing world.
  • The (OER), Online Educational Resource programs reshaping the types, the nature and delivery of educational materials.
  • Education is globalizing through organizations such as (WFCP), World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics, (EDEN), European Distance Education Network, (USDLA), U.S. Distance Learning Association and many more.
  • Over the Top Technologies(OTT) are rapidly evolving and increasingly used in learning.
  • Learning psychologies are now more refined and becoming integrated into teacher education programs.
  • Online and distance learning courses are increasing to 30-40% of total enrollment, with most students taking a combination of classroom-based, blended and online courses.
  • Enrollment management professionals are increasingly sophisticated in the promotion, scheduling and marketing of online programs and courses.

     Online Learning offers real opportunity in enrollment management. There are now many excellent techniques, tools and strategies for enrollment professionals to deploy.

google images
Source: google images

     The point I am making is simple. Whether part of a college or university enrollment plan, or inclusion in a teacher education program, the time for increasing our emphasis on distance and online learning is now. We have all the pieces and we have the growing need. Online, blended and distance learning offers a tour de force for successful enrollment management.

Author:  Dr. Bernard Luskin is CEO of Bernie has been CEO of eight colleges and universities, CEO of Philips Interactive Media, Jones Education Networks including Mind Extension University and divisions of other Fortune 100 companies. He is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and learning psychologist. Luskin is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and past president of the A.P.A. Society for Media Psychology and Technology. Dr. Luskin was CEO of Coastline College, the first distance education based community college and Chancellor, Jones International University, the first regionally accredited, fully online university. Bernie Luskin has taught at UCLA, USC, Pepperdine, Claremont, Fielding, and Touro Universities. Email:

Special thanks to: Dr. Toni Luskin for your editorial and technical assistance.


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