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Personalizing the Student Experience

Years ago, retailers successfully figured out how to deploy technology that allows for a personalized shopping experience, putting the shopper in control. Higher education must do the same by creating a personalized learning experience, putting the student in control.

As one of the last sectors yet to benefit from the technological revolution, higher education’s focus has always been on the success and longevity of the institution. That outdated paradigm must now be flipped to focus on the success of the student.

Every student approaches their education with a unique set of experiences, challenges, and needs. Depending on where they’re starting from, some learners need help establishing good academic skills. Others need guidance with developing social/emotional skills. The task is to create individualized student-centered systems that build off each person’s experience.

Higher education institutions must innovate by harnessing the power of data and technology.  

Here's How WGU Is Doing It

Affordable, Personalized Learning

Traditionally, higher ed institutions have adopted the type of educational model where time in class is constant but learning experiences varied. WGU believes in maintaining learning as the constant with a variable time to degree. This approach allows students to learn on their own timeline and in a way that best suits their personal circumstances. 

WGU's competency-based education model allows students to move through their courses as soon as they’ve mastered the skills and shown proficiency through assessments. All courses are online and available 24/7 so students can learn at their own pace, anytime. And because WGU charges flat-rate tuition per six-month term, students who accelerate through their programs save money. In fact, in 2022, the average WGU undergraduate who borrowed money for school completed their degree with half the debt of their national peers.*

*National rates reported by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems in 2022.

Providing Guidance in a Community of Care

Innovative support services can provide a community of care designed to enhance the student experience. For example, WGU’s Learner Care Dashboard (LCD) is a visual tool that gives WGU program mentors an at-a-glance view of specific student indicators to ensure timelier, more personalized faculty support. The implementation of the LCD has led to increases in same-day outreach to students in need, more engagement with Instructors, and increases in Competency Units and courses completed.

WGU also created the Environmental Barriers Program (EVB) to proactively identify and support students who are facing barriers to their academic success due to natural disasters or other major events. The EVB team monitors disruptive incidents across the country—such as floods, wildfires, and even the COVID-19 pandemic—and reaches out to potentially impacted students to provide support if needed. 

Understanding Students Using Advanced Analytics

Student-centered learning requires a data-driven approach. WGU Labs, the university’s innovation incubator, has begun utilizing advanced analytics with particular emphasis on four vectors of equity research. 

First, geolocation data: where do students come from? Second is interactions with students. What does and doesn’t work as we seek to address their needs and concerns? Third, we examine data about a student’s learning experiences, including content and assessment. And finally, we look at any operational friction such as policies, user experience, or business processes that hinder a student’s ability to persist. Mapping this data to learner profiles allows WGU to draw conclusions about the impact of support services on specific outcomes like on-time progress, graduation, and post-graduation employment.