Demand for online education is increasing, and NIU is rising to the occasion. In August 2018, the university launched a website devoted to its online programs, which have been growing in number. In addition to informational pages on each program, NIU Online contains content tailored to the interests of online learners, such as financial aid and support services. The site makes it clear to prospective online students that they will have access to the same resources as on-campus students.
Online Programs at NIU (as of October 2018)
- Seven bachelor’s degree completion programs.
- One certificate of undergraduate study.
- Nine certificates of graduate study.
- Twelve graduate degrees.
The result of a collaborative effort between NIU Admissions, the Office of the Provost, Marketing and Creative Services, and Web and Internal Communications, NIU Online was created to meet the need for a centralized source of information about NIU’s online programs.
As Jason Rhode, executive director of extended learning, explains, “Before NIU Online, there was no single website prospective students could visit to learn about online programs. They had to look through individual department websites to find program information.”
The site also complements digital marketing efforts to promote NIU’s online programs.
Building NIU Online
Since building the website involved collecting information from many different sources, the web team used an approach that ensured the consistency of the information. A contact was identified for each online program and asked to fill out a survey about their program. The information for each program was then edited and put into a custom webpage template.
“Using the template helps ensure that prospective students get a consistent experience from page to page, and makes it easy for them to compare the different programs,” said web strategist Emily Salvani, who led the process of building the site.
Another challenge came when calculating the cost per credit hour for each program, since those figures were not readily available. The costs were determined in consultation with the Office of the Bursar. The bursar’s office was then able to include the updated information on its own website.
By including just the right level of detail and prominent calls to action, the program pages on NIU Online encourage prospective students to request more information. While it’s too early to gauge the site’s impact on enrollment, Jason Rhode believes the site is meeting its goal of making information about online programs easy for students to find.
Ultimately, by providing a convenient platform for students to learn about programs and resources, NIU Online will play a key role in increasing enrollment in NIU’s online programs.