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Olivet Nazarene University

Olivet Nazarene University designs a tuition-free online learning program using Salesforce.
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New Ways to Help Students Get Back on Track

As part of a new strategic plan, Olivet Nazarene University (ONU) set out to find new ways to better serve the needs of continuing studies students, especially those who have faced challenges re-enrolling in college. To help students get back to school and complete their degree, ONU launched Your Way, a groundbreaking initiative that offers online, self-paced general education courses tuition-free.

For the design and management of this ambitious initiative, ONU turned to Education Cloud’s best-in-class technology stack and insights from a Salesforce UX Designer certification. Using MyTrailhead and Communities from Salesforce Experience Cloud, ONU developed a human-centered online learning solution that flipped the traditional classroom model on its head. And it’s given thousands of students a low-risk and low-cost pathway to re-enroll in postsecondary education, complete their education, and move their lives forward.

  • 30%
    reduction in recruitment costs
  • 1000%
    increase in new continuing education students
  • 20+
    courses built in MyTrailhead within first 9 months

Tackling Large-Scale Ambitions with a Small Team

To build an online learning platform from the ground up, ONU needed technology that was fully scalable and could manage each stage of the student experience, from recruitment to graduation. Self-service functionality and usability were essential for students to be able to quickly adopt the platform and frictionlessly complete courses at their own pace. In addition, the solution needed to be convenient for faculty and staff to create content, deliver courses, manage the learning environment, and provide ongoing student support.

The learning environment was also critical in ensuring Your Way’s success, and ONU wanted to reflect the ethos of ONU’s physical campus in its online campus while effectively educating, supporting, engaging, and communicating with students. The student experience had to be meaningful, both inside and outside the classroom.

“The central focus was to help support students, encourage them, guide them if necessary, but primarily to surround them with an online environment where they feel like continuing their education is the right decision,” said David Brock, Community Manager at ONU.

As a small organization, ONU realized it required a system that could help it operate and manage everything as cost-efficiently as possible. The team needed to use tools at scale, streamline processes, and automate manual work wherever they could, while fully leveraging data and analytics to track, monitor, and make constant improvements.

[MyTrailhead] is giving ONU opportunities as a university that we wouldn’t have otherwise and more importantly giving students opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.” David Brock, Community Manager
Olivet Nazarene University

Breaking the Boundaries of Size and Time

ONU considered its existing Learning Management Systems (LMS) and realized that Salesforce and MyTrailhead were uniquely suited for their ambitious goals.

With MyTrailhead, they found a learning experience platform that offered the flexibility of self-guided learning modules that could be delivered at scale and built out over time. In less than nine months, ONU faculty and staff built 20 courses in Trailhead and created the related homework assignments, tests, and finals using Salesforce objects and records.

Content can be easily updated and maintained by staff; and by leveraging online forms and lightning components, ONU can pull data to populate assignments and tests on a student’s personalized course syllabus page. These records are also used to automate messaging that guide learners through the courses, assess progress, and encourage course completion.

“Any time you work at scale, you have to find that single source of truth,” said Andrew Corbus, Director of Learning Solutions. “Being able to pull from records allows us to publish content in all kinds of places, and we couldn’t do that without Salesforce – and we couldn’t pull that off with a small staff.”

To round out the student experience, ONU turned to Communities from Experience Cloud to create an engaging, supportive learning environment. In the Your Way digital campus, known as Wayfinder, students can view and access courses and assignments, submit homework and take tests. ONU also uses the native Groups functionality to serve as digital classrooms for each course, providing space for students to engage with faculty and their peers.

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Helping Students Achieve Their Goals

Practicing good Relationship Design and leveraging insights from the Salesforce UX Designer certification, ONU successfully launched Your Way and quickly saw a 1,000% increase in new continuing education students automatically provisioned to start their first class.

“We just could not do it without the right technology and we couldn’t reach the students where they are without the ability to connect through technology as well,” said Corbus.

ONU used Contact records in Salesforce to fully connect the customer journey while simultaneously creating a meaningful student experience and drilling down on student success. They were able to do this by building highly efficient and effective processes that enabled them to minimize costs and deliver at scale.

“The solution was designed to use data to smooth the learner journey and provide customer-centric engagement, service, and career readiness across a lifetime,” said Kathy Lueckeman, Chief Strategy Officer. “The need for this steel thread of data made a natural bridge from using Salesforce to Marketing Cloud Account Engagement for marketing automation, MyTrailhead for course content and Communities for our digital campus.”

Scalability Made Possible by Automation

By using Salesforce to automate labor-intensive processes, ONU designed and launched Your Way with minimal development and maintenance costs, and at zero upfront cost to students.

On the marketing side, ONU automated the MQL (marketing qualified lead) process to cut administrative costs and, as a result, achieved a 30% reduction in recruitment costs. ONU also automated the application process and eliminated manual steps from transcript detailing to streamline the admissions process.

“We now save inquiry, admissions and transcript information as data and conditionally admit applicants, so only the registrar’s office has to take action on applications,” said Lueckeman. “When students are admitted, we auto-create a program enrollment record and a default schedule and automatically register students for classes, all of which cuts out an incredible amount of staff time and effort.”

Within MyTrailhead, ONU completely manages Your Way course delivery with minimal upkeep and maintenance. Conditions-based automated messaging support students through the self-paced learning material and keep them engaged with reminders and notifications.

“We were able to cut down on costs through this level of technology,” said Brock. “It’s giving ONU opportunities as a university that we wouldn’t have otherwise and more importantly giving students opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Supporting Success with a Seamlessly-Delivered Experience

Through the intentionally designed and seamlessly-delivered experience, ONU made it easy for students to access and complete coursework and to engage and get support via the Wayfinder Community. Assessments are displayed from Salesforce on a custom course syllabus page in Wayfinder, and tests are automatically graded to provide immediate summative feedback. Faculty still control the environment and provide formative feedback on assignments through the Wayfinder Community.

“We quickly saw an increase in engagement beyond coursework, which really takes us to that next level of getting students to understand that this experience is designed specifically for them to reach their goals,” said Brock.

Perhaps the most significant and impactful results are the individual stories of students getting back to school and succeeding in their courses.

“Whether it’s raising families, working full-time jobs or managing other responsibilities, our students’ lives are busy and often chaotic,” said Brock. “Yet they’re still finding a way to further their education and seeing adult learners succeed in accomplishing their educational goal is what keeps me motivated.”

Transform the student experience.

More About Olivet Nazerene University

With accredited programs, award-winning academics, and a faculty touting degrees from a broad spectrum of world-class educational institutions, Olivet Nazarene University is one of the nation’s premier Christian universities.

The School of Graduate and Continuing Studies offers a variety of master’s degrees and nontraditional adult degree completion programs. Launched in 2019, Your Way is a tuition-free, general education initiative that radically simplifies and redefines the postsecondary learning experience, making it affordable and feasible for adult learners to further their education.