The Post-Traditional Learners Manifesto Revisited: Aligning Postsecondary Education with Real Life for Adult Student Success

Report CoverBuilding on ACE’s long history of supporting both post-traditional learners and the higher education institutions that serve them, The Post-traditional Learners Manifesto Revisited explores the distinctive nature of modern undergraduates. Using data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study 2011-12, the report digs deeper into the needs of this population of college-goers and offers recommendations to help schools, researchers, and policymakers better help thi​​s growing population of postsecondary students complete their degrees.

The analysis revealed that post-traditional learners—students who are either over the age of 25, working full-time, financially independent, or connected with the military—make up nearly 60 percent of the undergraduate student population. They are a diverse group with a range of education needs, encompassing many life stages and identities, which need to be considered when designing higher education business models tailored to them.

This paper follows on from the Center for Policy Research and Strategy’s previous study, Post-traditional Learners and the Transformation of Postsecondary Education: A Manifesto for College Leaders​.​

The Post-Traditional Learners Manifesto Revisited: Aligning Postsecondary Education with Real Life for Adult Student Success (PDF) 0.6 MB

2017 Online Education Trends Report

2017 Online Education Trends ReportOnline education continues to see a steady increase in student enrollment (Babson, 2015); however, as students are presented with more program choices and formats from a wider variety of institutions, the competition for those students is also increasing.

This second annual Online Education Trends report from seeks to distill existing research about online learners’ characteristics, goals, and preferences, as well as information related to innovation in the design of online programs. More than 300 school administrators and 1,500 students responded to the survey, providing detailed information about their current experiences in on-line education. This new report is designed to help you make the best decisions possible about the online programs you are managing, as well as those you may be planning for the future. Key issues are identified in three categories:

The State of Online Learning

  • Students care about careers: 72% of online students report job and employment goals as a reason for enrolling, including transitioning to a new career field (36%) and earning academic credentials in a current field of work (32%).
  • Cost is the most prominent concern: Students report their biggest challenges in making decisions about online education related to cost estimates, finding funding sources, and navigating the financial aid process.

Developing and Managing Online Programs

  • Online program demand is on the rise: 98% of administrators find that demand for online education has increased or stayed the same over the past few years. However, 60% do not plan to change their budgets for online program development in the next year.
  • Local options matter: 65% of administrators consider “needs of local employers” and/or “general employment/job market trends or forecasts” when designing a new online program.
  • Recruitment is still an obstacle, even with increased demand: Marketing new online programs to prospective students and meeting recruitment goals is seen as the biggest challenge to offering an online program.

Meeting Online Student Needs and Expectations

  • Students want more outcomes data: 77% of schools report that students are asking for “placement/employment” rates in addition to other outcome data, such as completion rates (58%) and post-graduation salaries (48%).


The following insights are offered in conclusion for reaching prospective students and providing them with ongoing support that leads to retention and graduation after enrollment.

Program Marketing

  • Include more career outcome information in your recruiting and marketing materials, such as how often alumni are changing jobs or seeking continuing education.
  • Share details about how your online programs and support services are designed to meet the needs of specific student groups (e.g., military, disabled, transfer students)
  • Connect with relevant professional associations and employment websites to increase visibility of and familiarity with your program curriculum.
  • Make it easy for prospective students to find the information they are most interested in – financial aid and funding options, transfer credit process.
  • Share details about the variety of learning environments you offer, such as blended courses or programs, synchronous requirements, and online or on campus access to services.

Program Development

  • Consider multiple options to online program development, which may include initial work on individual courses or a certificate program as a pilot for full degree offerings.
  • Take a collaborative approach to working with all online program stakeholders to not only increase buy-in, but also encourage insight into enhancing the student experience.
  • Explore the reasons students are choosing your online programs, beyond “anytime, anyplace” access, as a way to differentiate your offerings.

Student-Centered Resources and Activities

  • Provide new ways for prospective students to connect with current students and alumni, through student profiles and live interactions.
  • Provide connections to career-related support activities for your students, whether they are planning to enter their first career field or are working professionals making a transition.
  • Maintain student support after recruitment in the areas they most need, including financial assistance (i.e., tuition and fees, hardware and software, Internet service)

The full report is available for download here.

Updated Academic Integrity Online Tutorials Available

Online tutorials on academic integrity, previously developed in 2005 and made available in part through the “Project for Improvement of Undergraduate Education” grant by the Northern Illinois University Committee for the Improvement of Undergraduate Education, have been updated and have been re-released at

Academic Integrity Tutorials

The purpose of these tutorials is to promote academic integrity at Northern Illinois University by increasing students’ awareness of the issues, offering strategies for students to protect themselves from academic dishonesty situations, and increasing faculty’s awareness of the issues and offering them strategies to address academic dishonesty incidents effectively. These tutorials are intended for self-paced learning by students and faculty and can be used as an educational resource to supplement classroom discussions on academic integrity. Over the past 12 months, the academic integrity tutorials have been view by more than 10,000 users and average over 1,300 hits each month.

Both a student tutorial and faculty tutorial are available. The tutorials are available to the public and can be accessed without any required login or password.

Faculty can use the tutorial as part of their classroom discussions on academic integrity and encourage students to review the content and complete the activities as part of a course activity. Students who complete the student tutorial successfully can print a certificate of completion which can by submitted as verification of their completion.

Special thanks to the staff of Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center for updating the tutorials and migrating them to NIU’s latest web templates.

Quality Online Teaching: Managing the Online Teaching Workload

We often tell students that they need to be organized to manage their workload when they take an online course. But, it is even more important for you to manage your own time when teaching an online course. The lack of pre-defined, scheduled class times, combined with navigating the tools for online grading and communication can make it feel overwhelming. This archived online workshop will introduce you to some strategies for keeping up with the course, techniques that can save you time, and best practices to manage student expectations of you, including some simple suggestions for saving time and increasing your efficiency.

Quality Online Course Series: 7 Online Workshops with Tips for Designing Quality Online Courses

Quality Online Course SeriesIn Spring 2015, Northern Illinois University Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center developed and offered for the first time a series of 7 online workshops sharing principles, best practices, and tips for designing and developing quality online courses. The workshops were archived and available for on-demand viewing below or directly within the series playlist on YouTube. Kudos to my NIU colleagues, Stephanie Richter and Tracy Miller, for developing and offering the series!

Ensuring Quality in Your Online Course

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How do you know if your online course is good? More importantly, how do you make it better? In this archived workshop offered 1/23/15, you will learn about why quality is important and how to create more student-centered online courses by using the Quality Matters rubric (a nationally-recognized benchmark for online course design based on research-supported best practices). After viewing this archived online workshop, you will be prepared to develop or improve an online course that is designed to promote student learning. View archived workshop »

Learning Objectives and Assessments

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Once you have established objectives and the assessments to measure them, the next step is to create and/or curate course content and instructional materials to support the learning objectives. It is also important to clearly explain the purpose, source, and alignment of instructional materials. In this archived online workshop offered 2/13/15, you will learn about creating and curating course content from quality sources as well as communicating them to your students. View archived workshop »

Course Content & Instructional Materials

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Once you have established objectives and the assessments to measure them, the next step is to create and/or curate course content and instructional materials to support the learning objectives. It is also important to clearly explain the purpose, source, and alignment of instructional materials. In this archived online workshop offered 2/27/15, you will learn about creating and curating course content from quality sources as well as communicating them to your students. View archived workshop »

Course Activities & Student Engagement

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How do you encourage students to be fully engaged in an online course? By designing engaging and active, which foster interaction with you, the other students, and the content. In this archived online workshop offered 1/27/16, you will be introduced to some strategies to build learning activities which connect to your course objectives, as well as engage students in their own learning. View archived workshop »

Promoting Learning with Technology

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In an online course, technology is necessary for connecting with students, engaging them in learning, and assessing their knowledge. It’s important to choose the right tools that support the learning objectives but are also obtainable and suitable for student use. In this online workshop offered 3/20/15, you will learn how to ensure technology in an online course supports learning and discover some tools you can incorporate into an online course. View archived workshop »

Accessibility, Usability, & Student Support

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Online students can feel isolated, but they don’t have to be. In this online workshop offered 4/10/2015, you will explore how usability and accessibility can set students up for success. You will also learn how to connect students with valuable support services. View archived workshop »

Getting Students Started

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Now that you have designed a high quality online course based on the other standards, you are ready to introduce it to your students. Set the right tone and support student success by helping them get started with a welcome message, a course tour, or a navigation guide. In this online workshop offered 4/24/2015 we will explore best practices for introducing course structure to your students and building community View archived workshop »