• Consumer Behavior and its Impact on the Non-Degree Market

    by Joe Morgan, Vice President, University Partnership Development, Pearson

    A young person listening from laptop and taking notes in paper

    #2 in a series

    In my first post The student as consumer, and the burden of choice, I suggested that when learners face a high stakes purchase (the full degree) and information overload, they often narrow their decision to either known institutions or those that rank on Page 1 of search results. The endless aisle sounds great until you have to walk down it. The learners’ simplification strategy and conscious or unconscious bias excludes lesser-known institutions from the consideration set, even if they may be the “best fit.''

    In this post, I examine consumer behavior and its impact on the non-degree market. Those who have worked in direct-to-consumer businesses (either digital or brick-and-mortar) will recognize the language of consumer behavior – trial, offer, purchase, add-on purchase. For learners as consumers, this language is profoundly relevant, and it is vital to the institution’s strategy for non-degree program offerings.

    How consumer-learners reduce perceived risk

    In their study, Behavioral Changes in the Trial of New Products, Shoemaker and Shoaf found that consumers respond to the perceived risk of trying a new product by reducing the consequences: they buy a smaller quantity (trial). The growth of the non-degree market (certificates) is that very behavior in action.

    For the new traditional learner – older, more diverse, navigating career and family obligations, concerned with increasing debt, and having spent years away from any formal academic setting – entering a full degree program raises the stakes. Their anxiety is palpable. The resulting behavior is predictable.

    If a learner is uncertain about moving forward, or unsure they can succeed, they update their beliefs through a consumption experience (the trial). What better consumption experience than to begin with a “smaller-quantity,” affordable, low-stakes certificate program that provides an immediate, career-enhancing credential and a powerful signaling opportunity to the learner’s social and professional networks?

    Non-degree programs and a wider view of student acquisition cost

    I hear many question the economic value of certificates to the institution, relative to the cost of acquiring each student. In isolation and barring substantial scale, one would be hard pressed to show meaningful economic return on a modestly priced certificate. But that misses the bigger point. If viewed as a valuable student acquisition strategy, the university generates exposure, awareness, and trial by delivering short form, employment-relevant content.

    With an appropriately constructed “offer” (freemium, credit bearing, pathway to degree admissions, university credential, digital badges) for these certificates, the institution creates affinity. Upon completion, and with a student’s newfound confidence, some of those learners will enter a degree program at that same institution (the “purchase”). When reskilling and upskilling becomes necessary, the student returns to what is now familiar (the add-on purchase). Coursera calls this “the flywheel effect”:

    read more
  • Incorporating Diversity into CTE Instructional Materials

    Two young in scrubs on a laptop working

    Introducing The Pearson Race & Ethnicity Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Guidelines

    In February of 2021, Pearson issued additional guidance to complement our Pearson Global Editorial Policy. These guidelines serve as a resource to help content developers—including authors, reviewers, and editors—create authentic representations of the diverse communities we serve, and challenge racial and other stereotypes and associated prejudices in all Pearson courseware, digital materials, services, qualifications, and assessments. They will be used in the process of developing new educational content as well as the review of existing content across all Pearson products, including Career & Technical Education curriculum.

    The Value of Diversity in Education

    When students join the workforce, they will encounter a variety of individuals with a vast range of backgrounds and abilities. To be successful, they will need to have a mindset that accepts and adapts to people of different cultures, values, backgrounds, and experiences. Further, as the global economy accelerates, sound business decision-making requires a constant awareness of cultural differences and sensitivities. As these students advance in their careers, a fair, harmonized workplace will increasingly become their responsibility.

    Challenges Publishers Face When Addressing Bias in CTE Programs

    As a publisher we are cognizant of several challenges to ensuring diverse and equitable representation in educational programs:

    Underrepresentation - People of different identities should be represented in all program components and be portrayed as equal and active participants in education and workplace settings. We choose texts and imagery that enable as many students as possible to identify with the content and feel included in the learning process.

    Negative Associations - We are reviewing existing content for unintentional or nuanced stereotypes. For example, does a construction content provide adequate inclusion of workers including women and people with physical disabilities? Another example would be equitable representation of different ethnic races in health sciences programs. When developing new content, an additional level of conscious inclusion should be added to the traditional development process.

    Limited Positive Associations - We strive to present an authentic and diverse representation of people in roles that disrupt traditional stereotypes within instructional materials. CTE programs often include career profile features that provide an excellent opportunity to depict people of all cultures and abilities as role models or highlight their accomplishments. We commit to doing the additional research necessary to help break down stereotypes and show that career opportunities and leadership roles are not limited by race, gender, gender expression, ethnicity, or age, just to name a few, to help reinforce the understanding for today’s CTE students that people of different cultures are leaders and innovators.

    Impact of Pearson Global Editorial Policy and Guidelines on our CTE Product Development Process

    The CTE Editorial Team at Pearson uses the guide to focus on diversity principles including:

    • Ensuring all team members are aware of the potential for subtle or unconscious bias in developing student content and program outcomes.
    • Deliberately seeking reliable sources for diverse perspectives in all authoring and research done during the development process.
    • Representing people of different races, cultures, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and abilities in all student materials as equal and active participants in the learning process.
    • Choosing imagery that reflects the diversity of the classroom.
    • Presenting people in roles that disrupt traditional stereotypes.
    • Providing teachers the tools they need to understand and adapt to any classroom, regardless of student makeup. For example, many of Pearson’s programs include Teacher’s Editions with lesson plans for Advanced, Less Advanced, English Language Learner, and Special Needs students.

    Making a Difference in the CTE Community

    Beyond the considerations taken in content development, there are a number of other practices CTE publishers, including Pearson, integrate into their daily business that can make a further difference:

    • Include diversity in all initiatives and interactions with student and teacher associations.
    • Leverage diverse practices in developing marketing programs and highlight diversity, equity and inclusion as a foundation of CTE programs.

    Pearson's role is to create learning products that encourage critical thinking and help people understand the world around them. We are committed to developing products and services that represent the authentic histories and experiences of learners. Pearson is committed to creating equity and opportunity for all through education (regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, social class, geographical location, religious beliefs, and disability). We are continuously working to ensure our CTE programs reflect this.

    Learn more about K-12 CTE Pathways programs from Pearson.

    read more