Penn Foster Online Community – 2014 Forrester Groundswell Entry

Meredith Rock | February 28, 2014

Penn Foster is the nation’s leader in distance education, offering more than 105 accredited and career-focused degree, diploma and certificate programs. The school is also a Training Partner to over 1,000 corporations and 400 schools and institutions, and has over 25,000 graduates each year.  The school came to 7Summits with a requirement for a powerful community to help support and unite these diverse user groups across geographic boundaries.

7Summits designed and built a new online community for Penn Foster using Jive Software. Because the school is entirely online and there is no physical space to visit, the community has become a “campus tour,” and open access to the online forums allows prospective students to get a glimpse into the school’s culture and collaborative features. The community features highly personalized areas for each of Penn Foster’s different audiences and includes polls, student blogs, spaces by area of study, a calendar of events, and videos. With rich content supporting academics, careers, networking, and other social forums, the community site also aggregates and serves up open social media content from Penn Foster’s presence on Facebook and Twitter. The community is open to the public, which plays a role in enrollment and reputation management. One of the hottest community features is the Members’ Map, which allows members to discover others who share similar interests or proximity. Most recently, 7Summits incorporated gamification to engage students and further enhance collaboration.

Challenges:

  • The average cost per student interaction was $7.75
  • Valuable time and resources were wasted fielding frequently asked questions from prospective and current students
  • One-way communication through traditional web content discouraged active participation of students and faculty

Value:

  • 200% increase in user adoption
  • Over 60,000 registered users within the first year of adoption
  • 30% reduction in email interactions for 2013
  • Cost per interaction has improved by 45%
  • Increased engagement with students and unprecedented access to personal insights that help tailor communication

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