Three ways to stream students through a program.

streaming students for retention

Streaming students to success.

So, how can a college think of different ways of streaming its students? Why not look at nature and use an analogy of how streams actually flow? Isn’t each program like an island in the stream? Let’s start by listing the three different stream channels: straight, meandering, and braided. On a side note, regardless of the different stream flow types listed below, I think all students should have the option of taking any course either as an ‘online only’ format, a ‘hybrid’ format, or an ‘in-class’ only format. The concepts discussed here may even help with retention. If a students ideal stream could be determined before they started a program, they would be more likely to be successful and not feel ‘flooded’ with pressure and drop out. Okay, let’s look at these three possible options for streaming.

Option 1: The ‘straight’ stream. This student is focused on obtaining a specific degree, diploma or certificate within a time-frame as determined by the college. There is no side movement along this path. Courses and course offering schedules are pre-determined. The student flows through the usual 2-4 year regular stream or even has the option of a ‘fast-track’ in their program if they are able to work at a higher level. If a student fails a course (not likely), there are equivalents and substitutes set up that can be added to keep them on track to still complete the program on time.

Option 2: The ‘meandering’ stream. This student is more concerned about being able to adapt their lifestyle and keep outside commitments while pursing their degree, diploma, or certificate, but within their personal time-line. This flow is much slower and the student may or may not pass courses along the way, or drop out of a class(es). However, they still want to achieve their goal, but will be ‘off-cycle’. The goal here for the college is to make all of the courses in the program available in every possible mode of delivery during each semester. As well, equivalencies and substitutes should be set up for each course.

Option 3: The ‘braided’ stream. This student wants a lot of flexibility when taking courses and programs. Their objective isn’t necessarily to gain a piece of paper at the end (although in time it could be possible), but to pick and choose courses of their liking as they ‘weave’ in and out of different programs. For example, they may take a marketing course in a business program, an intro to neuroscience course in a science program, and a songwriting course in a music production program, all within the same semester. These students will pay per course. This type of stream would be a good marketing opportunity for the college to implement their own branded ‘digital merit badges’ for the successful completion of each course.

There you have it, three options. Speaking of three, I always remember a ‘rule of 3’ pricing strategy for product offerings that I learned when I was a manager for a large retailer. It was the ‘Good’, ‘Better’, or ‘Best’ concept. Give the customer only 3 choices; any more than that just confuses them. Each product (in this case it would be the delivery mode) had its own price level set with ‘good’ being the lowest price and ‘best’ being the highest price. Could colleges’ not do the same? Online would be ‘good’ (lower price), ‘hybrid’ (1/2 in-class, 1/2 online would be the mid-range price), and ‘in-class’ only would be the highest price paid (students will pay for the ‘experience’, human interactions, and the operational expenses associated with an in-class delivery mode).

The keyword for the college of the future is ‘flexibility’.  Streams, just like students, are constantly changing their course, so colleges also need to adapt to this ever-changing learning landscape. If they do, they will shape their own future landscape. If not, they’ll become weak and erode.

By the way, I can’t stand that song, “Islands in the stream”…just sayin’.



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  1. Dick Sumpter says:

    I like the analogy – but I think the word for the stream type is “braided” not “branded.”

  2. LOL you’re right…I was working on a marketing related article at the same time (hence writing ‘branded’) So much for multi-tasking. Thanks for the heads-up. Glad you like the analogy. Thanks for commenting!