Interest in pursuing additional education is greater now than prior to the pandemic, according to results of a recent poll. This trend foresees an exciting year ahead for the savvy education marketer, teacher or even prospective student.

In a study of more than 1,200 adults by the higher education marketing and research firm SimpsonScarborough in conjunction with LinkedIn, 47% said their interest in furthering their education has increased since the onset of COVID-19 while 67% said they currently are actively researching education options and 53% plan to enroll within the next 6 months.

Heading up the trend seem to be educators, healthcare professionals and people yet to complete a bachelor’s degree. A notable surge in LinkedIn searches for additional education, increased overall engagement and membership by front-line employees at the onset of the pandemic triggered curiosity to learn more about this trend, explained LinkedIn’s Chantal Augustin during a virtual event called, “The New Wave of Students.”

Feeding frenzy for higher education marketers?

For marketers in areas related to higher education, the situation may resemble a feeding frenzy. While these statistics indeed indicate potential with this non-traditional population, a thorough understanding of this new wave of students is key to setting your program apart from the crowd.

A report released in late 2019 honed in on an important subset of this group: Americans who started postsecondary education but left without receiving a degree or certificate. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center followed up on the educational trajectories of millions of individuals identified as Some College, No Degree (SCND) in their initial 2013 study.

Forbes senior education contributor Michael Nietzel breaks down study data to give deeper insight on 940,000 of these former students who subsequently reenrolled and completed an undergraduate credential. Interestingly, most credentials were awarded by public community colleges and leading online institutions awarded a disproportionate share of the Bachelor’s degrees earned.

Nietzel’s advice for traditional four-year institutions is to use these successful online institutions as models and “align their student support services, class scheduling, transfer policies and financial aid with the unique needs of returning-to-college adults.”

In sync with the SCND study, SimpsonScarborough found that affordability, closely followed by flexible scheduling, work/school balance and a user-friendly online platform, was the top criteria for selecting an institution and continuing education program. Not surprisingly, increased earning potential showed up as the strongest reason for going back to school.

Augustin also points to deeper and more emotional motivators driving the learning ambitions of today’s prospective students that are worth understanding and invites marketers to another LinkedIn virtual event that will address related findings from the study.

Pivoting skills to teach adults exciting opportunity for educators

The above advice to marketers also applies to educators interested in working with adult learners.

Augustin notes that personal interest or enrichment was the top driving force behind people’s attraction to additional learning. What people define as enriching and interesting runs a wide gamut allowing us to stretch the definition of educator — including personal development areas like wellness, creativity and fitness as well as skills like writing, second language learning and public speaking.

Eight out of 10 of those surveyed responded that they wanted virtual learning. However, connecting with people in this group means appealing to people who may not have worked or studied online before.

For schoolteachers forced to pivot online last spring, more mileage can come from the huge push you made by reaching out to adult learners. Remember, for pretty much any skill you teach kids, there are also adults needing to learn it.

Teaming up with like-minded learners to reach your goals

If you find yourself among the 67% actively looking to finish a degree, get certified or pursue a long-desired dream, you’re in good company. Teaming up with other like-minded learners also reaching for new heights personally or professionally increases your odds of following through and achieving your goal.

On a related note, forming an online group is great opportunity for coaches and professionals with a high level of experience in any desirable enrichment or skill area. Here people can get support while developing or honing a skill you happen to be good at. Often, for a modest monthly subscription or membership, people join and get access to guidance from you as well as leads, tips and support from other people with the same interest.

Whether you’re giving, receiving or both, camaraderie will help you keep going when the going gets tough. If you don’t find a group niche on LinkedIn or Facebook to join, consider forming one. Even if you are still researching your options, reach out for advice from others who’ve been there. Along not having to go it alone, this can save you considerable time and effort.