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Serving all students: A study of learner mindsets

October 11, 2021


In brief

The accelerating pace of change in higher education

Accenture’s analysis surfaced six distinct segments of learners who are clustered based on learning mindsets, goals and emotions rather than demographic factors, such as age or type of institution.

A new way to segment learners

Wayfinding Intellectuals (7%)

Full-time, intellectually curious students seeking to explore a broad array of disciplines and to conduct research, with strong interest in staying within academia.

Example: An undecided major at a small liberal arts college who is making great connections with professors through research and is seriously considering graduate studies.

Campus Enthusiasts (16%)

Residential students actively participating on campus—inside and outside the classroom—who plan to start their first job after graduation.

Example: A student at a large state school who evaluated Greek life, student clubs, sports teams and gyms before deciding to enroll.

Junior Specialists (31%)

Focused learners pursuing a credential to secure their first job in a specific field.

Example: A commuter student working part time who selected a major early on and has a clear career goal.

Evolving Professionals (23%)

Successful, early-stage workers seeking to expand their industry knowledge while satisfying their intellectual curiosity.

Example: An early-career professional going back to school for an MBA and interested in programs that emphasize the theoretical and practical sides of Finance.

Mid-Career Climbers (14%)

Full-time workers looking to advance in their careers by obtaining a credential in a specific skill-based area valued by their employer.

Example: A middle manager with a busy career whose mentor recommended using their company’s tuition stipend for an Executive Leadership certificate course before next year’s promotion reviews.

Trajectory Transformers (9%)

Full-time workers who are skeptical about the value and outcomes of credentials but seek short, focused programs for building specific skills and being able to change careers.

Example: A full-time worker facing uncertain job security in their current field who is seeking a specific coding bootcamp program with consistently high outcomes.

Segment satisfaction today

Ninety-six percent of students find a high-quality digital experience important to their satisfaction – an increase from 2017.

Service delivery preferences

Retooling the student experience

1. Identify target learner segments

Build on the six segments with an institution-specific reflection. Clarify your learner targets and journeys. Assess how to meet each segment’s needs.

2. Manage relationships across learner lifetime

Shift your thinking toward building a 60-year relationship with students by addressing their changing needs throughout their lifetimes.

3. Allocate resources with a zero-based mindset

Look across your spend and organizational structure to identify how it might evolve to better support current/future strategic objectives.

4. Implement modern, cloud-based ERP or SIS

Take an experience-led view to design a technology architecture for a frictionless future for all the segments served.

Samantha Fisher

Managing Director – Health & Public Service, Education

Samantha is a Managing Director, focusing on strategy and management consulting for the education industry.

Jenny Brodie

Senior Manager – Health & Public Service, Research


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