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Monday, September 8, 2014

Blended Learning Can Benefit Students If It Is Done Right

By John H. Pryor, Gallup Senior Research Scientist

One of the hottest topics in education in recent years has been Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which deliver all content through the Internet. Depending on who you listened to, it seemed like MOOCs were going to be both the savior and the death of higher education. It turns out they were neither.

In fact, discussions about MOOCs and the best way to deliver online content has seemingly bolstered another teaching method that has been used in educational settings for years: blended learning. Blended learning, also referred to as hybrid courses, is defined as traditional face-to-face classes that incorporate online materials and lectures that students can access at their convenience. 

In the most recent Gallup-Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Presidents, Gallup presented college presidents with a list of 13 topics that have been in the news frequently in the past year and asked if these topics had been discussed on campus, if they resulted in some action on campus, or if neither discussion nor action were underway. Nearly all presidents surveyed said they discussed blended learning on campus (97%), and 87% were also taking action regarding blended learning. By contrast, 54% said they discussed MOOCs, and only 15% had taken action around MOOCs. Clearly, blended learning is winning the day. 

Moreover, college presidents are significantly more likely to say that blending learning, rather than MOOCs, will have a positive impact on their institution. Half of college presidents surveyed reported that blended learning would have a very positive impact (50%) and an additional 44% forecast a “somewhat positive” impact. On the other hand, just 3% of college presidents thought MOOCs would have a very positive impact on their institution.

These results suggest that we will likely see more traditional classes transformed into blended learning classes in the years ahead. This shift toward blending learning could benefit students tremendously, but only if university leaders and faculty make the most of it.

In a blended learning model, students watch at least some lectures outside of the classroom. Two things can happen here. If the motivation is simply to cut costs, then the time that faculty members previously spent lecturing may be dropped from the class schedule. If, however, the move to a blended learning model is driven by a desire to increase student learning, professors can use this extra time to interact with students.

If faculty and students make the most out of the time they would have otherwise spent in lectures, it could contribute to students having a great job and a great life after college. Research from the Gallup-Purdue Index shows that student who feel supported in college are more likely to be engaged in their work and have higher levels of well-being after graduating. Being supported in college, we found, meant having the following three things:

  1. A professor who made students excited about learning;
  2. A professor whom students felt cared about them as a person; and 
  3. A mentor who encouraged their hopes and dreams.
Unlike MOOCs, blended learning allows students to interact with professors in more meaningful ways, thus increasing opportunities for students to cultivate strong relationships with professors and potential mentors.

Just as many college presidents expect, blended learning can have a positive impact on colleges. But will that impact come in ways that Gallup knows are linked to the most important college outcomes: having a great job and a great life? Or will it impact the balance sheet? Certainly, both better student outcomes and lower college costs are needed. If some colleges choose the balance sheet, will those savings be passed on to students in the form of reduced tuition or shifted to some other college cost center? How a college president deals with such decisions can tell us a lot about their priorities.

For more tools and advice to help teachers, students, and schools succeed, visit Gallup’s Education Knowledge Center.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Looking Out for Customers’ Financial Well-Being Is Table Stakes for Banks

By Beth Youra

This post is part of Gallup's ongoing series on the shifting landscape for financial institutions. It provides insights into channel optimization, emerging customer behaviors and preferences, product penetration and relationship growth, engaging the most critical affluent and business customers, and reshaping banks' overall value proposition.

View more posts >
A colleague recently asked me why I always say that the most important aspect of the banking-customer relationship is demonstrating an interest in improving the customer's financial well-being. He made good points about this being difficult for banks to do and seeming more like an outcome metric than a starting point. While I could see where he was coming from, the more I thought about it, the more strongly I felt that financial well-being should be a cornerstone of every bank-customer relationship. Our research shows that 36% of customers feel that their bank is looking out for their financial well-being. That percentage should be higher for one major reason -- “demonstrating an interest in improving the customer’s financial well-being” is strongly tied to customers’ confidence and engagement with their primary bank and therefore to the bank’s bottom line.

Confidence is the first building block of customer engagement. As we previously discussed, “demonstrating an interest in improving the customer’s financial well-being” is the biggest driver of consumers’ confidence in their banks. Customers who say their bank looks out for their financial well-being are also much more likely to be fully engaged with their bank, leading to better financial outcomes for their bank. In terms of more lucrative services, these customers have a 13% higher penetration in credit products and a 22% higher penetration in investment, insurance, or advisory products.

Customers who feel that their bank looks out for their financial well-being are also more likely to “strongly agree” that their bank is the only company they need to meet their financial needs and that they will use it for the rest of their lives.

So yes, looking out for customer’s financial well-being can be a difficult, but not impossible, goal. But in terms of long-term growth of a bank’s bottom line, it is also absolutely necessary.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

An Open Letter to Indonesia’s New President

Dear President-Elect Joko Widodo,

Indonesia, the world’s third-largest democracy, has reached a significant milestone with your recent election as a “man of the people.” As you begin your presidency, it has been widely reported that your main challenge will be ensuring that economic policies and reforms continue Indonesia’s positive growth, and set a course for long-term economic success.

I encourage you to not only consider the economic and political environment, but also to pay serious attention to the will of your people. To that end, I offer advice, drawn from Gallup’s nationally representative analytics for Indonesia:

  1. Maximize one of the most capitalistic mindsets in the world: Ninety-six percent of Indonesians in 2013 felt that they can get ahead by working hard, leading China (86%), India (76%), and the average across the 138 countries where this question was asked (79%). This mindset -- which is clearly conducive to capitalistic values -- fosters positive business development and entrepreneurship. But it is being held back by less positive opinions of the government’s support for startups. Only half of Indonesians in 2014 say the government makes it easy to start a business, which is behind your mighty regional economic competitor, China (74%), but considerably ahead of another competitor, India (at 13% in 2013). There is an opportunity to close the gap in Indonesia’s favor.

  2. Fix low levels of employee engagement: Despite the country’s strong economic growth, 13% of Indonesian employees were engaged in their jobs in 2013. This means that relatively few workers have passion for their work, drive innovation, and move their organizations forward. Engaged workers are the lifeblood of every organization and economy. To successfully begin understanding and devising strategies to tackle low engagement, I suggest starting with the leaders of your biggest companies. With their help, you can begin spreading a culture that ensures that the majority of Indonesians come to work putting passion and innovation into every working hour. 

  3. Tackle the perception of corruption: In May 2014, 92% of Indonesians reported that there is widespread corruption in government and 87% said there’s widespread corruption in business. You must work to enact sweeping reforms to enforce transparency and corporate governance to ensure that Indonesians’ perceptions of corruption change and corruption are actually being stamped out. Corruption is, of course, damaging to governments and the democratic process. But it’s also significantly corrosive to business, where the ability for individuals and companies to start, invest, and sell -- with confidence -- is at the very core of successful entrepreneurial cultures. 

  4. Closely monitor your citizens’ life evaluations: Although there is a lot of work to do to ensure the economic safety and future for Indonesia’s 250 million citizens, your leadership won’t have a real impact unless every one of your policies and strategies can help improve Indonesians’ lives. Twenty-five percent of Indonesians rate their lives as thriving, one of the highest levels since our tracking began, but a large majority of Indonesians, 70% in 2014, rate their lives as struggling, and 5% rate their lives poorly enough to be considered suffering. I encourage you to monitor this metric. It will prove to be the most significant measure of your impact as a leader.
Yours sincerely,
Larry Emond
Managing Partner -- Asia

The Challenges and Opportunities for Digitizing Payments Worldwide

By Leora Klapper, Guest Contributor

In updating the Findex database on financial inclusion over the 2014 calendar year, I had the pleasure of traveling with Gallup to pilot our expanded questionnaire. We visited people’s homes and asked them to describe to us how they save, borrow, make payments, and manage their risk.

A man who lives in a small home in a Kolkata slum with his wife, children, and parents works as a driver, and is paid directly to a bank account that was opened for him by his employer. With great pride, he told us that every month he leaves a balance in his account, which he believes is a safe place to save for his children’s education.

Similarly, I met a man in Kenya who grew a balance on his mobile M-Pesa account in order to put down a deposit on his own barber shop. In his words, “Cash burns your pocket”.

These are just a couple of examples of how digital payments can reduce the cost and increase the security of sending and receiving payments, and help progress toward the goal of broader financial inclusion. With G20 nations increasingly focused on helping more low-income people participate in the financial system, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Better than Cash Alliance, and the World Bank Development Research Group have partnered to highlight the exciting potential of digital payments.

As with any problem, it helps to measure its size and scope. Thus, our work began with the Findex data, the first-ever construction of a global database measuring financial participation -- and it reveals the scope of the financial inclusion challenge:

  • More than 2.5 billion adults around the world lack a formal deposit account.
  • Only 41% of adults in developing economies have an account -- and that number drops to just over 20% among adults living on less than $2 a day.
  • Women, in particular, are at risk of being excluded from the financial system -- in developing countries, only 37% of women have accounts, compared with 46% of men.

These numbers are jarring. If you don’t participate in the financial system, you can’t save, borrow, or invest. And it’s no wonder that many in the international community are focusing on financial inclusion as a key piece of the development puzzle.

As we found when examining a series of studies from around the world, digital payments offer immediate benefits for both senders and receivers.

It’s cheaper to send money digitally than it is to send liquid cash -- a good thing if you’re sending a remittance home to a family member, and a game-changer if you’re a government trying to reduce the overhead costs of social transfer programs. It’s also cheaper to receive digital payments -- no more spending time and money traveling to an urban center or waiting in line.

Digital payments are also safer. Recipients, of course, no longer have to travel long distances with cash on their person. But street crime isn’t the only malfeasance that can be avoided: digital records and more stringent ID requirements are effective tools in eliminating corruption that threatens the success of transfer programs.

Digitizing payments also is a big driver of women’s economic empowerment by putting more economic agency in the hands of women and by making it harder for others in a woman’s household to use money intended for her.

Our full report contains evidence from studies performed in India, Niger, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador, Bolivia, Peru, the Philippines, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Nepal, Mozambique, and the United States. Taken as a whole, it clearly illustrates the enormous benefits of digitizing payments -- both as a way to make those payments more efficient and as a way to achieve broader development goals like women’s economic empowerment and, especially, financial inclusion.

But it also reviews some of the challenges advocates of digital payments must address. A major hurdle, unsurprisingly, remains the lack of financial infrastructure in many low income countries, particularly in rural areas. Without the physical network required to deliver digital payments -- infrastructure that requires up-front investments -- those who would benefit most are at risk of being left out.

Moreover, the mere existence of a digital payments infrastructure doesn’t necessarily mean that people will choose to use it. Those who have never had a bank account not only need to be educated on how to use one, they also need to trust that using one is safe and reliable. In the end, the goal isn’t just to have people use digital accounts like cash, but to have them use digital accounts to build credit history, save, and make financial plans.

Governments, we argue, can help by establishing regulatory environments that recognize the contributions that non-bank operators (like payment services providers and mobile network operators) can make in addressing these challenges. Clear rules of the road will help ensure a level playing field -- and ensure that consumer protection remains at the forefront.

Meanwhile, digitizing government payments can serve as a catalyst, spurring further innovation in this space and paving the way for more involvement by private sector actors and the international community.

In the end, our investigation finds clear evidence that addressing these significant challenges is well worthwhile -- for economies of all sizes, for governments, and for millions of people not included in the financial system -- especially women.

Click here to read the full report.

Re-posted from the World Bank Blog Let's Talk Development

Thursday, August 28, 2014

LGBT Series: LGBT Women Fall Behind on Well-Being

By Justin McCarthy

Gallup’s series on the gay community’s well-being and status in the world produced a variety of important findings this week. With insight from guest writer Dr. Gary Gates, a Williams Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, Gallup determined that:

Gallup’s findings in this series put a spotlight on LGBT women. Nearly three in 10 (29%) women in the LGBT community struggle to afford healthcare costs and do not have a personal doctor. These problems are compounded by the fact that LGBT women fall furthest behind in the physical element -- which is related to alcohol, drug and tobacco consumption, disease burden, exercise and eating habits -- as well as the financial element of well-being, which measures individuals’ standard of living, ability to afford basic necessities, and financial worries.

The fact that LGBT women are least likely to thrive financially and physically makes their healthcare dilemmas more complicated. With low physical well-being, LGBT women are particularly vulnerable to health problems. Paired with low financial well-being, they are susceptible to health-related dilemmas that could drain them financially or leave them unable to afford the healthcare they need.

“These disparities associated with sexual orientation and gender identity highlight the ongoing need for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity measures in data collection focused on health and socio-economic outcomes,” said Dr. Gates. “Availability of better data that identify the LGBT population will help researchers, healthcare policymakers, and healthcare providers craft better strategies to understand and prevent well-being disparities associated with sexual orientation and gender identity.”

Banks: Your Call Center Employees Can Make Sales and Engage Customers

By Beth Youra

This post is part of Gallup's ongoing series on the shifting landscape for financial institutions. It provides insights into channel optimization, emerging customer behaviors and preferences, product penetration and relationship growth, engaging the most critical affluent and business customers, and reshaping banks' overall value proposition.

View more posts >
I have two banks. When I call the 800 number of Bank A, I somehow always end up purchasing or using additional products and services, even though I didn’t call with the intention of doing either. However, when I call Bank B, I end up annoyed and spend several minutes daydreaming about cutting my ties to it entirely. I would really like to say something along the lines of, “I have issues, I am NOT calling you just to chat, and you are wasting your time trying to sell me something unrelated to my issue that I don’t need. How can you do that to me? Can’t you tell I’m already annoyed and busy? And asking if you can sell me something before launching into your pitch isn’t helping.”

My experiences at Bank A and Bank B are similar to what Gallup has found to be true for all consumers. In our retail banking research, we have discovered that call center employees successfully drive sales and conversion when they use tactics that are -- not surprisingly -- all about the customer and not about the bank. But most banks are failing to get it right.

Let’s use an example: I was going on an international trip and in the frenzy of getting ready, I nearly forgot to call my banks to activate my debit cards for international usage. I called Bank B and explained what I needed to the representative and, in the course of our conversation, it naturally came up that I was leaving in an hour. There was silence on the other end as she was clicking on the keyboard to set up my debit card. Fail No. 1 -- the representative couldn’t multitask and missed making a connection with me through small talk. When she was done, she then asked if she could tell me about solutions that could meet my needs. Fail No. 2 -- this obviously wasn’t the time to do this, but she had to check her script compliance box. When I said, “No, I don’t have the time,” she told me I could call back anytime because they have some personal and auto loan offers that may be right for me. Fail No. 3 -- at no point did we ever discuss nor should she ever have been able to deduce from our conversation that I, in any way, needed a loan. She wasted my time and annoyed me by pitching an unneeded product.

Would I “strongly agree” that this representative was knowledgeable about the bank’s products and services, and that she asked me questions to understand my needs? Sure. On the other hand, I would “strongly disagree” with any of the attributes that actually drive conversion, because she seemed to miss the point of our entire conversation.

Contrast this with Bank A, where the woman I spoke to practically squealed with excitement when I told her where I was going and then proceeded to ask me all sorts of questions about my trip while she made the necessary changes to my account. She ended with, “I know you are in a hurry but I just wanted to make sure you know you get x, y, and z benefits when you are traveling abroad with us.” I had no idea, and I hadn’t looked into it because I wasn’t intending to actually use Bank A while I was abroad, it was just my backup. She then proceeded to tell me how those benefits would match up to things I had mentioned I was going to do on my trip, and how I would save money in the process.

Without a doubt I would strongly agree that Bank A’s representative provided solutions to meet my current financial needs, looked out for my financial well-being, and took into account my lifestyle when discussing my needs. In the end, I used Bank A’s products more than any other financial product at my disposal while on vacation, and I’m sure they made a pretty penny off all the fees I generated for them. By looking out for me and customizing the conversation to me and my needs, both Bank A and I won.

If I had written this blog six months ago, I would have titled “Bank A” as “Bank B,” because I did not consider it to be my primary bank. I didn’t have a reason to go into the branch and its mobile and online banking were on par with my other bank. This emotional and financial primary bank switch was driven by my call center interactions. While logically I know that in both cases I am contacting a massive call center with people in cubicles wearing headsets looking up information about me on computers, Bank A’s employees seem to “get me.” They are nice, they read my verbal cues well, and seem genuinely interested in me and my well-being. In short, they put me, not the bank, first. I will continue to call Bank A, I will continue to put more money in my accounts there, and I will continue to strongly consider it for all my future financial needs. Because, like all customers, when properly engaged and sold to, I reward companies with my loyalty and my business.

College Presidents: Aware of What’s Important, Not as Effective at Execution

By John H. Pryor, Gallup Senior Research Scientist

The primary reason why people go to college in the 21st century is to get a better job than they could get without a college degree. It is this promise that motivates millions of Americans to go to college. And yet too many recent college graduates are underemployed or even worse, unemployed. Employers say that part of the reason for this is that college graduates do not have the skills and abilities to thrive in the workplace, such as problem solving and critical thinking. Many college graduates are not able to apply what they learned in college in a workplace setting. 

The result is that many graduates don’t have the job they thought they would get, and many employers have openings for skilled employees they cannot fill. Both are bad for the individuals affected and for the American economy. Changing this needs to be a priority of every college president in the United States.

A recent survey of college presidents by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed asked these presidents to rate how important various factors were in helping their graduates get good jobs. We then asked how effective they thought their institution was in these same areas. What we found was that most presidents knew which factors were important. They just were not very effective at implementing them.

Almost nine out of 10 (89%) college presidents think having an emphasis on critical thinking skills through college is very important. Yet only 40% rate their institution’s efforts as very effective. 

Approximately three out of four (72%) college presidents think that having their faculty understand the skills and abilities needed by employers was very important, but only 22% report being very effective at this.

And while 78% of college presidents think providing internships that help students apply what they are learning in the classroom is very important, only 38% think they are very effective at this.

Clearly there is a gap between what presidents believe is important to help students get good jobs, and what is being done effectively at their institutions. Why is this the case? Getting a better job is the main reason why students go to college. Many spend thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to get that degree. Many go into debt as well. Yet most college presidents give their own institution pretty low ratings in these areas of critical importance to their graduates. 

How might this change for the better? While there are many potential solutions to bridge this gap, one potent way is to help students see the connections between school and the work world -- and one way to do this is by infusing real-world problem solving into the classroom. The presidents that Gallup and Inside Higher Ed surveyed know this is important. Seventy-five percent say that it is, but only 31% believe they are very effective at it. For recent graduates to be successful in the difficult job market, that needs to change.

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