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Reaching new online students


Northwestern Graduate Studies & Adult Learning

With a continuing trend of fewer undergraduate students enrolling in liberal arts colleges, Northwestern College made the decision to introduce online-only programs for graduate and non-traditional adult students. Their long undergraduate history, combined with a limited number of cost-competitive programs, within a Christian learning environment offers a model that has seen steady growth in its first three years.



Competitive Analysis

Conduct primary and secondary research to evaluate the current positioning 

Solidify Positioning

Develop messaging and supporting tools to ensure we are conveying our distinct characteristics

Website Strategy

Evaluate current web architecture and align it more effectively with goals and objectives

Unify Marketing Pieces

Create unifying look for advertising and printed marketing collateral


Visual Identity

The primary visual identity for the college is distinctive and familiar. With the strong tradition of the undergrad programs, we recommended that the modifier (Graduate Studies & Adult Learning) be removed, and present the logo with the tagline used for other GS&AL pieces. This is similar to how the primary college mark is often displayed. With this format, the integration of non-traditional programs into the broader college would be reinforced.

Research / Strategy

Northwestern's Graduate Studies and Adult Learning Programs began in 2014. The research conducted at that time was to determine the viability of various programs. Our first step was to review that research, and supplement where necessary. The obvious hole in the initial research was in gaining the insights of actual GS&AL students. We conducted written surveys and follow-ups with students of both the RN to BSN and Master of Education programs to assess the strengths of the program, how they had learned of the program, and why they chose Northwestern.

In addition, we prepared a competitive analysis of institutions offering similar programs within a 100 mile radius. Although the GS&AL programs are all delivered online, the radius allowed us to evaluate programs whose audience would have some shared familiarity.

Finally, we developed target personas for each program, allowing the marketing leadership of GS&AL to focus future messaging toward a demographic with a greater likelihood of receptiveness. We then developed key messaging points for those target groups.


The existing website had somewhat of a piecemeal approach, with a unified look and structure for most of the site, combined with links to the primary site (, and unstructured pages housed on the site. We reworked the architecture to better align the UX, and then proposed integrating the look and architecture back into the parent site. We did this for two reasons: First, there was shared information between the two sites (financial aid, alumni, resources, etc.), so it was more logical for the viewer to have an uninterrupted experience when visiting those pages. Second, the undergraduate programs would serve as natural feeders into the graduate programs. 

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