Today’s college students bring a wide variety of needs and manage a constant juggle of responsibilities while pursuing a degree. According to the Department of Education, 74 percent of undergraduate students, described as the “new normal,” have at least one nontraditional characteristic such as being a first-generation student, having at least one dependent, or working either full or part-time. Further, nearly half of students enrolled today are age 25 or older and are working to complete an unfinished degree, returning to advance their career or re-skill for a new opportunity.

As students are redefining their roles, higher education is reimagining pathways for today’s rapidly growing number of nontraditional students who are committed to earning a degree by offering more robust support programs, new technologies and flexible course schedules.

1. Supporting students beyond the classroom

Considering today’s college students are seeking a work-life-school balance, there is an increased demand for student support services to deliver helpful tools, resources and programming designed to aid students from enrollment to graduation.

Many online students are stepping back into school after years of taking time off and greatly benefit from personalized resources and support like those offered at ASU Online where students are paired with an online success coach from day one. Success coaches are a lifeline as these learners juggle life with studying and coursework. By proactively reaching out to students, coaches can quickly assist in overcoming obstacles and work to ensure online students stay on the path to graduation.

2. Technology in the classroom

A recent study found that the number of students taking online courses grew to over 6.3 million students in the U.S. and that number continues to rise. More degree specializations are now available as universities scale and expand to meet the evolving needs of students. ASU Online offers more than 200 degree programs ranging from traditional degrees to specialized programs — many of which are infusing emerging technologies bringing forward an entirely new kind of learning environment.

New technologies are also changing the way professors deliver information and how students can apply key learnings in real time. Virtual reality tools enabling completion of lab sciences courses are helping to expand the types of degrees available to online students. At ASU Online, courses are designed using state-of-the-art technology and tools providing students with a direct connection to the knowledge and expertise of university faculty.

3. Introduction of flexible class schedules

Universities are now designing flexible learning models and accelerating course offerings that better fit the modern-day student’s schedule as they balance work, parenting, education and family. Online learning provides an opportunity for students to design their own path — putting them in control. Being able to study at a time that’s most convenient — whether it’s late in the evening, early morning before kids are awake or over a lunch break — is a game changer for many busy adults. Dealing with a commute or missing class is no longer an issue as students can manage their time and create a schedule that works best for their lives.

The flexibility allows online students to be anywhere in the world while studying or attending a lecture. Further, online learners are now able to log into class at their convenience, which allows students to work at a pace that best suits them.

Online learning allows universities to meet students where they are both academically and personally. The power of innovation in online learning is visible with each new program, each new tool and the promise of each student that is able to complete a degree in a way that was simply not possible before. For more information on Arizona State University’s online offerings, visit