Marketing Online Education

Marketing Online Education

Ormond Simpson
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1598-4.ch040
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This chapter will examine these factors in turn and will maintain that there are serious issues in all of them that need careful unpacking before marketing takes place.
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The E-Learning Product Itself

E-Learning: Popularity

E-learning is not a risk-free product for institutions, nor as we will see, for students. Anyone thinking of marketing e-learning for their institution needs to think carefully about some of the projects that have gone before and not been entirely successful. In fact the list of ventures that have closed is quite a long one, several based on quite illustrious institutions:

  • NYU Online - closed - loss $21.5m

  • Cardean University - closed - loss $100m

  • Columbia U. - closed - loss $25m

  • UKeU - closed - loss £62m

  • The Scottish e-university - loss not published

There are a number of others which have also closed and any marketeer should ask why. Although not all observers would agree, I believe that there is a common thread to the closures – these ventures were unsuccessful because they failed to recruit enough students to make them viable. A report into the failure of the UKeU found that a great deal of the allocated resource had gone into the writing of the learning platform but that it had attracted fewer than 6000 students and would never become viable.

This raises the question of whether 'total' e-learning (where everything is online including all course materials and support) is as popular with students as some educationalists believe. It is important to remember that prospective students may not welcome the prospect of courses that are entirely online. Many students still prefer to read paper copy and they may be right to do so: research (O'Hara et al, 1997) suggests that reading online is up to 30% less efficient in terms of comprehension than reading online. Certainly in at least one successful distance education institution known to the author – the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand - student surveys consistently feed back that students prefer their course material to be paper-based. It maybe that the most successful e-learning will delivered by a mixed mode – course material on paper and student support and teaching via the internet (or increasingly through mobile devices).

Thus it may be a mistake to believe that e-learning is automatically popular with potential students – it will be important to undertake some careful market research to establish just what the potential audience is and what modes of delivery will be the most popular.

E-Learning: Access

Part of that market research will be to quantify the level of access to the Internet amongst the potential audience. Even in a relatively technically advanced country such as the UK, nearly 30% of households still do not have broadband access to the Internet, and whilst there are many internet access points in libraries, cafés and so on, it is not clear if these offer sufficient access to undertake completely online courses. For institutions delivering post-graduate studies this may not matter: for institutions with a widening participation ethos in their mission, it will be a serious issue if choosing e-learning excludes a substantial part of the already educationally disadvantaged population in their country.

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