Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formattingExcerpt from Essay:
Education Industry Marketing Distance Learning?
"Online advertisements by traditional and dot.com institutions is an indication of a new trend in mass marketing of education. The strategies are based on traditional transactional marketing approach where each transaction is treated as an isolated event" (Shaik, 2005).
The opportunities for getting a degree without having to physically attend classes have grown exponentially the past twenty years or so, thanks to the explosive growth of distance learning (also called online education). This paper delves into the marketing of distance learning, and presents a wide range of approaches by various educational institutions and marketing Web sites that promote distance education.
According to eLearners.com, a Web site that markets online colleges and universities, there are 222 colleges currently offering distance education, and there are 5.6 million students taking courses online. The eLearners.com site sells ads to online colleges and universities and offers a link to each of the 222 distance education sites, plus an evaluation of schools offering various specializations. The site offers users a "free" chance to research educational programs and asserts that all "our partners are accredited by the U.S. Department of Education.
The Web site OnlineUniversities.com offers similar information to eLearners.com but this site goes one step further: it lists what it calls "The Top 3 Accredited Online Universities." Those three, in order, are: a) the University of Phoenix ("…a great fit for students seeking an accredited online university… doctoral, masters, bachelor's, and associate's degrees"); b) Kaplan University ("For students with busy schedules… an excellent choice… receive a quality education in the comfort of [your] own home"); and c) Liberty University ("…personalized attention from faculty, and the convenience of online learning…"), which also asserts that tuition is "among the lowest in the country" and it is "built on a foundation of Christian values." But OnlineUniversities.com doesn't just want the user to link to an online university and forever leave; indeed, it offers "learning tips" and a blog by Justin Marquis, that can provide information on the "changing nature of learning, the use of video games in education," and more.
The Online College Blog offers a chance to fulfill "Ivy League Dreams"; although you won't be able to see the ivy on the walls of these prestigious institutions, or meet an interesting person in the student center, "…that shouldn't keep you from 'attending' classes at an Ivy League university." The site mentions that Cornell offers 19 online certificate programs, and the tuition is not cheap - $2,150 to $10,500. Also, Harvard University does offer "dozens of online courses" albeit you cannot complete a degree from Harvard doing it online.
Meanwhile, the Education-Portal.com specializes in marketing colleges and universities that "Offer Free Courses Online." That sounds very appealing: get university credits without leaving home, and get those credits for free to boot. But wait, the site reminds users that "…some free courses…[don't] offer as rich of a learning experience as the in-depth readings, classroom discussions and group study sessions…" that a traditional online degree program can offer. Moreover, among the "drawbacks" is the fact that "You won't get college credit for taking these courses." Still, there are courses that are worth taking, providing a person is simply interested in learning about a topic and doesn't plan on working towards a degree.
The Web site College-scholarship.com provides links to a number of different online colleges, like "Historically Black Colleges and Universities," "Colleges with Programs for Learning Disabled," "Christian Colleges, Universities & Bible Colleges," "Colleges for Women," and "Colleges in Canada." There is a "finder" tool on the home page from which a user can access online opportunities by category, subject, and degree level. The site also offers marketing information on how to obtain a scholarship to a college or university.
When logged on to the Online Education Database the user can access reviews of 1,021 programs offered by 82 accredited online colleges. This site ranks online colleges according to eight metrics: Acceptance rate; financial aid; graduation rate; online programs; retention rate; scholarly citations; student-faculty ratio; and years it has been accredited. Whereas the Web site OnlineUniversities.com lists Phoenix, Kaplan and Liberty universities as the top three online choices, the Online Education Database lists Liberty as #8 and neither of the other two in the top twenty. This site lists National University the top college, Golden Gate University as #2 and Regent University as #3. The Online Educational Database site also provides blogs with reviews of books that relate to the campus experience (bricks and mortar) versus online campuses; in the her review of the book The Cheese Monkeys, Meredith Nudo discusses a bricks and mortar campus where the art department was "so criminally underfunded, it could turn the Pop into an atheist…" (Nudo, 2011).
The marketing of online college and university classes is often done by Web sites that are basically resource guides turned into advertising and marketing tools for the industry. For example, the United States Distance learning Association (USDLA) claims it is nonprofit and still it boasts of having "20,000 global sponsors and members" that operate within and influence up to "46% of the $913 billion dollar U.S. Education and Training Market."
The Los Angeles County Office of Education has an outreach program for online instruction under the title TEAMS Distance learning. This program began quite early in the game, receiving a grant for funding in 1990 (from the U.S. Department of Education) and creating one of the first instructional Web sites in 1994. Today, teachers and students, as well as parents, can find "free links to educational resources… that have been evaluated by and for educators" (TEAMS). The only way a school district is going to let potential users know that it has distance learning technologies, is to market those opportunities, and the Los Angeles County Office of Education is doing a good job at that. The TEAMS site offers algebra, geometry, chemistry, history, reading and earth sciences. Moreover, they have links to a network of school-linked online educational projects.
An article in the peer-reviewed journal TechTrends suggests that when students are giving consideration to what online opportunities are out there on university or college Web sites, they should have an understanding of what kind of interaction they can expect from instructors. In other words, the aspect of interaction should be marketed more clearly by these online learning institutions. The warnings given by the authors in this article are pertinent to the potential distance learner. For example, the enthusiasm and "demand for e-learning development far outstrips the available supply of people with the competency to develop it… [and hence] We should legitimately call for more training programs" (Moller, et al., 2008, p. 71). The authors assert that the situation "…has the potential of creating general disillusionment with e-learning" because "mediocrity" just might become "the norm" (Moller 71). Probably readers won't see that there is today "…a lack of sound e-learning instruction" in the marketing materials. And moreover, there is a dearth of systems available to measure "learning outcomes," Moller continues, and training that students receive is too often "judged solely by the number of learner hours logged or by pure appearance" (71).
An article in the journal Marketing Education Review (Ryan, et al., 2001, p. 45) discusses the development of learning materials for online courses offered by The Open University of Catalonia (UOC) (Spain). For a marketing course, the university used four professors in Marketing from "various universities in Spain" to prepare the materials. Among the marketing concepts that were put forward for this marketing course at UOC included: a) telling potential students they would be avoiding the "student isolation" that is typically associated with distance learning; b) all online students will be given a "place" that unites students with other members of the UOC community; c) students have an "extremely flexible approach to distance education uninhibited by the limitations of time and space"; and d) part of the learning materials include training in the use of personal computers, the Internet, and "multimedia materials" (Ryan, 44).
A questionnaire was sent to 91 students who had enrolled in the marketing class, and completed it; the majority of the 41 students that completed the questionnaire agreed that the class, "Current Issues in Marketing," provided "significantly wider access to related support materials" than other classes at UOC; and that students believed they had a "significantly more active role" in the learning process than other classes in other genres (Ryan, 48). Getting this article published was actually a shrewd form of marketing UOC and of distance learning.
Terri Pedersen Summey writes that even libraries need a marketing plan when it comes to alerting online students to the value of their services. There are a number of valuable services that libraries currently offer to students, but "without awareness, the services go unused," Summey explains, hence a "road map to visually illustrate the path from the conception of ideas to the realization of the marketing goals and objectives" must be created as a marketing tool (Summey, 2004,…[continue]
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