A Holistic Look at the Field of eLearning

Online learning, eLearning, virtual learning – all of these terms (and probably a dozen more) refer to the online delivery of learning experiences.  Learners are increasingly preferring online courses and programs to those that are campus-based, which parallels the demographic trends showing the increase in post-traditional and non-traditional students at colleges and universities.

This introduction provides a snapshot of a holistic look at online learning, and some of the components that make up the field.

Now that you have the brief snapshot, take a look in a little more detail on an overview of the marketplace of online learning.

Presentation: Overview of the Marketplace of Online Learning in Higher Education

This presentation shares an overall view of the types of institutions that are scaling online learning.

Digital Learning Compass Report 2017

This report is one of many field reports that reviews the current state of enrollments in higher education institutions regarding online courses and programs.

Read the Executive Summary of the Digital Learning Compass Report on Pages 4-5.

Read the infographic overview of key findings.

Elements of Successful Online Programs

There are many elements that are necessary to set the stage for successful online programs.  Universities utilize many different models that combine elements in different combinations according to their strategic goals that they have for their programs and the culture of their institutions, ranging from centralizing these elements in a division that provides a holistic set of services, to those that have no strong central division, wherein support is highly distributed.  Typically, institutions that have seen significant growth or that have substantial online enrollments have strong centralized support services.

Below, you can see recent data from 2012 – 2019 regarding enrollments in specific, large online institutions as well as the overall growth of online learning along with the slow decline in eorllments in traditional higher education.  These graphs are from Phil Hill’s amazing analysis on his blog Phil on Ed Tech.  Check it out!

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Marketing and Recruitment

Marketing and recruitment is a central need for online programs.  It is increasingly expensive to recruit new learners, which is why retaining current learners is so critical.

  • “According to a 2015 report issued by BMO Capital Markets, a private investment firm, nonprofit schools (including public schools) spend an average of $38.53 for a lead—just for the name and information of someone who may be interested in attending their school. It costs more than $380 to turn that lead into an application and more than $2,200 for every student who actually enrolls.”[i]

Leads are learners who have expressed interest; those who follow through apply to the institutions.  Of those, many enroll.  Of those that enroll, some pay for their initial deposit and do not start courses.  This last loss to learner enrollment is referred to as “melt”.

Core elements of marketing include search engine advertising, video ads online and on traditional distribution avenues, radio ads, print advertising, representation at events, social media ads, and even billboards.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an important part of this strategy.

Find below an example of an effective ad that has been a very successful one.

[i] https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/06/for-profit-companies-nonprofit-colleges/485930/

[i] https://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/releases/2018/Q1/purdue-university-receives-hlc-approval-for-purdue-global.html