Covid-19 has seen the demand for online courses soar, with the potential to expand your student body like never before. But, what makes an online course successful in the eyes of your students, and how can you accurately convey your value proposition when you’re taking it online?

Joined by higher education experts from David Eccles, University of Utah, the University of Alabama and Pearson, we delved into what works well when launching new online courses at our roundtable event, which you can watch on-demand here

But, if you don’t have time to catch up with the webinar right now, here are the key takeaways you need to know when it comes to launching new online programs. 

1. Support your students’ transition, not just their enrolment

The Covid-19 pandemic has put students under immense pressure and stress, both academic and emotional. With the ongoing uncertainty of the situation, students need to know that their college will support them throughout their education, whether it’s through offline, online or hybrid learning. Showcase your college as a leader, looking to guide your students through their learning journey, however they’re making it.

“The most successful online programs have leadership that goes above and beyond, that looks at the services their students need to support their transition through to online enrolment.” - Goca Weis, HE Marketing Consultant.

2. Communicate throughout the process

“Communication is key to student sentiment around the institution. How quickly is someone picking up the phone when students call with questions about enrolling? How quickly can staff give updates on the financial aid process or recruitment process? Do they stay with the students throughout the trajectory of the year?” - Goca Weis, HE Marketing Consultant. 

Although the world has gone digital, you don’t need to lose that personal touch. How you communicate with your students impacts their decisions and their stickiness. Put the infrastructure in place to facilitate communication around the clock and remember; online programs are open to applicants worldwide, so make sure you’re always available to support your students (whether that be with their application, their mental health or general queries). As Sheena Mcfarland of David Eccles, University of Utah says, you need to find ways to “talk to the student as more than just a student. Say “Hey, we’ve got your back” throughout the entire process”. 

3. Convey value through your pricing structure

Highlight your value proposition by maintaining the cost of your programs. By keeping the fees the same, you reinforce your commitment to your online students receiving the same value of education as with your in-person programs. 

And on a similar note… 

4. Stick to your branding

There are many reasons why your course branding should remain unchanged for both online or offline courses. Whether you are offering hybrid classes or learning that’s going fully virtual, your courses and brand value are all as reputable and recognised as each other. By maintaining brand consistency across your programs, you will avoid confusion amongst prospective students and boost the perceived value of your offering. 

As HE Marketing Consultant Goca Weis says, “I believe there’s fidelity in keeping the brand the same, and online learning is simply a modality. 

5. Don’t disregard the traditional

It’s easy to get caught up in online modes of communication between staff and students, but you’ll lose the sense of community. Foster retention and loyalty by maintaining contact the traditional way: by picking up the phone.

Student to student relations are also crucial in creating a community. Sheena McFarland of David Eccles, University of Utah highlighted the importance of using new modes of learning in traditional ways. For example, making use of breakout rooms on video calls so students can interact in smaller groups, rather than passively engaging with professors. 

6. Shout about your USP

As most institutions are now offering courses online, there’s lots of competition. So, how can you stand out? Studies show that students have a better awareness of colleges close by, so to attract those further afield you need to differentiate yourself from the marketplace with your USP, whether that’s lower fees than the competition, a better quality of teaching, or the use of innovative technology to facilitate learning. 

“Most online students are within a 65-85 mile radius of that brand as they have an awareness of it. However, if there is a big offering elsewhere, then they will consider taking classes at other institutions.” - Goca Weis, HE Marketing Consultant. 

7. Address your students’ issues

To really engage prospective students, you need to understand how you match their expectations. Are you offering shorter programs that students can complete within 12 months? Are you removing barriers to accessing your college by scrapping application fees and entry tests? Understand your students’ concerns and make it easy for them to want to join your online program.

8. Test and learn

Remember, online programs are relatively new and both colleges and students are adjusting to the ‘new normal’. Audit your online programs year-round to see what works and what needs tweaking. Then, optimise your online courses in line with student needs and expectations and provide compelling testimonials and success stories to attract your prospective students. 

If you’re looking for more insight into launching effective online courses, then make sure to watch the roundtable session on demand, or get in touch for further support with marketing and advertising your online, offline and hybrid programs.