In my last post, I lamented that the Online Learning Consortium’s Online Report Card published its final report in February of this year after 13 years of tracking attitudes toward distance education among administrators and faculty within academe. Thankfully, there are other studies underway that researchers like myself can turn to for important insights about this market.
One of the most informative studies is the 2016 Online College Students: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences, authored by The Learning House, Inc. and Aslanian Market Research, This online report card provides a wealth of information about online student shopping preferences and behaviors.
For example, it tells us that cost is the most important criteria to students in selecting their online program, and that the majority of students make a decision on which programs they will apply to in four weeks or less. Both insights have significant implications for how universities and marketing firms approach online degree student-shoppers in the market.
But based on my careful examination of several thousand online program websites over the past six years, I see that many web-marketers and program websites don’t convey the most meaningful details about their online programs to students. Very few institutions are taking these two critical insights to action. Hiding the tuition costs of an online program deep in a university website (or not sharing at all) and not providing the key characteristics of a program front and center on the landing page means that the program is quickly dismissed from consideration in a shopping sweep by students. Prospective students have told us what they are looking for and how much time they will take to find it — it’s time for us to take them seriously.
Collecting data for the higher education online degree industry is only the first step. The rest is up to us to make the time to be more strategic and use these insights to improve the student shopping experience for online programs. When we have insights on what prospective students want and need, we should act on them.
The Online Degree Database website offers details about online degree programs not available anywhere else. It compliments and adds significant detail to what we can learn about the online degree market. The information it contains will surprise you!