Diverse Conversations: An Online Course to Recruit Online Learners
Massive Open Online Courses are often associated with topics that are normally taught within college classrooms and by college faculty. The untapped potential of MOOCs extends well beyond the basic academic reach though, and is showing promise to advance the success of university systems as a whole.
Austin-based digital marketing agency Tocquigny recently hosted a four-week MOOC that focused on recruiting students for online learning programs. Instead of targeting the students themselves, the MOOC guides administration and admission personnel through smart marketing tactics to attract their audiences to their online course offerings.
I talked with the company’s CEO, Yvonne Tocquigny, about the concept for this MOOC and the evolving role of online learning.
Q: These courses at Tocquigny are aimed at college administrators, as opposed to students, correct?
A: Yes, specifically the courses are aimed at admissions, enrollment and marketing staff responsible for acquiring new students within higher education institutions.
Q: How are colleges succeeding in online enrollment, and where can they improve?
A: Colleges are in fierce competition for the same students. Most colleges and universities are using the same strategies and tactics so there is very little discernible differentiation between the institutions. Colleges and universities can do a better job of creating distinctive brands that set them apart rather than “me too” brands that make them all look about the same. They can do a better job of segmenting their audiences and delivering tailored messages to resonate with specific groups of students. And, they can do a better job of using and optimizing digital marketing. Schools should have visibility into a quantifiable cost per acquired student metric, and they should have specific initiatives to consistently lower that cost through rigorous testing and by optimizing campaigns.
Q: Based on your research, what types of students are enrolling in online college programs the most?
A: Online learning is most popular with a group Tocquigny refer to as “career advancers.” These are people that are currently employed, but cannot advance because they lack the educational certification. Online education is also popular with mothers as they find more time to dedicate to their futures, as well as military personnel coming out of active duty.
Q: How important is a university’s digital branding when it comes to recruitment, particularly for online learning?
A: As students shop for their university of choice, they are likely to first investigate their options through online sources, often using their mobile device. The school must engage a student prospect effectively at this first touchpoint in order to move the student into the consideration phase and on to the submission of an application. Prospective students today will not only visit the school’s website, but will investigate the school through social media, videos and blogs. It’s imperative for schools to have an accessible, relevant differentiated brand online in order to engage prospects.
Q: How will online college learning evolve in the next 5 years and what are some factors leading to change?
A: We at Tocquigny believe online higher education options will continue to evolve to offer more variations that are both paid and free for an audience that is not able or willing to attend a brick and mortar school. We are pioneering our own MOOC because we see the power this form of education has in the marketplace. Integration with emerging online collaboration tools such as SubjectMatter will allow more direct contact with instructors to give the student a richer experience. We expect that new curricula around niche learning topics may spawn new certifications created to enhance specific skill sets required for jobs. This may lead to a proliferation of alternative learning paths that blur the edges between a traditional degree and other certifications.
Q: What university clients have you taken on already, and what campaigns have been launched?
A: Tocquigny has a seven year relationship with Regent University to handle its online student acquisition. We are also in the process of launching a social media campaign for Rice University aimed at recent graduates. I serve as an advisor for the School of Undergraduate Studies at The University of Texas at Austin.