Developing Successful, Scalable Online Programs

04/06/17   |  
Chris Williams

For many universities, online programs present opportunity - the opportunity to grow your institutional brand, the opportunity to reach students in new geographies, the opportunity for a more sustainable financial future. Before going or growing online however, there are many important factors to consider including program structure, marketing, course design, retention and more. At Keypath, we work with senior university leadership to help them design, implement and grow online programs that are going to be successful. One area where we spend a lot of time is program administration.

Structure your program for scalability

An online degree program is most likely to attract working adult professionals who are looking for a more flexible way to continue their education than the traditional on-campus experience. They are balancing work, family life and other commitments and have limited time. Therefore, it’s critical to structure your program with this “non-traditional” student in mind. That means:

  • Offering multiple starts per year; we’ve found size times per year to be ideal.
  • Allowing for focus – one course at a time; sessions should run 7 to 8 weeks each.
  • Providing a clear pathway to completion which encourages students to stay continually enrolled.

Program design matters

Additionally, give careful consideration to how often offer each course in the program. The answer is not to offer every course every term as that will drive up your costs. By optimizing your course offerings – by using a carousel model, for example – you ensure that all enrolled students have a course to take each term, regardless of where they are in their degree path. Additional benefits of a course carousel model include:

  • The ability to spread out your course development costs
  • A reduction in instructional expense
  • A clear pathway to graduation for students

Compete with smart marketing

Another critically important factor for achieving success is a robust, program-focused marketing and recruitment strategy. Many leaders we work with don’t realize the investment or expertise required to compete with other already-established online programs. Program discipline, the strength of your institution’s brand, the breadth of the target audience and many other factors all impact marketing costs. Prospective students will likely find you via digital sources – Google, social media, your website, banner advertising, etc. Therefore, you need a marketing team with a deep understanding of how to leverage – and measure performance – all channels to drive inquiries specifically for your online degree program.

Actively engage all prospective students

Effective student recruitment goes hand in hand with a solid marketing strategy. Once your online marketing is up and running and students are inquiring into your programs, it is important to have dedicated and focused enrollment advisors. Ensure every single prospective student is actively engaged and nurtured through the enrollment process via personalized, 1:1 contact.

Online programs require dedicated program management and a commitment to both the academic aspects as well as the mechanics of attracting, recruiting and building a program where students can be successful. Keypath has helped hundreds of institutions launch and grow successful, scalable online programs. For more information about how we can help your institution succeed online, send us an email.