How To Differentiate In The Competitive Online Learning Environment

While it is not feasible for all types of people to obtain a bachelor’s degree online, an evolving market offers a bevy of creative options. Here, Mary S Arendt, an expert on crafting an online curriculum for credit, explains how to differentiate yourself among online college options.

Online education is on the rise. While most of us remember the online courses our high school’s teachers used to take during our classes, few recognize that massive open online courses (MOOCs) have become big business. By using data analytics, mass recruitment, video content, and algorithm based grading, many online courses make learning environments appear to be “on-demand”.

After being introduced on the internet, MOOCs gained more notoriety during the student loan crisis as well as since the student protest on tuition. But the MOOC phenomenon is no longer new. To be relevant in this segment, an online learning center must first provide two elements that are core to any online learning center: plagiarism recognition and high student engagement.

According to Coursera, cheating has actually been illegal since 1998, but it was never penalized through a scalable, reliable system that looks at a course’s entire content, each unit, and evaluates each unit independently. While some group curricula and online courses have been found to allow the exercise of copyright without a direct infringement against that course’s copyright owner, most online courses do not have a password protected system that prevents plagiarism at all stages of the course.

3 Attractive Features To Incorporate

When an online institution launches a course, there is the obvious financial investment involved in launching courses. The ability to attract top students is another top priority as is building a platform that can continue to grow and attract new students. If one features a large percentage of online students enrolled in its course, the college/university will know exactly how many students it will need to increase its enrollment numbers. This knowledge will allow the institution to calculate realistic number of students it will need to find within one year and create a realistic advertising strategy to reach those students.

With a smaller number of students in the initial launch, an institution can focus its resources on building what it believes will be the most unique features to meet the market’s needs. This new approach to online teaching enables institutions to differentiate themselves in a crowded online environment. Some schools have created their own program with an incredibly unique feature that is not available through other courses. If that University chooses to update and repackage this unique feature, it will increase enrollment. An institution that could not compete with most colleges or universities has introduced its own unique feature and capitalized on its position as the leader in the online education space.

At times, an institution can measure its effectiveness by enrollment compared to other institutions. By reviewing the conversion rates for course enrollments, universities can determine the unique features or design that will make a difference and therefore add more members to the institution.

Taking online course completion rates from current averages of 2.1% to 4.6% would increase the recruitment of students. However, increasing enrollment is only one component of academic success. Studies have shown that student engagement in a real classroom experience, which includes numerous interactions with faculty, peers, and technology, is the critical link in advancing students and helping them to advance their curriculum. The research demonstrated that student engagement in higher education, especially online learning environments, contributes to learning outcomes. In turn, the higher the levels of student engagement, the higher the retention rates.

According to P&D Market Research, an online instructor will engage students 3.1 times higher in the course compared to a face-to-face instructor. For colleges, this is a two-fold benefit. First, students can benefit from the ease of access and same teacher interaction. Second, this engagement is not competing for face-to-face time with colleges. We know that more and more of our students opt to avoid the weekly or monthly campus visits that occur in traditional schools, in favor of learning from a higher-quality instructor. The low-conversion rates associated with online courses can be greatly improved as colleges innovate how they meet the demand for virtual instruction.

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