Know your audience, use video, and be careful which social platform you use

Online learning isn’t new, but it’s become the “new normal” of higher education because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccination rates are increasing, but 33% of administrators of post-secondary schools still say they will continue to offer online course options even after campuses re-open. 


While overall enrollment has declined because of the pandemic, enrollment has increased at institutions that primarily teach online. Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 have seen a 7% increase in enrollment, compared to a 5% increase in 2019, and part-time enrollment in Spring 2021 has increased by 4.9% over 2020. This should make online education a strategic priority for every school. 


As online course enrollment and interest continue to increase, institutions must learn how to craft digital marketing campaigns that take advantage of this movement. The challenge is to convince potential students that your online learning programs will give them the advantages they expect from higher education.


Advantages of online learning for potential students


A 2019 survey of distance learners by Santa Clara University asked respondents questions about their ability to interact with both teachers and peers online, how well they were able to study in a virtual environment, and if they would recommend online learning for others.


You’ll be encouraged to hear that more than 50% of those who answered the survey said they recognize and appreciate the many benefits of online learning. 


Their answers provide some great points to target in your marketing campaigns, including:

Flexible schedule and pacing options stood out as a primary benefit for many online learners. Some students were in programs that let them start a class right away, others had the choice between a traditional 16-week semester or an eight-week accelerated course. 
The lower costs of online classes loom large for prospective students. While they pay the same per-credit tuition, they don’t have to pay for on-campus housing, meal plans, and commuting. Another bonus is the ability to purchase digital versions of textbooks.

Online learners also can qualify for federal financial aid programs as long as they take enough credits to meet part-time student requirements. 

The ability to study anywhere, any time is another big value-add for online learners. They can do coursework at home, a café, a library, or even on the beach. This means students can learn and study in the environment that suits them best.

This also applies to geography. Students who live closer to friends and family have greater emotional wellbeing and much less stress. In addition to saving on moving expenses, offering entire degrees and certificates online can attract these students.

Advantages for career advancement are top-of-mind for non-traditional learners. Some employers offer a raise for degree completion, and many management positions are only available to people with a college degree. Plus, online students can keep working while they study and apply what they learn to the job. 
Improved technical skills are another value-add for online students. They’ll need these skills to work remotely if their employer asks, and they don’t just mean how to use software or do online research. Soft technical skills count too, such as how to communicate effectively online.

These are all important points to consider when building your marketing message, but what are the most effective ways to reach these potential students and increase your online enrollment?

How to promote your online learning options


The list above gives you a general idea of what’s important to students currently enrolled in or considering online learning, but to promote your school’s eLearning program, it’s important to identify your own unique target audience. You’ll need to do market research, surveys, focus groups, and interviews to find out who your specific online learning target audience is.


Learn as much about your prospects as you can, so you can market to their needs and effectively communicate what your online course program has to offer. After you know who you’re marketing to, these are the most effective ways to reach your target audience:


1. Video ads


People are busy and have an average attention span of only about eight seconds. This is why you have to leverage online video. Younger people prefer video to reading text as a learning tool, and that applies to your digital marketing as well. Tip: YouTube is their preferred channel.


2. Embrace design minimalism


Design trends come and go. Right now, minimalism is where it’s at, with its muted color, simple fonts, and a “less is more” approach. Without the distraction of busy design, you can take an emotional approach to storytelling to make a better connection with potential students. 


3. Use social media


Social media is omnipresent, but choose your platform carefully by keeping track of user trends. For example, there have been some big changes in 2021:

Facebook usage by people 12 years to 34 years old stands at 57%, a decline from 79% in 2017
Twitter use has decreased by about 2% in that age group
TikTok usage has increased from 25% usage to 44% usage between 2020 and 2021
Snapchat suffered a significant decrease, with numbers similar to Facebook
The most steadily growing social network is Instagram, at 70%

If you are targeting an older audience, Facebook usage is growing among the 55+ crowd. 


To market on social media, optimize your profiles on each platform to emphasize your online educational offerings, and make sure images help make your point by showing online learners instead of happy campus scenes. Also, take advantage of technology like Instagram live to draw attention. You could even have someone give a mini-course on the platform that illustrates how well your school grasps the concepts and needs of online learning. 


The basic concept is to show potential students how your online curriculum can meet their needs as well as the time, cost, and do-it-from-anywhere advantages. Remember, as you direct potential students to your website, it has to shine as much as your marketing.


Make Your Website a Marketing Tool with KWALL


You can count on KWALL to support the development of your higher ed website, help you implement a CMS, and support you while you use it. We can also help you create a maintenance and support plan that works so you can manage content through a content management system.


KWALL specializes in helping colleges and universities increase student engagement through the quality of their websites. Reach out and contact KWALL today to talk about how we can help you.


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