Op-ed: 3 reasons online learning institutions fail

Key challenges online educators face in their quest for mainstream industry and marketplace acceptance—and solutions to help succeed.

fail-online-institutionsOnline learning technology has the potential to expand quality education to a growing number of students; however, pairing online learning technology with the same face-to-face method is not enough to ensure success, as many online institutions are coming to find.

This year (2015), working adult students, in particular, are turning to the Internet in pursuit of more cost-effective classes, certification programs and entire degrees in droves. However, while there are numerous proven benefits to an online education–such as flexible learning schedules, budget-friendliness and access to industry-leading curriculums–the industry is not without its challenges, as many online institutions face enrollment decline

Indeed, online educators face three key challenges in their journey toward mainstream industry and marketplace acceptance:

Challenge 1: Establishing a relevant curriculum

The learning dynamic we’ve grown accustomed to with traditional, face-to-face courses varies greatly from a technology-based online learning environment. Thus, in order to succeed, the development of an online curriculum must address these differences and prepare students for the unique challenges they will face in an Internet-based environment.

A study conducted by Colombia University in 2013 confirms that a well-planned curriculum is paramount to ensuring the successful learning outcome of online students. The study showed that factors such as clearly communicated goals and learning objectives, successful use of technology, and opportunity for personal interaction with instructors and other students were the main distinguishing factors in predicting the success of online students. In the past, some institutions have rushed to develop distance-learning education programs, and it has resulted in substandard programs that failed to keep up with current business trends and standards. Many times, academics who create these courses have not worked in that industry for many years and are not up to date with the expectations that students will face while entering the competitive job market.


Online curriculums should be kept constantly up-to-date with the current trends happening in each respective sector, and preferably be designed around the people who have found great success in the business world. A primary example is “The Daymond John Certificate of Entrepreneurship” targeted at aspiring entrepreneurs, junior and mid-level managers. . This program, created by FUBU founder and ABC-TV Shark Tank star, Daymond John, is ideal for students seeking practical business skills, such as identifying market trends, bringing a new product or service to the market, and learning strategies to start and grow a business. The program is designed for real-world applications, and is backed by one of the most iconic and successful entrepreneurs in the country.

Another example of an industry-leading online curriculum designed by an industry insider is the MBA program at Strayer University, created by Jack Welch, chairman and CEO of General Electric. The program is redefining the traditional Master of Business Administration degree by making each course available entirely online, and taking advantage of technology-based tools, such as video conferencing, to better connect with students. Welch’s program also allows professionals to pursue an education, and advance their career without quitting their current job.

 (Next page: Skill sets and motivation)

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