Higher education is in a very different place from where it was at the start of the pandemic. Roll back the clock to the end of 2019, and schools and universities were slowly starting to open up online learning as an option for students. The pandemic flipped that on its head. Suddenly, higher education institutions needed to bring each one of their offerings online to integrate students into a new virtual environment. This led to faculties scrambling to understand how their students could meet, study, and be graded online.
Now, more than 18 months down the line, universities have attained a level of comfort with this new education landscape, and many are even looking to continue to offer a hybrid (or exclusively online) learning experience.
For students, this means they have a lot more options and can evaluate their learning in a different light. For example, doing courses online means no geographical boundaries and they no longer need to move states to access courses. For the universities, it allows them to look beyond the traditional advertising cohort of 18-year-olds and open up new markets, such as transfer students, adult students, and those looking for a second degree.
However, this means universities need to transform the way they market themselves. In the past, awareness was built through alumni networks, print advertising, and the occasional TV ad with a resplendent campus and a buzzing environment. With a broadening of their target audience, these old-school advertising channels are becoming ineffective methods for reaching prospective students. Instead, digital channels such as search engines, social media, and programmatic placement in online media are where universities need to focus their advertising budgets, mainly because audience targeting has become so sophisticated (if you know how to do it).
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