Marketplace of Online Higher Education

Author: Dr Salar Niknafs online_education_degrees

The emergence of new technologies has transformed education substantially. Considering the long history of education, it won’t be an overstated truth to consider the transformation in the availability of education, an educational renaissance, “removing the barriers of time and place” [1]. Such rather newly introduced advancements have enabled the reaching to those, whose demographical or geographic circumstances are not responsive to the more traditional forms of on-campus learning. Additionally, the enhanced pedagogical systems that are emerging in parallel to the technological advancements (such as broadband and wireless internet capability) mean that the off-campus experience can offer efficient, while intensively engaging student experiences. [1]

This article is attempting to (1) analyze the secondary data concerning the Australian marketplace of online higher education, (2) review some of the competitive strategies universities are implementing in this marketplace and subsequently (3) discuss the determinants of perceived online education success from the students point of view. Following the discussing there will be (4) a short survey that attempts to initiate a discussion and gather primary data on the key determinants of satisfaction in university online education.

  1.  Marketplace Attractiveness of Online Higher Education

In the 1980s the Australian government permitted and encouraged public universities to reach the international education markets. Subsequently in the following years most Australian universities entered into the market of online education, driven by intensive global competition [2,3]. The idea of online higher education mostly appeals to certain demographic and geographic sections. Most notable of these market segments are international students, students with a higher age than average whom pursue work alongside studies and students from regional and remote areas.

According to a survey conducted in the first half of 2014 by The Department of Education and Training [4], a total of about 1,200,000 domestic and international students enrolled at higher education institutions in the first half of 2014, while overseas student enrolments were about 271,000, approximately 4.5 percent of total enrolments. Commencing students in regional areas in the first half of 2014 constituted 6.2 per cent of total commencing students in the same period in 2014. Market attractiveness of online higher education is most evident in the United States – the world’s most mature market – where nearly one-third of all students enrolled in some sort of higher education enrolled in at least one online course during the fall 2011. [5]

US online enrolment

  1. Innovative Marketing in Online Higher Education

Universities are continuously adapting rigorous strategies to stay competitive in the global marketplace of online higher education. Apart from the innovative design aspects of online education (which is a lengthy yet interesting topic by itself), perhaps the most recent of these strategies is the “massive open online courses” (MOOCs). MOOC

According to a recent comprehensive survey (Ten Years of Tracking Online Education) [6], only the minority of chief academics believe MOOCs have the potential to attract students to their institutions. In fact it may also appear as a contradictory business model for universities to make their sought-after teaching materials available to the general public. Nevertheless academic institutions are entering into this type of course with a longer view of investing in a potential market for the future or as a way to build their institution’s brand awareness. Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and MIT are among those universities, entering MOOCs to enhance their reputation, to invest in an alternative revenue stream and to increase their brand awareness through the publicity the MOOCs bring.

  1. Perceived Quality in Online Higher Education

It has been suggested [6] that online education can potentially be a superior mode of education if it is directed towards students with visual and read/write learning styles and if the instructors provide timely and meaningful feedbacks. The same study suggests that the determinants of students’ satisfaction depends mainly on course structure, instructor feedback quality, ability to self-motivate, learning style (visual and read/write learning styles), possibility to interact, and instructor facilitation (who stimulates, guides, and challenges students via empowering students with freedom and responsibility).

  1. Survey Question

Here I would like to ask members of the Marketing Management community and The Deakin University Marketing and MBA students to respond to the following short survey, which attempts to gather primary data on the key determinants of satisfaction and to initiate a discussion on their experience with online education environments.

As an academic with teaching experience in tertiary contexts, I personally think that despite the many advantages of online education, the difficulties to stimulate distant students to intellectual effort is the major challenge of online education. How do YOU determine learning outcomes and satisfaction in online education? Rank the various determinants of students’ satisfaction in online higher education in order of preference. Begin by picking out the one characteristic of online education that you think is most important and assign it a rank “1”. Then, find the second most important preferred characteristic and assign it a rank “2”. Continue this procedure until you have ranked all the characteristics of online education that determine student satisfaction in order of preference, The least preferred characteristic should be assigned a rank of “6”. Please also state the mode of your education, whether off-campus or on-campus with partial online subjects.

Characteristic Rank Order
1. Course structure
2. Instructor feedback quality
3. Ability to self-motivate
4. Learning style
5. Possibility to interact
6. Instructor knowledge & facilitation

References  

[1] An Agenda for Australian higher education: a smarter australia 2013–2016, Universities Australia. http://universitiesaustralia.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Universities-Australia-A-Smarter-Australia.pdf  

[2] http://theconversation.com/creating-a-quasi-market-in-higher-education-in-australia-26383  

[3] Wendy Sutherland-Smith and Sue Saltmarsh, “Minding the ‘P’s for Implementing Online Education: Purpose, Pedagogy, and Practicalities”, Australian Journal of Teacher Education, Vol 35, 7, November 2010  

[4] Summary of the 2014 first half year higher education student statistics, Australian Government, Department of Education and Training https://education.gov.au/selected-higher-education-statistics-2014-student-data  

[5] E-Learning Market Trends & Forecast 2014 – 2016 Report A report by Docebo | March 2014  [6] Sean B. Eom and H. Joseph Wen, “The Determinants of Students’ Perceived Learning Outcomes and Satisfaction in University Online Education: An Empirical Investigation” Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education Volume 4 Number 2
July 2006.

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This entry was posted in Topic 5 - Marketing Research by sniknafs2015. Bookmark the permalink.

About sniknafs2015

Salar Niknafs is a media artist and researcher. His background in media involves aspects of visual communications, photography, audio production and digital design. His research explores concepts and methods at the intersection of art, science and technology in an attempt to act as a mediator in these fields.

17 thoughts on “Marketplace of Online Higher Education

  1. Characteristics: Rank:
    Course Structure 1
    Instructor Feedback quality 2
    Instructor knowledge & facilitation 3
    Learning style 4
    Ability to self motivate 5
    I am on-campus student in melbourne I am studying Master of professional accounting from Deakin, I did few of my unit off-campus when I was overseas. To me the course structure was very important and to to increase the self-learning the instructor provided with weekly quiz whose marks were allocated to final examination, practice quiz were also provided and if if needed to clarify something a reply was highly appreciated.

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    • Could you describe your learning style and elaborate your thoughts on ‘Possibility to Interact’?

      It has been suggested that if online education is directed towards students with visual and read/write learning styles, it can potentially be a superior mode of education. On the other hand, ‘Auditory learners’ who are more interested in learning through spoken words or ‘Active learners’ who prefer to be involved directly in the activities are best suited for face-to-face modes of education.

      How do you compare the ‘possibilities of interaction’ between on-campus and off-campus modes of education?

      Like

  2. Learning style for online studies should be a combination of both lecture and some form of video presentation, as with my experience I had the option to download the audio file or video file, so it was upto my discretion how i like, in my opinion learing is better with audiovisual material rather than just auditory because more of our senses are engaged. There should also be some form of variable activity in which the student should be actively engaging himself and enhance the learning such as research assignments or to-do exercies in a given time frame.

    Possibility of interaction is the essence of on-campus studies, doubts are clarified staright away, questions are answered simultaneously and to-n-fro communication is established off-campus/online lacks this doubts and questions may be answered but with a time lapse, nevertheless the convenience on online studies takeover the cons.

    Like

    • Thanks for the clarification! How do you rank the ‘Possibility of interaction’ in the survey question? I noticed that you have missed the listing of this character in your response.

      Like

  3. Characteristics: Rank:
    Course Structure 1
    Instructor Feedback quality 2
    Instructor knowledge & facilitation 3
    Learning style 4
    Possibility to interact 5
    Ability to self motivate 6

    Like

  4. I rank them in the order of 3,4,5,6,2,1.

    I would argue that most Universities are still not truly “online”. Uploading a 3 hour recorded seminar each week with some power point slides is more distance education. I think that Universities in Australia have a long way to go to truly realise the potential of online learning. There is one Uni that is doing it really well – Swinburne Online. I guess I have to make a disclaimer at this stage and let you know that I work for them. And yes, I am biased, but we are doing some really cool stuff and have a policy of no powerpoints, pdf’s or videos that go for longer than 5 minutes.

    That aside, what is great for us is that because everything is online, we are able to access a huge amount of data, that we then analyse to make the student experience even better. I would so love to be able to tell you about the insights we have been able to make that have led to reducing student attrition, but given that Deakin is a competitor, I can’t give it away 😉

    I believe that the power of data to make the student (customer) experience the best that it can be gives us a significant competitive advantage – in fact, we are already the market leader in undergraduate online courses after less than 4 years of operation.

    Like

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! In response to mentioning Swinburne Online, although I don’t have an employment/enrolment history with Swinburne, I always thought that ‘media presence’ is one of their major priorities.

      Whenever I searched the Swinburne’s staff directory, I was pleasantly surprised that most of their academic staff have personal websites, published on personal domains. It is also often that you hear about Swinburne in public media, either about a breakthrough research or their academic staff engaging with current national affairs. Unfortunately, I’m not able to comment on the quality of their online courses though, purely due to the lack of direct experience.

      I understand that you are not particularly in favour of uploading lengthy seminar videos. You also pointed out “access to huge amount of data” as a favourable characteristic. Could you list some attributes of a well-established ‘course structure’ from your point of view?

      Like

      • I’m not sure what you mean by “course structure”? Do you mean how each unit is designed and delivered, or the program as a whole?

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      • Sorry, I guess I should have clarified the question. Here, the term “course structure” applies to both individual subjects and the program as a whole:

        Course structure consists of 2 main aspects: course objectives/expectation and course infrastructure. The infrastructure aspect is concerned with the overall usability of the website, arrangement and design of the course materials. [6]

        Did you observe substantial differences in terms of course structures, among the online education providers you experienced?

        Like

      • In my opinion, a well established course structure has clear course outcomes and objectives, and the learning each week scaffolds up to these objectives. The assessments should also clearly connect to the overall objectives, which sadly, many courses do not. Further, a great course structure online should utilise the data it is able to generate to pinpoint any areas where students are struggling to understand, so that the course can then be improved.

        Like

  5. Characteristic
    1. Course structure -1
    2. Instructor feedback quality- 4
    3. Ability to self-motivate – 6
    4. Learning style -3
    5. Possibility to interact – 5
    6. Instructor knowledge & facilitation- 2

    I am a working professional, that is enrolled as an online student. I am 3 units into a Grad Cert (working towards MBA), and I must say although I am an online study I have attended sporadic classes for all the units have completed to date. I have been told many times over that I am a kinesthetic learner, and I can only assume this has something to do with my preference to attend classes where possible. As much as I value the flexibility that being a online student offers, I don’t think I would enrol in a course if I didn’t have an option to have face to face time if required.

    Like

  6. Very thought provoking post. I studied as a student at Deakin 20 years ago (on campus), then completed another degree with Deakin 10 years ago (off campus), and this is my third go at a Deakin degree (off campus). Over this time I have seen the teaching standard increase significantly at Deakin. The off campus mode of learning continues to improve significantly overtime. In giving the rankings below it is more of a “point in time” snapshot. If I had the time, my preference would be to study on campus as the personal engagement gives better learning outcomes.

    Characteristics: Rank:
    1. Ability to self motivate
    2. Learning style
    3. Instructor knowledge & facilitation
    4. Instructor Feedback quality
    5. Course Structure

    Like

    • Thanks for you reply! You mentioned “personal engagement” as a major factor in choosing on-campus education. Yet I noticed that you missed the listing of ‘”possibility of interaction” in your survey response.
      How do you rank the “Possibility of interaction” in the survey question?

      Like

      • Sorry I missed that one! Would slot it between learning style and instructor knowledge and facilitation.

        Like

  7. Hi,
    I would rank them in the following order:

    3. Course structure
    6. Instructor feedback quality
    5. Ability to self-motivate
    2. Learning style
    1. Possibility to interact
    3. Instructor knowledge & facilitation

    I completed the Business Process Management subject last year and there was a Thursday interactive lecture for Deakin Cloud students using the blackboard technology. I found this a great learning resource as opposed to viewing filmed lectures that are provided as part of this study. The blackboard environment gave me an opportunity to ask questions throughout the lecture and get an answer straightaway which really suits my learning style. I am finding the filmed lectures as part of this course helpful for my learning, but I miss the interaction of the online lectures.

    Like

  8. Really interesting post. I am studying my MBA off campus. I think it is great to have the option to study off campus as this suits me – full time work, young family and travel a fair bit for work – but believe I would get more out of my studies if I was able to attend classes etc. Therefore if I had the choice between the 2 then on campus would be my preference.

    Characteristics rank

    1. Course structure
    2. Instructor knowledge and facilitation
    3. Instructor feedback quality
    4. Learning style
    5. Ability to self motivate

    Like

  9. Great article. Since i first started on-line education in 2010 I have seen the quality of the courses progressively improve. And like some other commenter’s, I have used other universities and found huge differences between schools. I have ranked them in order as:
    1. Course structure
    6. Instructor knowledge & facilitation
    4. Learning style
    2. Instructor feedback quality
    3. Ability to self-motivate
    5. Possibility to interact

    simply because if the course structure is unclear, it creates mass confusion amongst the students. If the facilitator does not know how to use the recording devices, entire lectures can be missed (as frequently happened to me at another university). interacting with other students/ lectures is not so important to me as i don’t have the time to put into it, and being based overseas the time zone difference makes it impractical.

    Like

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