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So You’re Going Online

Here’s another great article, from the WSJ, about yet another approach to going online–complete with iPads and other really cool features designed, in this case, to serve Baby Boomers.  Let’s face it, if you are an educational institution these days and you are not doing something clever to deliver online services you are a piece of toast.  We all know the next big boom, bubble or whatever in education clearly involves a keyboard.

There is a catch, however.  Our clients are, of course, increasingly asking us “what is the best way to go online and how will I know it?”  Not a surprising question, given that there are now about a Google possible combinations of variables to consider.

Here are some of the questions we like to ask and answer for our clients:

1. What are the priorities among possible motivations for moving to more online content?  To enhance revenue, reach larger or previously untapped markets, showcase and deliver a unique type of knowledge capital, enhance flexibility and choice, gain a foothold against a close-in competitor in a particular market segment?  Huge variations in approach to accomplish each of these possible objectives.

2. Is your academic culture ready for this–supportive or not?  Why, why not?  Does the institution have the capacity to get into online learning “soup to nuts,” or do you need to partner with an outside enterprise (s)?  If so, what is the up and downside of any such approach from a financial and marketing standpoint?

3. How will your brand be communicated, experienced and enhanced through the delivery of online products and services?  What are the specific ways it might be damaged? (Hint: There are many).

4. How will you differentiate your product offerings, in a sea of similar product offerings that are multiplying by the day?  Honestly, objectively, what would be the basis of that differentiation?

These are just a starter set of fundamental questions that must be answered before your decide how to go online in a way that will accomplish something strategic for your institution.  The risks of not doing so are many, but the worst consequence is investing in putting yet another online option in the market that takes your institution nowhere from a competitive standpoint.