Warren Kennard is a globally connected higher education professional and reformer with extensive...
Online educational offerings: building quality
There is no doubt that education is undergoing a rapid transformation. Online is no longer just an option for providers – in some cases it’s become the only way to deliver. We know that learning online can have its unique challenges. It is a different experience for both learner and facilitator.
We also know that learners are demanding a more sophisticated learning experience online. They’re becoming less inclined to tolerate, and pay for, long messy pdfs and hour-long lectures with slides they can’t read. They want a meaningful experience. They want to feel part of a learning community and they need to be engaged.
This has all culminated in the quest for providers to: understand what quality online education really is, then how can they build a team that can develop to these quality standards and finally, how can they make this all financially viable? On top of all that, providers are realising that unlike traditional face-to-face delivery, the costs to run a quality online course or program are mostly incurred before the actual delivery. This has caused problems for many providers as they’ve not budgeted accordingly and find it hard to reconcile that the return on investment may be years away. They are used to having their costs spread out over the lifetime of the program.
Online education is more of a long game. At Oppida, we see this struggle on a daily basis with our clients. There is an element of risk in investing so much up-front, in the hope that you can get the student numbers over time to justify the investment, and we understand.
Some of the questions that we do ask our clients in the discovery phase of any online course or program development project, are: how has your competitive landscape changed now that you have a fully online offering? What are your conservative enrolment rates across the lifetime of a course or program? What revenue does this translate into? What are your student acquisition costs and therefore what does it cost you if a student drops out due to a terrible online learning experience and spreads the word to others? What could be a scalable delivery model that ensures learners are supported to complete the program, achieve the desired outcome and tell others about their experience? And how does the delivery model inform the design?
Answers to these questions help inform the up-front course development budget that we recommend. We also apply a general rule that we’ve learned over the years – that is, that a course development budget should be approximately 25 to 30% of your projected revenue from the course. So if you have a course priced at $1000 and 100 students are projected to complete it over its lifetime, you should allocate at least $25,000 to develop and maintain the course – maybe $15,000 up front and then $10,000 over time to maintain it. Please note – delivery is not included in course development, nor is student administration and technology costs.
The reality is, a great learning designer can work within most budgets to improve the learning experience. However, if you want to stand out from the pack in the online space you must look beyond words on a screen and some YouTube videos. You must explore the power of quality teaching videos, animations, interactive activities, innovative online assessment design, social learning and adaptive learning pathways. At the same time, learn how to honour the role of the subject matter expert in development and delivery of online offerings – they are really key.
The good news is that many educators and agencies like Oppida have been consulting for many years with clients in all parts of the sector. Our team is highly experienced in K-12 vocational and higher education. We draw on a range of these experiences with every client. We’ve even started working with creatives and entrepreneurs as they start to see online courses as a way to monetise their amazingness and help more people. As Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I spend the first four hours sharpening the axe”. So, get in touch now to let Oppida support you in sharpening your online education axe.
For many education institutions around the world, the lockdowns of 2020 meant face-to-face teaching had to be replaced by online learning. Institutions rose to the challenge for the sake of their learners, and explored new ways of teaching, learning and maintaining classroom communities and relationships in a digital learning environment.
However heroic and important they were at the time, these hastily cobbled-together forays into online learning taught us all that there’s far more to creating quality digital education than simply trying to replicate the classroom experience by providing videos of lectures and pdfs of handouts.
The popular Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) go further—they do actually design their offerings specifically for the digital learning environment. Even so, completion rates for self paced MOOC’s sit at around 5%, suggesting there’s still something missing in the typical recipe for online courses.
There has been no shortage of entrepreneurs and thought leaders who have decided to monetise their expertise by offering online courses in everything from mindfulness to art and craft, business to beauty. The platforms for digital learning are more accessible and affordable than ever before which seems to have created a view that offering online courses is a way of creating passive income for the course creator: build it and they will come. All you have to do is sit back and count the money as it rolls in. If only it was that easy.
We are now in a digital world, interconnected at every moment, and education must work with digital tools. Every one of us is potentially an educator—that’s great news for learners in terms of variety, but it means we have to up our game as educators to raise the bar. We have to understand what quality online education is and how it’s best created, as well as adapt to the different financial model on which it must operate.
How do we create experiences that hook students in, foster authentic learning communities, and, ultimately, lead them to learn the intended course outcomes? At Oppida, we’re answering these questions every day—our core business is designing and developing digital learning environments that are both sustainable and high quality. Wherever you are with online learning and creating online courses, we can help.