What is Online Program Market Opportunity and Why Does it Matter?

What does engagement mean in an online program? To us, it means finding students and helping get them interested in the top-notch programs that MSU has to offer.
Alicia Jenner

by Jessica Knott and Alicia Jenner

In our role as online program stewards representing MSU, the Hub has entered into a number of agreements with external service providers. These partners aim to help us scale our ability to support departments seeking to launch or grow online programs, specifically in graduate and professional spaces. Some of those partnerships include collaborations with companies like Wiley, BiSK, All-Campus, Ranku, and Amesite, while other campus projects may require us to find additional partners.

On September 24 and 25, the Hub hosted representatives from Wiley, one of our MSU online program management service partners. These representatives shared market research highlighting opportunities that MSU may wish to pursue in online education spaces. 

In attendance were several dozen folks, representing almost all of the colleges and departments on campus. Those who attended came with great questions related to their specific field, and it seemed to spark interest to those looking for a program redesign or potential to grow their online, hybrid, or certificate programs. 

The goal of this event was to help MSU program representatives:

  • Determine which type of market their program falls into (saturated, complementary, established, or emerging)
  • Review online masters degree trends by discipline
  • Identify areas of growth and opportunity at MSU based on performance against current market research

Opportunity is just that, though: opportunity. Once we’ve identified an opportunity, how might we leverage it? And why does it matter that MSU has partnered with some external capacity offerings such as Bisk, Wiley, and All-Campus? What can they do for and with us? 

If you’ll remember, in a recent post we discussed some high level components to consider:

  1. Financial planning
  2. Market research 
  3. Learning design
  4. Program management

Let’s break this down. What are the kinds of strategies that external partners can help MSU provide and monitor? First things first, engagement. We hear it a lot, and we define it in a number of ways. But what does engagement mean in an online program? To us, it means finding students and helping them become interested in the top-notch programs that MSU has to offer. External partners like BiSK and Wiley have marketing expertise beyond what we currently incubate in-house at MSU, including search engine management, social media, website content, and media buying to name a few. As prospective students request more information about a particular program, they are connected with an admissions counselor with whom they will work closely with until the student signs up for classes. As we think about the demands of department staff and faculty, who simultaneously work with on-campus undergraduate and graduate students, the amount of time and student support services that come with supporting an online program can become overwhelming without access to full service capacities that help to align the online student journey. 

We’re nerds, so we tried to figure out a formula to help us think through this whole thing. For a thinking mechanism, we came up with:

Online student journey = Admissions ➤ Enrollment ➤ Learning ➤ Graduation ➤ Hello, world!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this thinking tool. We realize it’s overly simple, but it really serves as a sensemaking framework (or checklist?) for things to consider at a high level. And, look at all those gaps to fill! Opportunities abound! Challenging opportunities, to be sure, but challenge is what keeps us on our toes, and striving to design and deliver the best student experiences possible, whether they are face-to-face or delivered digitally. With all this opportunity, what is MSU and the Hub doing to help program and department leaders meet their needs? In our next post, we’ll discuss current initiatives and upcoming opportunities. We’ll ask for feedback on what we’re doing and what we’re missing. And, we’ll listen. That’s pretty key in large-scale transformation activities like the ones MSU faces. We can’t wait to hear from you.