Online learning programs have created new ways for students to receive a higher education. Rather than being tied to buildings, instructors and syllabi, students can earn a degree in a way that makes senses for them. Because of the ease and accessibility of online learning, one of the largest groups in higher education has become the part-time adult student.

As wonderful as this all sounds, how do you compete as a college or university with a physical campus, buildings and research facilities to maintain?

The solution lies in creating an online program for your own institution. This opens up a much larger geographic area compared to the typical 100 mile radius that traditional institutions have had to work with. Whether you plan on launching an online program or adding an online component to an existing program, we have a few tips to keep in mind.

Analyze Your Competitors

Prospects won’t be comparing your program to other local schools. Since an online program opens you up to prospects thousands of miles away, they will be comparing schools from all over. Your job is to research who your competitors are, what they offer and how they approach marketing. You can then find ways to differentiate your school from your competitors.

Connect Online and On-Campus Students

Your gorgeous campus landscape doesn’t mean much to the students who will be taking your programs online. However, you can help online students feel like part of your institution by updating your website with crisp, detailed images of your campus. Remote students feel more connected when they see their peers learning alongside them on campus.

You may want to consider adding resources on campus for students enrolled in your online programs. Some may want to participate in study groups or use your campus library and research facilities. While this will mostly cater to local students, it can set your institution apart from others. Finally, review your materials to ensure that they communicate your brand’s mission, values and vision accurately.

Create a Web Portal for Online Learners

Your website should be designed with online learners in mind. This way, they will feel like an extension of your school rather than part of an isolated program. Factors that should be included on your website include links to resources, best writing practices and academic advising. Student portals are helpful because they deliver personalized information such as syllabi, assignments and class lists.

Update Marketing Materials for New Profiles  

Once your recruitment strategy has changed, your marketing materials need to change as well. What types of prospects are most likely to enroll in your programs? In many cases, it’s adult students returning to college that take advantage of online programs. Think about how you can change your marketing materials to fit this audience. List out your different student profiles, where they live, what motivates them and how to deliver the right message at the right time.


If you feel that your recruitment trends have been impacted by online learning programs, consider making your programs more web-friendly. It’s not difficult to do, and it can open up new opportunities for instructors on campus. Most importantly, online learning keeps your school competitive so that you see improved recruitment numbers in the coming years.