Teshaya Turner
June 29, 2021

How marketers in the education industry can adapt to the growth in online learning

The pandemic accelerated digital adoption across the board last year, and the transition to online learning environments presents new opportunities for marketers in the education sector to grow their share in an expanding market. However, marketers need to work smart, as competition will increase quickly.

The expansion of high speed internet, increased acceptance of online education, and continued efforts to expand access to non-traditional students has fueled growth in the online education industry. COVID-19 also forced many tertiary education courses to migrate online and the shift is expected to drive revenue growth of 8.2% this year.

Reskilling and lifelong learning are becoming essential. 

The average Australian has 17 jobs over their lifetime, and 40% of jobs existing today have a high likelihood of becoming obsolete from technological advancements in 10 to 15 years. That means that there is clearly a need for lifelong learning. Australians will constantly need to re-skill throughout their careers and education providers have an opportunity to help students adapt to the evolving job market. 

The education journey never ends and marketers should be thinking about how they can re-engage and connect with alumni throughout their professional lives. Marketers need to think about the student journey beyond graduation date, considering how their offering and different study pathways can help them to overcome the challenges they could encounter throughout their professional and personal lives. Maintaining strong student data and providing personalised study recommendations throughout the lifelong learning journey will help to drive long-term engagement and lifetime value.

The job market will also demand professionals who are agile in the face of change, so programs and messaging designed around soft skills such as curiosity and agility could also be used to drive engagement and enrolments.

Students are embracing flexibility.

Given that Australians are beginning to investigate study options throughout their lives, the ability to provide personalised and flexible education experiences is becoming more important. As a result, many providers are starting to offer modular curriculums and micro-credentials.

Micro-credentials allow students to achieve a certification through a short program on their own schedule. These can be used as building-blocks to achieve degrees and are a desirable alternative for people who are already settled in their careers to upskill or change direction. If marketers can effectively position the online education offering as dynamic and self-directed, they are far more likely to attract non-traditional students and gain market share.

The shift to online learning also means that students will have greater expectations on a provider’s ability to let them seamlessly study from anywhere. Education providers need to find innovative ways to showcase how they can create an engaging student experience remotely. 

Students are empowered to compare providers online.

The pandemic and the behavioural changes sparked by intermittent lockdowns has caused all age groups to spend more time online. People turned to the internet to stay connected with friends and family, access the news, and be entertained from home. Now, in 2021, the lingering impacts of this have remained. The average Australian still spends 6 hours on their devices daily, 10% more time than in 2020. 

People have turned to digital media to educate themselves and gain information about the changing world around them. Podcast listenership continues to grow, particularly in the news and politics segment, and video consumption has increased with YouTube experiencing a 4.6% growth rate in 2021 alone. 48% of Australians want brands to be more informative and 34% are looking to advertisers to make them feel happy, so growing formats like video and audio are a great avenue for education marketers to build connections and trust. 

Marketers in the education sector need to adapt to the trends and adapt their media mix so that they can nurture people who are researching their study pathways. The shifts in media consumption and expectations on brands present strong opportunities to build affinity and awareness, while the increased rate of digital adoption means that students are far more adept at doing their research online. 

Education providers should be optimising their search presence to capture increased demand and ensure that their strategy is seamlessly integrated across all digital touchpoints.

Looking to the future. 

Looking at the growth in the industry throughout this past year alone, the online education sector is evolving quickly. Now more than ever, education providers should be considering a proactive digital marketing strategy that engages the lifelong learner across all digital touchpoints.

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