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If You Build It, Will They Come?

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How to determine the right program mix for your institution.

Do you remember the old adage: if you build it, they will come? Within the higher education sector this usually refers to a new dormitory, field house, athletic program or facility. However, this philosophical approach is prevalent as institutions take existing face-to-face programs and launch them online.

In today’s complex and competitive online environment most institutions do not have the financial resources to allocate to marketing online programs at the same rates of the online behemoths in the space; but that does not necessarily mean institutions should not take the “right” programs online or create new online degrees.

Based on our collective experience marketing and promoting online academic programs at the associate, bachelor, master and doctoral levels, having the “right” program mix may be the most critical factor in offering programs that meet market demand. So how do you define and identify the “right” programs? There are a number of methods to determine the best program mix for any institution desiring to launch or enhance their online offerings. These methods include:

  • Conducting market research and analysis prior to launching a new online program or concentration.
  • Understanding the institutional identity and what programs align with the brand and uniqueness of the institution.
  • Determining market demand in the geographic region.

Institutional leaders need to shift their approach and avoid assuming that going online will automatically give them national and international play. Even in the online program environment, your competition is within a 150-mile radius on average. Therefore, having the “right” program mix to meet market demand in your geographic region is critical to successfully launching and growing online programs and enrollments in today’s highly competitive and costly market. Thus, if you build it, using the right mix of programs, they will come. Contact Dr. Jim Hunter to discuss to what extent your program mix is “right” for your institution’s market and what ways the program mix can be enhanced to meet market demand.


James M. Hunter, PhD

Jim has 20 years of experience at the administration level within higher education institutions. He now uses that experience to help connect higher ed institutions with solutions that allow them to move from surviving to thriving as the Chief Academic Officer and Executive Vice President for Business Development at Emerge Education.