Bob Johnson's Blog on Higher Education Marketing

April 2008 Archives

If you haven't already discovered the Sloan Consortium's research work on onlined education, then you are missing valuable background information to plan your future marketing efforts in the online world.

Go along to for a summary of the findings from "Making the Grade: Online Education in the United States, 2006." If the summary is interesting enough, you can download a free PDF with the full report.

Chief Academic Officers Say Online Quality is Fine

Most encouraging is the news that Chief Academic Officers believe the quality of online education is at least as good, and sometimes better, that the traditional format.

This survey focuses on the Fall of 2005. The great majority of online students, as is the case in higher education overall, are undergraduates. But 443,000 were taking master's degree courses and 39,000 were in "first professional" programs.

Online Enrollments Will Continue to Grow

Looking ahead, a key finding is that enrollment growth online is expected to continue to grow. And that means more undergraduates emerging with bachelor's degrees who might well be looking at online programs as a strong choice to coninue their education while also grappling with new employment demands.

If part of the future marketing success of your institution rests with post-bachelor's education, then online programs are an inevitable part of your future. So far, that seems to favor larger schools over smaller ones with fewer resources to devote to an online effort. The 2006 survey results show that online education is "critical to the long term strategy of my institution" for 65.1% of the respondents, a steady climb from the 46.5% saying that in the 2003 survey.

You can't miss it just about anywhere on the web these days: Advertising for adults to enroll in bachelor's and master's degree programs.

And much if not most of this is tightly targeted to people searching for the right career. After all, "career advancement" is one of the strongest terms that students of every age favor in our Customer Carewords research.

Consider this example. Yahoo runs a "news" story on the front page about the "10 stealth careers that are on the rise." That's a fly trap to lure people into a plethora of ads for adult degree programs. Visit and you'll find a story on "10 Great Careers You've Probably Never Heard Of" and the chance to browse for degrees in just about any area you can imagine.

  • The advertising isn't just from for-profits like Phoenix and Capella. Search for online Ph.D. programs, for instance, and you'll find an ad for Boston University. Follow that ad and you'll eventually learn that the BU choices are for Doctor of Physical Therapy and a "Doctorate in Occupational Therapy."
  • Things fall apart just a bit at this point as much of the information you find with a "Ph.D." level search isn't for Ph.D. degrees. In this case, the BU trip takes you to ads for Northeastern, George Washington, and Norwich universities. Each is offering an array of master's degrees but no Ph.D. level programs.

But why quibble? If you throw enough ads on the wall, some of them will stick and attract flys. At least that seems to be the theory at work right now for online advertising for adults.

If you've been to one of my "Writing Right for the Web" sessions, you know that an example included in the SEO writing section is about the benefit of creating title tags on your web pages that include something specific about a particular release. Do that and search engines aren't as likely to think that you only have one press release on your website.

Now I've just finished reading a blog post by "collegewebguy" about what you can do to increase the chances that online news services by Google and Yahoo might pick up your own releases. And that involves more steps to create a distinctive identity for each release that's put online.

The post includes the important note that should motivate many people: well over half the population aged 18-29 looks online as their first source for news. And that percent is climbing for people between 30 and 64 as well. These days, if you aren't careful when you take Newsweek or Time out of your mailbox, a light breeze will blow it away. That's called "disappearing ad pages" and it has been happening for years now.

You'll find valuable tips on how to maximize your releases for Google and Yahoo at and you can go on from there to delve deeper at the original sources if you want.

"CollegeWebGuy" is a web designer at University of Arkansas at Little Rock. 

This morning I've been getting ready to present the results and recommendations from my review of 12 law school websites that compete with a client of mine. As part of that process, I decided to take a quick look at the websites of the top 10 law schools rated most highly by US News & World Report. That seemed as good a place as any to search for online marketing elements worth sharing.

The overall results didn't diminish my conclusion in an earlier post that law schools in general are not as marketing-oriented as other segments of higher education. At the graduate and professional level, MBA schools in particular have a much stronger marketing approach.

But here are some features worth visiting that stood out for me:

These features take obvious advantage of Web 2.0 communication capabilities, Soon, we can suspect, more schools will be adding similar features to help make the visit experience more productive.

And there's nothing here that could not be adopted by other professional school websites as well.

Here's another move in the right direction for better web content and communications.

John Hopkins, associate vice president for college relations at Wooster College, sent this along with the note that the college is expanding the team responsible for the web... from one person to three. The new director will hire the next two team members.

Read through what's here. Use it to help develop positions like this at your own college. And of course, if you're interested in applying for the position, that information is at the end of this description.

Director of Web Communication

  • The College of Wooster ( seeks a director of Web communication to provide strategic vision and leadership for its Web-based communication and marketing efforts.
  • The director will have overall responsibility for the development and management of the college's Web site. He or she will design and develop new sub-sites, create multimedia Web content, direct and manage the work of a Web editor and Web programmer, and lead project teams on Web-based marketing and communication initiatives that contribute to the achievement of the college's strategic goals, with primary emphasis on those related to student recruitment and alumni engagement. The position reports to the associate vice president for college relations and marketing.
  • The director will serve as liaison between the offices of College Relations and Information Technology, and as primary point of contact for all academic and administrative departments on Web-related issues including site design and development, message strategy, and content creation. He or she will work closely with colleagues in IT to stay current on best practices in Web development, design, and marketing strategies, and continually work to make the site more effective by integrating appropriate new tools, technologies, and practices. The college has just begun a major site redesign, in partnership with an outside firm, and the director will play a central role in that initiative.
  • The successful candidate must have five years experience designing, developing, and managing complex Web sites; specific higher education Web development experience and experience with the implementation or on-going use of a content management system is highly desirable. He or she must be highly proficient with major Web markup and coding languages, including HTML, XHTML, CSS, PHP, and Javascript; with multimedia content creation tools such as Adobe Creative Suite, iMovie and FinalCut; and with writing for the Web. The director must have strong project management skills and the ability to direct and manage diverse creative and technical teams. He or she must communicate clearly and collaborate effectively with a broad range of campus constituencies. A bachelor's degree in journalism, marketing, communication, information technology, or a related field is required.

Bob Johnson
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