Swinburne University wins the Higher Education Whisperer award for the silliest TV ad, for the third successive year with "Experience Swinburne Online". Last year it was online learning like a Zoomba class, this year it is students from other unis doing an interactive learning taste test (like the Pepsi Challenge). The ad doesn't quite work, with the pixeliated faces looking more like criminals than students. Of course prisoners have always been clients for distance education, but I don't think that is what Swinburne has in mind here.
Swinburne University must be feeling a little aggrieved. They have been providing online education for more than a decade, along with Australia's other teaching orientated universities. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, every university is suddenly offering online education. So Swinburne is trying to point out it is doing this better. That may well be the case, but this may not be an effective marketing strategy.
The research orientated universities discovered long ago that students don't select a university based on the quality of the education. They select a university based on reputation, which is mostly about research prestige, and a campus with social activities, neither of which have anything to do with education.
Despite Swinburne's slogan "Not All Online Universities Are The Same", they pretty much are. Swinburne might do better to either adopt the marketing techniques of the major universities, or attack them with humor.
Swinburne could show people in lab coats doing science stuff, and students relaxing in the bar, then briefly mention at the end there is an online option. Or they could show a mock ad for an sandstone university with labs students are turned away from (because they are not PhDs) and sports fields they can't use (because they are not in the elite team), then show Swinburne students happily engaging online.
How to sell a quality online course remains an unsolved problem. Students assume online courses are second best, despite research showing the learning outcomes are just as good. But facts have never been much use for selling anything. A better approach is Holly Hapke's 3-in-1 Hybrid Learning, where the distinction between on and off campus learning is blurred, with students not forced to make a choice in advance. The university can then continue to market a campus, as a symbol, if not a place where actually go very often.
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