Content Marketing, MOOCs and Pathways: Three Innovations in International Student Recruitment
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Content Marketing, MOOCs and Pathways: Three Innovations in International Student Recruitment

The international English language marketplace is diverse and highly competitive, requiring institutions to come up with new and unique approaches to recruitment.


The Internet has changed marketing forever. This change can be traced back to the early days of email (May, 1999) when Seth Godin first detailed the concept of “Permission Marketing” in his classic book by the same title.

According to Godin, permission marketing is a response to a consumer shift away from traditional marketing, when an organization gains the privilege of sending “anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.”[1] Further, ingrained in permission marketing is the recognition that the organization will do nothing else beyond what they initially promised to do, and what the consumer initially accepted to receive. Given the power of the Internet, permission marketing means you can treat different consumers differently, and “demands that you figure out how to let your permission base choose what they hear and in what format.”[2]

The wisdom of permission marketing later evolved and became embodied in the development of content strategy. “Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”[3]

A recent logical extension of content creation is the offering of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). It should be clear from recent data reports on the MOOC phenomenon that most MOOC participants already hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree (some 80 per cent) and are primarily male.[4] Although there is significant international participation in MOOCs sponsored by elite universities, the greatest numbers are from the following countries:  Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa.[5]

And it isn’t just international students interested in the MOOC concept. German, British, Australian and Brazilian universities, and their company partners devoted to launching MOOCs, are springing up everywhere.

Institutions of all kinds see the marketing potential in drawing large numbers of unsolicited participants and are hoping to capitalize on it. But in all of this, one must not lose sight of the potential and promise of MOOC education to advance access to higher education learning across the digital divide.

Recently, institutions including UC Berkeley, the University of Pennsylvania and others have developed MOOCs designed for English learners to improve their academic skills. This is one of the missing pieces in the conversation where MOOCs in English are concerned. Without university-level academic skills in English, how can students fully participate? And, more importantly, how are they able to personally benefit from studying with some of the greatest subject specialists in the world?

On the other hand, a fast growing area of international student recruitment is the university pathway program. At its core, it is essentially marketing by strategic alliance. However, here too, one can see the concept of content marketing at play. By combining English for Academic Purposes (EAP) training with conditional enrollment policies, institutions allow students to sample academic life without having to risk everything in the process. Thus, universities are adding value to the international student relationship while assuring that each and every applicant is qualified to begin university studies.

Private companies such INTO, Navitas and Kaplan offer university pathway alternatives proving successful for many institutions in the United States and abroad.[6] After all, if we consider these university pathways courses as a form of remedial education — where international students are gaining college-level English language skills from an institutional MOOC before enrolling in the university proper  — research suggests they will be academically prepared for the rigors of postsecondary education and be more likely to enroll in further courses.[7]

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References

 

[1] Seth Godin, “Permission Marketing,” Seth’s Blog, January 31, 2008. Accessed at  http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/01/permission-mark.html

[2] Ibid

[3] “What is Content Marketing?” The Content Marketing Institute. Accessed at http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/what-is-content-marketing/

[4] Gayle Christensen, Andrew Steinmetz, Brandon Alcorn, Amy Bennett, Deirdre Woods and Ezekiel Emanuel, “The MOOC Phenomenon: Who Takes Massive Open Online Courses and Why?” Paper Abstract: November 6, 2013. Accessed at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2350964

[5] Steve Kolowich, “MOOCs Are Largely Reaching Privileged Learners, Survey Finds,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 20, 2013. Accessed at http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/moocs-are-reaching-only-privileged-learners-survey-finds/48567

[6] “INTO Announced 5th USA partner university,” Study Travel Magazine, March 5, 2014. Accessed at http://www.hothousemedia.com/stmnews/news/140305-INTO-announces-5th-USA-partner-university.html

[7] Colleen Moore and Nancy Shulock, “Student Progress Toward Degree Completion: Lessons from the Research Literature,” Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy, September 2009. Accessed at http://www.csus.edu/ihelp/PDFs/R_Student_Progress_Toward_Degree_Completion.pdf

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3 Responses to Content Marketing, MOOCs and Pathways: Three Innovations in International Student Recruitment

  1. Julie F Reply

    2014/05/02 at 11:51 am

    In my view, EAP is most effective when offered in conjunction with a program a student with English language issues is taking. Rather than making students go through a full English language program as a condition for acceptance into a credit-granting program, as is the case with many institutions, I would like to see language courses set up as supplements so students take them alongside their credit programs. That way, they develop the skills in one course and apply them in another right away. Academic communication is difficult to learn (even for native English speakers!) and a model of learning and immediate application would help students develop their skills quickly.

  2. WA Anderson Reply

    2014/05/05 at 9:50 am

    Good overview of the trends in IELP and opportunities for institutions to enter the market. I personally have reservations about MOOCs as the way forward because of their size, which I don’t believe to be conducive to effective language learning, but time will tell if I have an unfounded fear.

  3. Jon Felperin Reply

    2014/05/09 at 9:47 am

    It is a truism that first we learn to read and then we read to learn. Content-Based Instruction through English-medium schooling at the K-12 level works exceptionally well under ideal conditions. Hence the reason why many universities worldwide are now moving toward offering more of their classes, or even full degrees, entirely in English. In developing English for Academic Purposes worldwide, particularly critical reading and writing skills needed at the highest levels, a strong English ability can only be meaningfully acquired in this manner. In that way, MOOCs can be effective input but how feedback is given and received is the key to learning.

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