Not only are online students more focused on the direct, measurable outcomes of completing their courses, they’re also often keen to avoid your campus. They’re giving it a complete miss. On purpose.
Mature online learners are likely to be older than your average student and may be worried about feeling out of place among a younger set of in-person learners. Or perhaps they’d love to come to campus but can’t add a commute between work and taking care of children. Maybe they’re an international student unable to navigate a move to Australia during the pandemic, but keen to work Down Under at a later date. No matter what the reason, why not start engaging with Australians online?
Distance learners who are keen to upskill or gain a new credential have a better sense of their goals than those who leave school. But they may not know all there is to understand about online degrees; if they earned their bachelor’s degree before the proliferation of online study, they may not realise employers don’t view online degrees in the discriminate way of earlier years.
Approaching online students requires a firmer grasp of demographics and tendencies — all of which are fortunately measurable.
Educational needs of adult students
According to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment, 20.7% of all students in Australia pursuing higher education were aged 30 and above. Of these, 8.5% were older than 40 years old and above. Marketing educational products to these prospective students requires a different approach than targeting 16- to 18-year-olds.
Unlike traditional students matriculating from high school to university, mature students are often mid-career professionals, career changers and parents re-entering the workforce. When they elect to go back to school, they are opting to move against the inertia of their everyday lives. They’re choosing to add to their daily workload — enrolling in evening or online graduate school courses while continuing existing employment and meeting family obligations — or stepping back from traditional employment to take on full time schooling.
Adult learners who choose to pursue mid-career education are usually making a number of calculations. They don’t arrive at their choice lightly. It will involve weighing a number of considerations:
- Earning opportunities after obtaining the new educational credential
- Likelihood of promotion
- Support from current employer
- Scaffolding on existing credentials
- Opening doors to new professions
- Opportunity costs such as lost income during study
- Cost of education
- Time away from personal obligations like child rearing
With the benefit of life experience and more informed understanding of the time required to meet the demands of school coursework, mid-career professionals will simply be more aware of the costs of attending school — and of the measurable benefits.
Marketing strategies for online student recruitment
Your marketing mix probably involves multiple platforms, campaigns, strategies and images. Here’s the thing: it’s probably all geared toward millennials under the age of 30. The images you’re using on your website, in emails and on Instagram probably depict students in their early 20s learning from silver-haired professors. No one in these photos is rushing home to feed the kids; everyone is up for a pint after class and their summers are for internships or backpacking.
A 2021 National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education survey of mature learners from regional and remote parts of Australia found that 81% of the students surveyed had paid employment and 41% had children living at home. Marketing your school to mature learners who will work while attending your course and likely also need to care for children requires inserting different images and text to your marketing campaign.
It’s also worth noting that many of these students are women. In every age category from 35-64, there are nearly double the number of women engaged in study, an Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report indicates. Representing this demographic in your marketing materials is essential. Many of these women will be applying as graduate students, so including messaging showing increased earning opportunities for advanced studies will be crucial. Make clear that the investment of time and effort will pay off in increased earnings.
Conveying information to these busy individuals is best done via asynchronous offerings. After hosting webinars or other virtual events, be sure to email links to recordings of the event. Sending multiple messages at various times of day increases the likelihood the message is opened.
Attracting international students
Marketing your courses to online students abroad will require a targeted approach. Is there a region or language group you’re hoping to attract? If yes, consider:
- Visas upon graduation
- Time zones
- Images of students resembling those in the target country
Crafting marketing materials at the top of your funnel in the language of prospective students may help attract the attention of these learners abroad. But imagery will be key to conveying that study in Australia and help the students better connect with the culture, extensive alumni network and future employers in Australia. Using classic images that quickly evoke life in Australia will be useful. Once students are inside the marketing funnel, switching to the target course language is appropriate.
Scheduling information sessions and sending emails at appropriate hours in the time zones of students abroad is another practical — yet easily overlooked — aspect of marketing your course to international students keen to study online. Just as these students will be checking to make sure they’re available for synchronous segments of your courses, engaging with your marketing team at the right time is also crucial for recruitment.
Your marketing campaign should also directly help online students understand the advantages of a degree from an Australian university — and how your institution will connect them to potential new employers or alumni networks — upon graduation. Might they more easily get visas to live in Australia? What doors will their new degree open? Explicitly stating this information for adult learners is crucial.
MyCareerMatch Recruit and your marketing mix
Once your marketing team has garnered the attention of potential online students and is ready to convert them to serious applicants, that’s where MCM-R comes in. Our bespoke personality quizzes are designed to inspire, motivate and encourage students to understand themselves and where they fit in your course offerings.
Older applicants in particular likely didn’t plan their careers with much consideration of social-emotional factors, so they will revel in this novel recruitment strategy to connect their interests and intentions to a best-fit course. And research shows that at any age, students are likely to be more engaged with like-minded individuals and thus exert greater efforts on their studies. This means that in turn, they’re more likely to graduate. This is a fact that mature learners may viscerally know but are less likely to have explicitly considered.
In this way, prospective students over the age of 30 are likely to be most receptive to feedback from our quizzes.
But what then? Where can enthusiastic potential applicants go with the information they learn in the MCM-R quiz? Not to worry — before your marketing team begins sending out quizzes, MCM-R will help train support staff in how to help new applicants incorporate the quiz findings into their plans.
If your team would like to request a demonstration or download a quiz report, contact us. We’re happy to share samples of our existing work and help you start recruiting more students than ever before.