Has not using SEO allowed IT to slip from being a leader on campus and for online course based enrollment growth?

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Has not using SEO allowed IT to slip from being a leader on campus and for online course based enrollment growth?

Darran Hurd
Has not using SEO allowed IT to slip from being a leader on campus and for
online course based enrollment growth?

Recently I was again checking the stats for online enrollment and how so many
institutions are stagnant with their growth or declining.  All while many
schools advance into online courses (or they say they want to), without taking
much action to grow.  The point is has IT fallen off as a leader on campus due
to their lack of use of SEO, or has the argument that reputation and and a
separate marketing department has responsibility for growth?  Are there other
issues causing IT to slide with respect to influence?

In my search I came across many issues and the most astounding was that several
academic VPs/AVPs felt there was no way to grow without a bigger advertising
budget.  Yes, it costs a ton to be on every radio station and on CNN's website
like ASU, but is this the only mode to secure growth?  Well of course not.  A
good set of webpages which leverages SEO has been in use for over a decade at
many schools.  Still these leaders outside of IT still do not recognize using
TV and radio is not the lone option to recruit.  As a result they decide to
remain comfortable within their inaction bringing on stagnation or regression
in enrollments.  Of course IT has a lot of blame to go with an inability to
grow.

1) Naturally there were the many course schedules that were not searchable an
that were in a large PDF.  Isn't it time to take this key asset from the
Registrar after 15yrs or so of ASP.NET/PHP/Ellucian/Jenzibar/other being able
to show prospective and current students what is offered on campus or online?

2) I lost count how many small schools established between 1900-1960 have had
1-25 students added to their enrollment per year on average.  Even with an
established reputation they cling to the “small-class-size” argument as the
reason to not expand into online or web-enhanced formats.  Still they frequent
complain how they don't have an advertising budget to compete with the likes of
SNHU and ASU.  Many also claim a religious doctrine that is embedded within the
course offerings as a way to enrich students.  All to have that mission of
spreading doctrine left unrealized because SEO is not used to attract and to
supplement the needs of transfer credit students who cannot afford the
$25k-$60k per year tuition.  Often these are the same schools who can offer a
niche set of classes because small schools deal with low enrollments where a
large school would just cut based on seat-count/lack of classroom space.  A SEO
strategy can help fulfill specialization needs for students who are getting
“cookie-cutter” degrees in a market of peers who are also under-employed or
unemployed.

3) With respect to low enrollments there are many schools with satellite campus
locations in other states and located internationally. These to me are the
same schools that can have an online course that is known to never have more
than 10 students, with a normal level at 2-4, that can basically run on
auto-pilot.  Since most VPs would just cut this sort of course as an easy
target why not make it more of a target to work in partnership with other
institutions directly or indirectly to increase participation. After all, many
schools are moving to cheaper adjuncts anyway so this is a certain way how a
SEO strategy can grind out a better than break-even mark.

4) Although military enrollments are slowing, and returning vets are hard to
bring on a campus, there are still many opportunities to grow. Couple these
demographics with Native American Indian populations who are only accessible
via online courses and you have another market to grow into.  An SEO strategy
with proper admissions rules will allow you to grow.

5) The one that still shocks me the most with a lack of growth is the
proliferation of managers with no production staff.  I often see many non-IT
departments who have 2-5 administrators and no instructional designers or
instructional developers to actually build new courses.  Some how there are all
of these persons being paid top dollar to administer what is often a slew of
business/MBA or nursing  courses alone.  They have no developers to build out
the other online programs all the same keeping the institution from growing.
Or when they advertise for a new hire the salary is often half to a third of
the administrators pay which results in no applications being submitted.  To me
IT ought to lobby to bring in the instructional developers and stop being just
back-end administrators of the ERPs/CRMs/networks/hardware.  After all a modern
LMS can offer many programming needs with respect to API integration; the
expansion of educational tools for an LMS; modes to collect data
directly/indirectly into a database for retention, self-study, peer
institutional effectiveness, etc, data collection for continual improvement;
and other things that classroom based education does not have to deal with.

So this is something to consider if your enrollments, budgets, and salary
increases are in decline.  Also, with the federal, state, and private funding
sources reducing their payouts as more are requesting funds this is an
opportunity to work from operating funds.  7-20 new online courses per
developer produced each term can yield some large gains if your SEO strategy is
also in place. Or you can watch the cuts continue due to a lack of inaction.

Thoughts?  Reasons not noted here that have you in decline?  Solutions?
Requests for help?

Darran Hurd



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