Identifying New Online Programs

Bob Sevier

Bob Sevier

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We recently held a one-day conference for developing and marketing online programs in Chicago.

Not surprisingly, much of the conversation centered around answering the question, “How do we decide what new programs to offer?”

In general, the protocol for deciding which majors to offer online is not that different than deciding on new programs for traditional-age students, adult students, and even graduate students. The one particular question, of course, is whether or not the program is suitable to offer online or even in a hybrid situation.

With that preamble in place, here is a quick checklist that I go through when working with a client that is interested in new programs:

As a rule of thumb, I like proposed new majors that address the following questions:

  1. Based on marketplace (students, employers, and others) data is the program clearly in demand?
  2. Is the title, content of the program easy to understand?
  3. Is the program offered by your competitors? If so, how are you going to compellingly differentiate?
  4. Is there a high barrier to entry for this program? In other words, if it is successful will competitors have a difficult time duplicating?
  5. Does the program lead to a clearly defined first job and career?
  6. Does the program lead to a high(er) paying job?
  7. Does the program leverage off existing faculty/curriculum/facility assets?
  8. Will you need to add new staff?
  9. Will this require capital investments (facilities)?

The final question, of course, is:

10. Can we “well deliver” this program online? Will it be a great experience for students?

If the answer to this final question is “no” then any further discussion about this potential new program is mute.

If you look at this list of questions the odds are high that no one program will “green light” on all these variables. However, the programs with the greatest chance of marketplace success will likely have more “yeas” than “nays” in response to the questions above.

NOTE: The checklist above is drawn from a larger “business plan for new majors” document.

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