16 Chapter 14: Marketing of an Online Course

Now that you have successfully planned your course it is time to tell the world about it and get those enrollment numbers moving. For those in more traditional institutions and companies, this may just mean getting your course listed in the course catalog or company newsletter. However, for other courses (especially MOOCs), you might need to do a lot of the promotion yourself. For those that need to self-promote their course, here are some tips.

Grassroots Marketing vs. Mass Marketing

Marketing an online course is a delicate blend of two common marketing strategies:

Grassroots marketing is targeting your marketing efforts to a small group in the hopes that the group will spread your message to a much larger audience. Grassroots marketing of your course involves identifying your target audience, the individuals that are more likely to want to enroll in your course.  For example, a course on web development would target individuals obtaining degrees or work in the fields of marketing, computer science or advertising. Additionally, you would send announcements or post on the message boards for publications that share your target audience.  For the example web development course, it would be best to reach out to publications such as Smashing Magazine, Net Magazine, Computer Arts, and many others that can be found with a simple Google search.

Mass marketing is an attempt to appeal to an entire market with one basic marketing strategy. Mass marketing of your course is best described as casting a wide net to find those individuals that are not in the areas where your target audience is typically found. Using the previous web development course example, mass marketing is appropriate to reach those individuals that are interested in web development, but are in the psychology department or in the health sciences field that would never hear about your course through your targeted grassroots marketing efforts. Sending an announcement to university or company newsletters and purchasing advertising space in student newspapers to reach a diverse audience are a few ideas. Also, utilizing the institution or company that your course is connected to could yield satisfactory enrollment results as well. Work with your institution or company to help promote the course through the alumni office, university communications channels, and to the employee community through HR learning and training channels. Homepages, newsletters, bulletins, and alumni magazines can also reach those individuals that are hard to reach.

Utilizing Your Course Platform

If you are hosting your course through channels like Coursera or edX, USE THEM!  Many course providers – especially those that offer MOOCS – have blogs that instructors can contribute to and publicize the benefits of their course to participants. Providers have the same goal that you do when it comes to your enrollment numbers and the quality of your course. With this common goal in mind, they can provide tips and information on how to market your course through your institution and other channels – as long as you look for them.

Social Media and Other Channels

Social media is a great marketing tool when it comes to spreading the news about products, services, and (now) MOOCS and other online courses.  If you do not have a social media presence, then it is time to get one and build your network. Additionally, utilize the social media presence of your institution or company, along with the social media presence of your course provider.

If you have any connections to additional media outlets or other institutions, make sure to inform them about your course and include the links to your course wherever your biography appears: personal websites, departmental websites, social media profiles, and speaker agencies.


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Chapter 14: Marketing of an Online Course Copyright © by Matt Crosslin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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