Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) blurring the line between education and content marketing

For the uninitiated, “MOOC” stands for a Massive Open Online Course.

They are similar to university courses, with lectures and reading materials delivered online, included graded quizzes, assignments, tests, and certificates of completion.

MOOCs are offered by a growing number of educational institutions including; Harvard, MIT, Johns Hopkins, and Northwestern University through online channels including EdX and Coursera. Initially offered for free, institutions are increasingly offering fee-based certificate courses, to both cover the cost of content production as well as monetize the value of their programs, while remaining a low-cost alternative to traditional sections. The University of Illinois even offers a full iMBA degree program, which can be completed entirely through the online program at a much lower cost than traditional or executive M.B.A. programs.

I’ve recently been immersed in three MOOCs myself, concentrated on Digital & Social Media Marketing, and Data Analytics – completing my first R-Programming course through Johns Hopkins University/Coursera yesterday. With two degrees acquired the old-fashioned way (B.S. from the University of Memphis and an M.B.A. from the University of North Texas), I have found the MOOC-model to be extremely effective, in terms of instructional quality, convenience, and cost.

Ironically, I’ve experienced greater collaboration through my MOOC in R programming than in any traditional in-class experience, through participation in online forums where fellow-learners post questions, answers, ideas, and general moral support. Below is a snapshot of the “Study Group” forum, showing the sheer diversity of locales represented by course participants.

Study Groups

MOOCs have the potential to be a win-win for learners and universities alike. For an experienced degree-bearing professional, the ability to select specific courses matched to a career objective has great utility. MOOCs also enable schools to extend the reach of their programs to a global market, with tremendous upside potential.

However, institutions entering the arena of MOOC-based education are, by consequence, becoming content marketers, with a need for savvy in the 4C’s of digital marketing, which involves matching content to the education Consumer’s wants and needs, establishing the right Cost for programs, ensuring Convenience for MOOC participants through effective management of user experience, and strong Communication between course administrators, instructors, and students.

Many universities with worthwhile programs lack the resources and experience required to get their programs online and off the ground. Much as a national retailer may turn to an agency of record to assist them with their content marketing strategy, many universities are finding help by turning to firms such as Academic Partnerships which specialize in the conversion of courses to online formats, as well as managing the marketing, enrollment, and strategic partnerships.

While we are still in the early days of the MOOC, the number of institutions and available programs is exploding, and the education landscape will be forever changed.

The Digital Degree

Read full article at the Economist (here)

A funding crisis has created a shortfall that the universities’ brightest brains are struggling to solve. Institutions’ costs are rising, owing to pricey investments in technology, teachers’ salaries and galloping administrative costs. That comes as governments conclude that they can no longer afford to subsidise universities as generously as they used to. American colleges, in particular, are under pressure: some analysts predict mass bankruptcies within two decades.

At the same time, a technological revolution is challenging higher education’s business model. An explosion in online learning, much of it free, means that the knowledge once imparted to a lucky few has been released to anyone with a smartphone or laptop. These financial and technological disruptions coincide with a third great change: whereas universities used to educate only a tiny elite, they are now responsible for training and retraining workers throughout their careers. How will they survive this storm—and what will emerge in their place if they don’t?

Massively Open Online Courses appear to be one answer, with implications for not only universities but businesses as well.

MOOC Numbers

Online Learning: Using Educational Content Marketing to Grow Your Audience

Read full article by Mike Hale (here)

Over the last couple years a new form of education has exploded in popularity: the Massive Open Online Course, or “MOOC”. In an age of lifelong learning, MOOCs are available globally to hundreds of thousands of people at a time, anywhere in the world.

Sites like Coursera, edX and Udacity courses are available globally to hundreds of thousands of people at a time. Coursera alone has attracted more than four million students and over $85 Million in funding.

Big universities aren’t the only ones that can benefit from our thirst for knowledge. Making educational content a part of your content marketing efforts can pay off for any sized-business, especially solopreneurs.

What is educational content?

When most people search online, they’re looking for answers to a specific problem. One common tactic is to create content educate people on those issues.

Visitors to your website don’t care about your products or services. They only care about the current problem they’re trying to solve. The goal of educational content is to teach your audience the subject of what you do, not services you offer. When you can do that, your customers begin to look at you as a trusted resource of information.

Creating educational content for your blog is a good way to grow your audience. There are times where you might want to go beyond the blog post, and provide a higher level of education to your readers.

Emerging Trends in MOOC Delivery of Business Education

Read full article by Colin Nelson here.

the majority of MOOCs are still run by universities or other tertiary-level educational institutions, but a growing number of business-related MOOCs are being offered by institutions for whom academics are a less central focus. Evidence for this trend exists even at the most established MOOC platforms. For example, some of the business-related MOOCs available on the edX platform are delivered by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), or the International Monetary Fund (IMF), while Coursera hosts a MOOC delivered by economists from the World Bank Group.

Perhaps the most important development, however, is the increasing appearance of MOOC series that can be pursued for relatively low-cost credentialing options (at least when compared to the cost of a degree). EdX, for example, offers XSeries Certificates for completing a series of three to five related MOOCs, such as the Supply Chain Management XSeries of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Coursera likewise offers Specialization Certificates for completing short sequences of four to nine related MOOCs, usually including a capstone project, such as the Business Foundations Specialization of the Wharton School. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is now taking this evolution one step further, announcing the iMBA program, which will allow students to compile multiple Coursera Specialization Certificates into a full MBA degree, presumably at a fraction of the typical cost.

eLearning Trends to Follow in 2015 [Infographic]

By John Lascaris (source)

Elearning-Trends-to-Follow-in-2015_infog_draft-5-01-1

5 Surprising A/B Test Results from Ridiculously Successful Entrepreneurs

“Best practices” tell us some of the more conventional things that we should all be testing, like our headlines and calls to action.

But thinking outside the box and running unusual tests is worth it too, even if they go against what the experts are telling you to do.

Zapier

It’s easy to look at a page and judge it “qualitatively” based on how it looks to you. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The aesthetic of a page is one thing. But if a beautiful page doesn’t convert, it’s not useful. An ugly page that does convert, though, still makes money.

The “best practice” is to make it immediately clear what your business can do for your visitor. But best practices don’t always win out. Zapier found this in their homepage test, but it applies to any landing page you’re working on. Play with your copy and test variations that provoke your visitor, whether they’re directly about your business or not.

Grasshopper

Our A/B testing tool had a bug that delayed the $25 activation fee from being crossed out until a few seconds after the page loaded. This error ended up creating a much larger uplift than having it already crossed out on load, when the bug was fixed. The result now is that the activation fee shows, and then is crossed out after a few seconds.

Get creative with the pricing on your landing pages, and test dynamic flourishes. If you’re offering a discount, try having the discount appear after a few seconds, once the full price has soaked into the visitor’s mind.

Quick Sprout

I used to believe that making the checkout process simple by having everything on one page would always boost conversions. But in one test, I split things up onto two separate pages, and got an increase in conversions by 11%. I was shocked.

Simple isn’t always better. Sometimes making your landing page visitors work harder to convert can work in your favor. Experiment with adding additional pages, form fields and steps to your signup process.

CopyHackers

It’s often a plain text link these days that gets you the clean download [ed. note: meaning that the link isn’t an ad or malware]. We could be experiencing “seasoned internet user” behavior on the download page.

Boring doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Text links on your landing page could be a great way to gain your visitors’ trust in a world full of big, colorful buttons competing for their attention. But you gotta test.

Kissmetrics

When we added just a single form field on the homepage, versus just the button, our conversions went up 36.5%.

Try asking your landing page visitors for information that’s different from what everyone else is asking for. We’re used to seeing forms that ask for our name and email address, but if you ask for something unconventional like a URL, it may catch your visitors’ attention.

Hopefully these five case studies have given you ideas for your own unconventional tests. Give them a try… you might just be surprised.

By on October 13th, 2015 in A/B Testing

View full article here.

5 Surprising A/B Test Results from Ridiculously Successful Entrepreneurs

“Best practices” tell us some of the more conventional things that we should all be testing, like our headlines and calls to action.

But thinking outside the box and running unusual tests is worth it too, even if they go against what the experts are telling you to do.

Zapier

It’s easy to look at a page and judge it “qualitatively” based on how it looks to you. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The aesthetic of a page is one thing. But if a beautiful page doesn’t convert, it’s not useful. An ugly page that does convert, though, still makes money.

The “best practice” is to make it immediately clear what your business can do for your visitor. But best practices don’t always win out. Zapier found this in their homepage test, but it applies to any landing page you’re working on. Play with your copy and test variations that provoke your visitor, whether they’re directly about your business or not.

Grasshopper

Our A/B testing tool had a bug that delayed the $25 activation fee from being crossed out until a few seconds after the page loaded. This error ended up creating a much larger uplift than having it already crossed out on load, when the bug was fixed. The result now is that the activation fee shows, and then is crossed out after a few seconds.

Get creative with the pricing on your landing pages, and test dynamic flourishes. If you’re offering a discount, try having the discount appear after a few seconds, once the full price has soaked into the visitor’s mind.

Quick Sprout

I used to believe that making the checkout process simple by having everything on one page would always boost conversions. But in one test, I split things up onto two separate pages, and got an increase in conversions by 11%. I was shocked.

Simple isn’t always better. Sometimes making your landing page visitors work harder to convert can work in your favor. Experiment with adding additional pages, form fields and steps to your signup process.

CopyHackers

It’s often a plain text link these days that gets you the clean download [ed. note: meaning that the link isn’t an ad or malware]. We could be experiencing “seasoned internet user” behavior on the download page.

Boring doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Text links on your landing page could be a great way to gain your visitors’ trust in a world full of big, colorful buttons competing for their attention. But you gotta test.

Kissmetrics

When we added just a single form field on the homepage, versus just the button, our conversions went up 36.5%.

Try asking your landing page visitors for information that’s different from what everyone else is asking for. We’re used to seeing forms that ask for our name and email address, but if you ask for something unconventional like a URL, it may catch your visitors’ attention.

Hopefully these five case studies have given you ideas for your own unconventional tests. Give them a try… you might just be surprised.

By on October 13th, 2015 in A/B Testing

View full article here.

WHAT IS AFFILIATE MARKETING (AND WHY I DON’T DO IT)

Mike Vacanti is a fitness expert, publisher and blogger, where he explains his take on affiliate marketing which, like the Force, has a light side and a big fat dark side.

Read full article on Mike’s blog here.

Affiliate marketing matters to the buyer because it is important for you to know that influencers are often getting paid to recommend products.

While this does not invalidate their recommendations, it would be disadvantageous for you NOT to question the authenticity of each suggestion.

The morality of affiliate marketing is dictated by who is doing it and how they are doing it. It is about the presence of honesty or deception in four key areas:

1. Disclosure: Does the buyer know you are making a commission?

2. Product Matches Audience: Do you truly believe the product will serve it’s intended purpose and meet your audience’s needs?

3. Forthright Sales CopyAre you promising 30 pounds of muscle in 20 days? Or any other physiologically impossible feats?

4. Miscellaneous Scumbaggary: What are you promoting? Is it a “free service” that starts billing on day 30, but don’t worry you can cancel*

*Please send a copy of your birth certificate and three notarized bank statements sealed with dragon blood by direct mail to this shady address in Taiwan

Conclusion: affiliate marketing is not immoral.

Though, writing this section is reminding me of the subjectivity of morality.

WHAT IS AFFILIATE MARKETING (AND WHY I DON’T DO IT)

Mike Vacanti is a fitness expert, publisher and blogger, where he explains his take on affiliate marketing which, like the Force, has a light side and a big fat dark side.

Read full article on Mike’s blog here.

Affiliate marketing matters to the buyer because it is important for you to know that influencers are often getting paid to recommend products.

While this does not invalidate their recommendations, it would be disadvantageous for you NOT to question the authenticity of each suggestion.

The morality of affiliate marketing is dictated by who is doing it and how they are doing it. It is about the presence of honesty or deception in four key areas:

1. Disclosure: Does the buyer know you are making a commission?

2. Product Matches Audience: Do you truly believe the product will serve it’s intended purpose and meet your audience’s needs?

3. Forthright Sales CopyAre you promising 30 pounds of muscle in 20 days? Or any other physiologically impossible feats?

4. Miscellaneous Scumbaggary: What are you promoting? Is it a “free service” that starts billing on day 30, but don’t worry you can cancel*

*Please send a copy of your birth certificate and three notarized bank statements sealed with dragon blood by direct mail to this shady address in Taiwan

Conclusion: affiliate marketing is not immoral.

Though, writing this section is reminding me of the subjectivity of morality.

Documentary- The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing

Technology has changed the game. Consumers can ignore advertising and marketing at will. To break through the clutter, brands need to tell remarkable stories worth listening to and become the media in the process.

The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing, a new documentary by the Content Marketing Institute, is the first comprehensive film of its kind for the industry. It explores the evolution of content marketing through the eyes of the world’s biggest leading brands such as Red Bull, Kraft and Marriott; and marketing influencers, including Joe Pulizzi, Ann Handley, Scott Stratten, Jay Baer and more. Featuring case studies from early pioneers to today’s marketing innovators, you’ll learn how content marketing has been–and will continue– to change business and media forever.