Online education both does and does not radically transform higher education and higher education brands. On the one hand, providing courses online potentially allows universities to reach a worldwide audience, helps them globalize their brand, changes the cost structure for both students and institutions, and could reshape the competitive branding landscape among universities. On the other hand, university brands are surprisingly regional, low student–faculty ratios are still necessary for truly high-quality education, and the online competitive landscape might ultimately simply replicate reputational hierarchies forged over decades in the world of on-campus education. Thus, although the idea that online learning will completely “disrupt” the higher education model and existing university branding hierarchies is almost certainly overstated, online education will inevitably become more and more integral to universities, and over time the distinction between on-campus and online education is likely to become increasingly blurred. As a result, online education brings both promise and peril for universities as they manage their brands while increasingly adopting online education modalities. This chapter first provides an overview of the online education landscape in higher education. Then, it outlines some of the core issues that universities must address as they consider and implement online education strategies while managing their brand.
GW Paper Series
Academic Brands and Online Education, in Academic Brands: Distinction in Higher Education (Mario Biagioli & Madhavi Sunder eds., Cambridge University Press, 2022).