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How to demonstrate the value of online learning by using the media

Nothing irritates me more than when I’m reading something and I come across the aggressively vague remark that ‘online learning is here to stay’.

Yep. Great. Thanks.

It is, without a doubt, one of the least insightful assessments one could offer.

We know that online learning is here to stay. We know that students will continue to look for digital or distance learning courses. And, in turn, we know that business schools will continue to invest time and resources into expanding and optimising their online delivery.

We know all of these things. They are, broadly speaking, uncontested.

But, there are still – and there always will be – questions around any mode of teaching that deviates in any way from traditional methods. And, in some way or another, those questions – whatever form they actually take – will relate to one core query:

‘How can we be sure we’re getting the same value as full-time, in-person students when studying virtually?’

The key word in all of that was value. It all comes down to value. After all, business school is a big investment. People need to know they’re going to see a return on their investment. So, it’s up to schools to reiterate that value. But how?



Utilising the expertise of teaching staff is a tried-and-tested means of highlighting an institution’s value as an online learning provider.

Whether it’s expertise specifically around online learning and programme delivery, or insights into the broader subject of technology and innovation, faculty thought-leadership can be a powerful marketing tool.

Schools must be aware of the value of flexing their intellectual muscles when looking to reaffirm the quality of their teaching.

It’s about emphasising – on all levels – that your institution is excellent at what it does. Your prowess in one respect will reflect your competence in another. So, when looking to demonstrate the value of your online programmes, don’t overlook the importance of thought-leadership.

The nature of the content you’re working with might not feel as aligned with your goal of marketing online programmes as direct programme marketing – but, I assure you, it all adds up. Think holistically.

thought leader (1)

Student/Alumni Stories

Of course, there is arguably no more effective way of reiterating the value of your online programmes – or online learning broadly – than through strategically-placed student and alumni stories.

Whether they’re current students explaining the reasons behind their decision to enrol at your institution – and, importantly, their choice to study online – or an alum describing the impact that the programme has had on their career trajectory, these endorsements are invaluable. Such content offers readers a legitimate appraisal of the quality of your institution as a provider.

What legitimises these reviews is that they come from genuine customers of this product – who stand to gain nothing from offering feedback. That’s not to say, however, that testimony from teaching staff or school leadership doesn’t have its value – it does – but student and alumni testimony is a powerful marketing tool.

alumni stories

The Ideal Coverage

So, what would the ideal piece of coverage look like if a school wanted to demonstrate the value of its online learning options?

The simple answer is: there is no such thing as the ideal piece of coverage. There isn’t a specific format, or message that gets delivered, that would render media coverage ideal for demonstrating the value of online learning at your institution.

But, as I’ve outlined above, there are certain ways in which business schools can leverage content to reaffirm to onlookers the quality of online education at their school. Whether it’s faculty expertise and insights, or student and alumni testimonials, schools must make use of the voices they have within and associated with their organisations to remind their target audiences of the benefits of studying virtually.


So when people say things like ‘online learning is here to stay’ – as annoyingly vague as that statement is – those individuals are right. Online learning has been proven to be a viable alternative to face-to-face teaching, and offers students a number of benefits, including greater flexibility, as well as choice (due to the removal of the need for geographical proximity). But questions will always remain around the value of online learning – for students and employers.

As such, business schools need to know how to demonstrate the value of online learning, and, specifically, online learning at their institution. The media serves as an excellent platform from which to do that – so institutions must be sure they know how to demonstrate that value via this forum too.


If your institution would benefit from PR and media relations support around online learning, contact BlueSky Education today.

Jonny (2)Author: Jonny Stone

Jonny delivers impactful PR results using an evolving network of essential media contacts, from national newspapers like Forbes, The Guardian, the Financial Times and The Telegraph, to specific trade editors such as PIE News, QS Top Universities, We Are The City and University World News. He is committed to helping more ambitious institutions reach international media goals.


Originally published July 2020, updated February 2024

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