Online Education Institutions: Resources for the Virtual Office and Classroom

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If you want your accredited online university to draw in a larger demographic, you will have to optimize the resources you have available.   offers a new kind of opportunity for people who can’t afford to relocate to a college campus.  But, these institutions still face a number of challenges, lacking the resources and funding of major public and private universities like Harvard, Stanford, or Northwestern.  How can schools like University or Phoenix or DeVry market to their own respective target demographic?

While online courses are more convenient, they don’t provide the same immersive experience as a physical classroom setting.  These virtual classrooms will need to develop alternative tactics for student engagement if they want to gain a formidable footing academia.  Fortunately, there are a number of viable resources to help level the playing field.

Google Hangouts

Google hangouts offer students  the opportunity to log-in and interact in a virtual group setting.  Without the social environment of the classroom, students need a way to interface with one another.  This engagement is a fundamental part of the college experience.  It allows for students to develop professional identities, network with future business associates, and familiarize themselves with their field’s discourse etiquette.

But Google hangouts can be used for far more than socializing.  Along with the features in Drive, they can be utilized for cooperative work on assigned projects.  Any student can log in from wherever they are and make changes to a shared document.  This creates a work environment where everyone can contribute at their own convenience.   This is especially useful for online teaching institutions because there is no guarantee that even students in the same class will be working with compatible schedules.

Active Blogs

Steps should be taken to make your blog as visible as possible on as many relevant subjects as possible.   Don’t contain your scope to the academic sphere.  Engage as much as you can in public discourse concerning technology, culture, and current events.  By making your university a part of a larger conversation, you’re creating and reinforcing a brand.  The goal is to be recognized as a relevant and formidable educational institution, even in the company of larger established universities.

Live Youtube Streaming

Just because a professor doesn’t have a classroom, doesn’t mean he or she can’t hold class.  Youtube now hosts live streams, giving students real-time access to their professor for lectures or study sessions.  The best part is that this isn’t a one-way conduit.  Students can post real-time comments for their professor to read and respond to.  This opens the door for students to develop a personal relationship with their teachers and vice versa.  It’s all the benefits of a hands-on educational experience, without even having to get dressed.

Virtual Numbers

While implementing all of this new technology, you must be careful not to leave you students in the dust.  It’s important to remain available through straight-forward means, such as a customer support phone line.  This way, if a student is struggling to adapt to the virtual environment, they will have an external life-line to guide them through it.

But on your end, this can be virtual just like everything else.  By signing up for a virtual phone number through a VoIP provider, you can have your phone line installed entirely through a hosted PBX system.  No need for land-lines and expensive contracts with your local telephone provider.  You can have a toll free virtual phone number set up online in just  a matter of minutes.  These alternatives are based around call forwarding, so any adjustments that need to be made down the road will be as simple as rerouting your calls through an online control system.

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courtesy of shutterstock.com

Dominate the Virtual Sphere

Don’t let geographically anchored institutions beat you in virtual education.  Online universities should fashion their policies as much as possible to appeal to the convenience of their students, or should I say, their customers.  Education is a product, like any other, and the key to running a successful business is tailoring that product to best suit your market.