The Online Distance Learning series - product


Welcome to the first instalment in our Online Distance Learning (ODL) blogs, where we’ll be looking into each part of our recent national research project. This research provides a comprehensive overview of ODL in the UK and the findings (from our panel of 3,500) highlight key areas of focus across the entirety of the student journey. Our original blog and link to white paper can be found here.

In this blog series, we’ll cover what we found and what this information means. From our national report, we mapped our research against the 7Ps of the marketing mix and each of our blogs in this series will focus on one of the Ps.

Here we’ll be focusing on Product and looking at what are the key motivations for study, whether location makes a difference, and what is most attractive to students?


Top motivations for online study fall into two distinct groups – career advancement (to improve career opportunities/for professional development) and personal interest or development (to pursue a subject of interest/enjoy learning). There are some variances across different course types, but motivation is largely focused on employability and skills development. Utilising this insight and gaining a deeper understanding into what motivates different types of online student will help with messaging and conversion.

Top Subjects

The most popular online degree courses in the UK are related to business and management, accounting and finance and some of the emerging undergraduate course areas covering topics like cyber security and big data.


When it comes to online learning, counterintuitively, it seems that place really does matter. Around half of online learners value the physical location of providers – taking reassurance in the fact they can visit a campus if needed, to meet tutors and use resources and facilities. There will be more on Place in a forthcoming blog as part of this series.


Flexibility of study is also a key factor when it comes to online learning, giving students the opportunity to study courses, anywhere, anytime, ‘stack’ modules and credits, or full programmes over a longer period of time. When you combine this with formal and informal interactivity with tutors and peers, the prospect of online learning becomes increasingly attractive to a growing market. One thing missing here though is reflecting this message in marketing and there is opportunity to showcase student stories and highlight learning pathways more clearly to become front of mind in decision-making.

This is a just brief snapshot of the sort of comprehensive insight you’ll get from the rest of this series, as our report takes a thorough look at each of the 7Ps and dissects them. If you’d like to learn more about our ODL report, you can download the white paper here.