The University of Massachusetts is one of the most successful institutions in the online space, generating $37 million in additional revenue from 33,900 online students in 2009. uMass reports a staggering 60% net operating margin in its online courses, and growth of more than 20% enrolment annually.
No wonder other institutions gaze longingly at online revenues as a potential game-changer. The challenge, of course, is that not every institution has a powerful brand it can leverage, and that in an online marketplace, you have thousands of powerful competitors for students. Institutions need to look carefully at their own centres of excellence, the strengths for which their brand is known, and their access to student markets, before deciding what programs specifically make sense to try out online. The potential for revenue generation is there, but there is also considerable risk.