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An important question may be raised here that why do we user the term marketing for literacy. Since we have been investing huge amount of money and deploying a good number of personnel and sophisticated technologies to literate the masses, it is judicious to know about the results, if we4 invest more for removing illiteracy (inputs) but the literacy (output) is not increasing proportionately, the policy would be deemed to be unproductive since it is cost-ineffective. The very essence of marketing is to make our policies and programmes cost-effective so that we cross the target or atleast even touch the target without crossing the financial and time limits. The marketing particles bear the efficacy of improving the input-output ratio since we frame a service mix keeping in view the sensitivity of target prospects, attempt to promote the same by suing modern sophisticated devices, frame a fee-structure in the face of holistic concept of management and channelize the services with the support of efficient and personally committed personnel acting and behaving professionally.
In view of the aforesaid facts, we use the term marketing for literacy, education and development of knowledge. Here, it is also to be clarified that by using the term marketing we are not bound to generate profits. Since most of the not-for-profit making organizations are now found liberal to the generation of profits, it is also significant to mention that whatever they generate as surplus should essentially be re-invested or ploughed back for the development and expansion of world class services. The simple logic in using the term marketing is to make available to the prospects the quality services either free of cost or for the free- structure they are supposed to pay. The marketing practices would simplify the processes of qualitative-cum-quantitative transformation in the process of efficiency generation.
The universities, colleges, institutes, studies and research centers are found engaged in the process of offering higher education. Scientific inventions and innovations, techno9logical advances, professional excellence, managerial proficiency are some of the important dimensions playing a decisive role in shaping the destiny of a nation. The system of higher education is found efficacious in making available to the society a dedicated, committed, devoted and professionally –sound team of human resources who decide the future of a nation. Against this background, the crying need of the hour is to manage the system of higher education in such a way that sets a right direction for the developejmnt of human resources in the national and international perspectives.
The universities, colleges, institutes, research centers are found in depleted condition. The financial crunch is a major problem which has been disallowing these centers to importance the time honoured changes in their curriculum even if they are found dying. Except a very few almost all the centers are engaged in producing substandard outputs resulting into unemployment, poverty and backwardness. It is in this context that we talk in favour of marketing higher education which according to the holistic marketing principles attempts to enrich the efficiency of these centers vis-à-vis offer quality services even to the poor persons having an outstanding educational background. This is based on the principles
of societal marketing in which the educational institutions are not supposed to make profits. Thus, the marketing practices pave ways for the development of human resources in the face of international specifications. Here, the qualitative transformation establishes an edge over the quantitative transfiguration.
Marketing of Distance Education
The distance education system has come into stay as an accepted form of education and has been gaining wide-spread popularity in recent years. This is evident from the fact that more than 70 countries are offering educational programmes though distance education all over the world today. The distance education has made in possible for those in inaccessible areas; the drop-outs, who want re-entry into education and the economically weaker sections to avail of educational opportunities. It can be a particular boon for women, since parents are unwilling to send them beyond their immediate locale for education after the completion of school education.
At present there are 10 open universities in India. Further, among 229 conventional Universities, 62 are dual mode Universities offering education both under regular and distance education modes. Distance education now caters over 7 lacs of students. It is expected that this growth would outnumber the formal system itself in the near future. Thus there is potential market for distance education.As many as 72 Universities are vying each other to attract higher enrolment of their distance education programs. It is partly due to the fact that almost all the Universities greatly depend on distance education programmes for generating their own financial resources. Hence, unless these Distance Education Institutes adopts systematic and effective marketing, it would be very difficult for them to survive in the long-run. This paper makes an attempt to explain the strategies to be adopted for successful marketing of distance education programmes by the Distance Education Institutes.
The distance education learners belong to different segments. The major segments of distance education learners are –rural and urban, drop-outs, elder persons who did not have the opportunity to learn through regular stream in their early age and those who want to update knowledge and acquire special skill. Besides these, other specific segments are women, socially backward and physically handicapped. Appropriate marketing strategies need to be evolved for reaching these unreached group through distance and open learning.
The learner oriented marketing approach is concerned with identifying the specific educational needs of the target market and tailoring and delivery of those educational programmes to the satisfaction of learners. It involves identifying the right type of product mix of educational programmes, offered at right price, through effective delivery mechanisms and with appropriate promotional tools. In other words, all activities and strategies of DEIs ultimately aim at satisfying the learners.
The marketing mix concept is a well established tool used as a structure by marketers. It consists of the various elements of a marketing programme which need to be considered in order to successfully implement the marketing strategy for any service business. The major elements are Products, Price, Place, Promotion, Physical Evidence, People and Process. The underlying concept in developing each of these elements is to user them to support each other, to reinforce the positioning of the product and to deliver appropriate service quality to achieve competitive advantage.
Distance Education is a service product and has a complex set of value satisfactions. People attach value to distance education in proportion to the perceived ability of the service to do this. Value is assigned by the buyers in relation to the benefits they receive. Augmentation of the expected product represents a means of creating product differentiation and thus added value from the customer perspective. In Distance Education service, the academic programmes offered are core products. The expected product consists of the generic product together with the minimal support facilities which need to be met. The augmented product is the area which enables one product to be differentiate from another. They differentiate by „adding value‟ to the core product in terms of reliability and responsiveness. Thus, in Distance Education, the academic programmes offered are core product; the quality learning materials and effective contact programmes are expected products and specialized programmes are augmented products.
Service Product Decisions
DEIs offer a range of academic programmes. Decisions on the range of services to be offered need to be considered in the context of the DEIs positio courses to be offered should also be consistent with the competence of the DEI to deliver them.
Market penetration by DEIs is concerned with how to exploit the current position in the market place better. This can be achieved by more focused segmentation, a more clearly defined positioning strategy or through better application of the marketing mix elements. Essentially it is concerned with gaining greater productivity from the marketing mix elements and building market share for its distance education programme.
An alternative strategy to service development is to undertake market extension, which seeks new groups of buyers with a firm‟s current servic
Study Centres in overseas to attract foreign clients.
The Distance Education Institutes (DEIs) should have a right type of product mix to suit the requirements of different segments of distance education learners. Different educational programmes should be designed in such a way that it suits to different segments. A particular segment which would like to acquire a higher qualification for the sake of higher qualification looks for a course which would like to acquire a higher qualification for the sake of higher qualification looks for a course which they would like to acquire without much effort and a specific need. The Distance Education Institutions are also able to get a good enrolment for such type general academic programme. A degree in history is a good example that suits for mass marketing. Another segment of learners which belong to class marketing is a specific group which require specialized knowledge and skill in their chosen area of interest. The Distance Education Institutes have to identify such type of specialized academic programmes suited to specific segment of learners. For instance, the Distance Education Institutes of the Alagappa University offer specialized courses on bank management, sports management, corporate secretary ship, women‟s studies,instrumentation childandwaste watercare, treatment.
The important aspect of Distance Education Institutes is that they have to constantly study the requirements of intending learners and must develop need based new educational programmes. Such programmes are to be developed for different levels such as certificate, diploma, under-graduate and post-graduate depending on the learner‟s need.
Because of increased sophistication, each individual must be a multidisciplinarian. He may be an expert in one field but necessary requires considerable knowledge in related fields also. For example, even a physician need to have basic engineering knowledge due to advanced medical equipments he has to deal with. Though Computer Engineering is a specialized field, the knowledge of computer operations has become a basic need to every individual working in any field. For instance, course on E-Commerce, Medical Transcriptions, Information Technology Enabled Services are in great demand now. Hence, there is a great potential for information Technology education with the DEIs can effectively explore by developing appropriate programme suited to different segments.
Similarly, the curriculum and the course materials of the existing course need to be revised/ modified periodically, depending on the requirement. For instance, the curriculum on computer education, economic legislations, and tax laws require frequent revision and up-gradation.
This is the service firm‟s physical e environmetheservice provider and customer interact, plus nay tangible elements that are used to communicate or support the role of the service. In a service business, the marketer should seek to compensate for the intangibility dimension by providing physical clues to support the positioning and image and enhance the product surround.
Physical evidence can be divided into two types –essential and peripheral. Essential physical evidence in distance education represents the key decisions made by the DEIs about the design of the learning resources such as, print materials and pre-recorded audio-video cassettes.
It is the fact that the success and effectiveness of distance education systems largely depend on the study materials, because the learners have less contact with the institution / teachers. Hence, they have to be supplied with specially prepared teaching materials prepared under Self-Instructional Pattern. The course materials are presented in such a way that a learner can learn from the materials independently and the materials themselves have to perform the functions of a teacher such as expounding, explaining, guiding, motivating, reminding, evaluating etc. this is a the essential part of physical evidence. It is worth mentioning the role played by Distance Education Council (DEC), common wealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMA) and Staff Training and Research Institute of Distance Education (STRIDE) and Educational Media Research Centres (EMRC) in conducting training, research and guidance in the area of preparation of self-instructional materials, multi-media, staff development, computerization and networking.
The logical arrangement of contents, the lucid style, conversational language, use of personal pronouns and division of content into small manageable learning steps shall increase the effectiveness of learning. Beside these, even the quality of paper used, printing and the size of letters also count in stimulating the learners to user the course materials. This forms the peripheral physical evidence of the product and adds tangibility to the value of the service provided to the learner segment to which it is directed.
The distance education system is criticized for the lack of quality. It is argued that for the sake of quantity, quality is very often sacrificed. The DEIs should ensure that quality is maintained along with the increase in enrolment. Hence, what is required is some sort of „ISI Mark‟ for the Distance Education institutes to ensure quality. The Distance Education Council in consultation with the National Assessment and Accreditation Council is in the process of developing some sort of Quality Assessment and Accreditation that will be relevant to the Distance and Open Education system.
Public relations is defined by the British Institute of Pu effort to establish and maintain goodwill bet all the groups of people and organisatoins which have an interests in the distance education programme.
An example of the main publics of distance education is shown in the following figure:
Public relations is concerned with a number of marketing tasks. These include the following :
•Building or maintaining image
•Supporting the other communication activities
•Handling problems and issues
•Influencing specific publics
•Assisting the launch of new services
A service organization‟s „image‟ isudesmadeandbeliefsup o held about it. Public relations can sue a range of communication approaches to improve or maintain the
image of a DEI. Overall the objective with image is to ensure that a particular DEI is viewed more favorably than competitors in the market segment it serves.
A wide range of tools can be used in the design of a Public Relation programme. These could include-
·Publications including press releases, annual reports, brochures, posters etc.
·Press conferences, seminars and conferences
·Exhibitions and trade fairs
As with other elements of the communications mix, a Public Relation programme should follows a process, which consists of the specification of objectives, determining the mix of Public Relations activities to be undertaken. Implementing an integrated programme and evaluating the results.
Research points to personal recommendations through word of mouth being one of the most important information sources. One of the most distinctive features of promotion in Distance Education marketing is the greater importance of referral and word of mouth communications. Thus highlights the importance of the people factor in services promotion. Learners are often closely involved in the delivery of a service and they talk to other potential customers about their experiences. They are glad to offer advice on a specific DEI. Thus, word of mouth can have an important impact that other mass or personal communication mix elements in distance educations.
Gronroos has outlined a communication pattern that illustrates the role of word of mouth and referrals have to play.
·Expectations / purchases
·Word of mouth / referrals
An existing or a new distance education learners has certain expectations. Once the decision to join distance education has been made, the candidate begins interacting with the DEI and discovers the technical and functional quality of the service being supplied. As a result of the experiences, that follow from these interactions and the judgments made about service quality, the candidate may or may not return. Positive or negative word of mouth communication will then influence the extent to which others use the service. It is said that the „satisfied consumer is a better sales force‟.
When the programmes are offered with better issues materials, effective delivery system, proper organizations of Personal Contact Programmes, effective student support services, proper conduct of examinations and timely announcement of results –the satisfied learner will be acting as an effective ambassador for Distance Education Institute.
The multiplier effect from word of mouth varies from situations to situation. However, negative experiences tend to have a greater impact than positive experiences. Learners who are dissatisfied tend to tell more than twice as many people of their bitter experiences. Thus, negative word of mouth can significantly reduce the effectiveness of advertising and other elements of the communications mix and positive word of mouth can result in less expensive formal communications programmes being needed.
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