Bunny Slippers? I Don’t Think So

So our November 1 application deadline is rapidly approaching, and as I renew our department’s ads for our online degree and certificate programs, I am reminded once again of my number one marketing pet peeve:

Bunny slippers.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against cute and comfy household footwear. But you know the bunny slippers I mean–the ones that always seem to pop up in print and television advertisements for online degree program? Yeah, those bunny slippers.

OK, I get it. Distance learning lets you learn “anytime, anywhere”–and wearing any kind of footwear, apparently. But the problem is, in my reckoning at least, that when we market distance learning with an emphasis on convenience and “ease of fit,” we aren’t really capturing the whole picture. Let’s face it: online courses are hard work!

Online degree programs and certificate programs are great–for the past five years, our MS in Information Design and Communication has been available to students 100% online, and starting this fall, our MS in Information and Instructional Design will also be offered in a 100% online format. Without question, DL programs provide many students access to advanced degrees that they would otherwise not be able to pursue because of work or family conflicts.

But when we limit our marketing of online programs to this image of DL as comfortable, convenient learning, are we inadvertently sending the wrong message?

Success in an online program requires something greater than the easy on-and-off of slippers. It requires a significant commitment on the part of students. It also involves excellent time management skills and an ability to prioritize tasks. Would you recommend slippers to a juggler?

If we’re going to use footwear to market online degree programs, I would think we might want to choose something with a bit more traction. Something designed for quick and agile movement, sprinting when necessary (even the occasional bobbing and weaving).

Maybe track shoes?

So, if you were to launch a new campaign for distance learning, what sort of footwear would you recommend?

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One Response to Bunny Slippers? I Don’t Think So

  1. Dr. LP says:

    More bunny slippers?!?!? I went back to an old Prezi of mine–it was on instructor identity in online learning. See: http://tinyurl.com/3sxta9g

    At the bottom of the Prezi, I linked to Bunny Slippers because I wanted my audience of Governors’ Teaching Fellows to see one of the reasons online learning gets its pejorative rep.

    Today, I went back and listened to it in light of your Tweet. Then, I was irked even more. Again.

    First, there’s the phrase about how people are going to college “in their PJs every day”. What does that say about the experience of college then? In terms I’ve heard recently, the UX–or User Experience–would be a ‘lean back’. That means, like the slippers and jammies say visually, online education is a leisure-time activity. Really? If that was true, I should be clad in silk and eating bon bons right now.

    But, the other phrase that hits home for me relates to the agent in the learning paradigm. It’s “…using your computer to get an online degree”. Now, if I replace ‘computer’ with typewriter and remove online, I’d get:

    “…using your typewriter to get a degree”

    Hey, wait a minute. That’s a lot less sexy, isn’t it? A typewriter means someone is going to physically pound the keys to produce something. That makes the student–the person pounding the keys–an active part of the process. The computer’s got nothing to do with learning; it’s just a tool or, in the case of online, a conduit. Learning is hard work and the computer doesn’t do it for you.

    But, why is the Bunny Slippers zeitgeist so enticing? Certainly, there’s the ease and your-time factors at work. That alone is probably enough. However, the other video I included in my Prezi was one that, I think, taps into the fears of many people considering online learning. They’re worried that some humourless, dry-as-cardboard academic will be on the other end. And, while the prof. in the video is well-meaning, her video and demeanor make me twitch, too.

    But, here’s the thing: Teaching Presence. Quality online classes mean you *know* your professors. They have personality and they engage you. You know more about them than just their string of degrees and publications. Online learning should be like coming into class and talking about the lousy weather or latest movies….there’s an exchange between people that fosters a community of learners.

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