|Teaching and Learning Forum 2004 [ Proceedings Contents ]|
Peter R Davis
Faculty of the Built Environment Art and Design
Curtin University of Technology
There are several strategies that construction courses must consider if they intend to remain viable. Marketing is one of them. Many 'new-age' industries command high levels of enrolment interest together with associated quota allowance, but offer little at graduation in terms of employment continuity from a professional perspective. Construction quota appears hard to fill but graduands are in demand by diverse associated industries well prior to course completion. Marketing construction through high school career evenings, liaising with professional and TAFE institutions has little influence on school leavers. Lobbying employer organisations produces little impact. So what is the answer? Change the name of construction courses to one more interesting and inviting. Portray a broader scope and content that describes 'new' diverse career opportunities that are currently available. In marketing terms one should consider the 4Ps from a service marketing perspective add service value and particularly re-evaluate the channels of communication currently used to market construction courses. The paper reviews some pertinent marketing literature and evaluates strategies undertaken to market construction courses. Some useful marketing tools are provided that may well assist diverse and associated courses.
There is much written on marketing. Significant research undertaken in services marketing records 1127 articles within journals, books and dissertations (Fisk, Brown and Bitner 1995). Despite this marketing-specific literature services marketing research applied to educational institutions is scarce. The majority of accessible literature concentrates on marketing professional services. A concentrated effort has enabled the writer to put 'services marketing' strategies and techniques into the context of construction courses. This point should be borne in mind whilst reading this paper.
An insight into major concepts highlighted above provides course controllers with a marketing framework to build on and develop course awareness.
In an effort to provide differentiation to student's universities often attempt to install brand images that take the guise of professionally prepared publications and Web sites. They outline their organisation, detail how they operate and endeavour to indicate to students their wealth of expertise and knowledge. In the documentation they are careful to reinforce their name and the service that they offer (Fisher 1986). If marketing professional services is considered to be an analogous situation of construction course circumstances, then research cited by Denis (1995) may assist. It is suggested that consumer mood states are influencing factors in selection; a positive mood state induced by say, a portrayal of a student enjoying the course, leads to a spontaneous trial of the course, whilst objective feature searching is likely to lead to negative behaviours (Denis 1995). This point highlights the fact that developing publications and web sites needs careful consideration.
It is clear that most service innovations are easily copied. However, a succession of temporary advantages may earn an innovative reputation that keeps and attracts students (Kotler and Armstrong 1993). Various authors offer solutions from diverse industries that provide little direction to construction course marketing, however establishing, and reappraisal of long-term relationships between construction courses, and students enhances differentiation. Offering a place of referral that deals with employment opportunities, for example, provides value adding and consequently results in positive differentiation.
In particular course controllers should concentrate on student's ease of understanding what the course is about (Fisher 1986). Concentrating on engendering a positive mood in students whilst they are making their selections (Denis 1995).
Primarily communication is personal contact between the student and the course controller, as it is likely that person will eventually teach them (Gummesson 1984). Working and social relationships between the course staff and students are important as the interaction provides and engenders mutual understanding and trust throughout the course. Regular and open communication is essential to the establishment and building of these relationships (Day and Barksdale 1992, Connor and Davidson 1990, Gummesson 1984).
To enhance communication advertising in daily newspapers, journals, 'phone directories, yearbooks, brochures, or direct mail (newsletters) can be used with various degrees of success (Christopher, Payne and Ballantyne 1991, Fisher 1986). Professional associations determined to create awareness, or provide an image may also assist. As services are inherently hazy the advertising must create tangible cues using symbols themes and images to depict the course outcomes, at the same time create positive as opposed to negative search behaviours (Srivastava and Smith 1994). These attributes make personal selling a key associate of advertising. Public relations and promotional activities associated with conferences, symposiums, seminars, courses, and membership of associations, dinners, lunches, personal invitations, exhibitions, and professional contests also provide avenues for promoting the course.
Students are likely to use multiple sources of information when evaluating and choosing a course (Dawes, Dowling and Patterson 1991). Accordingly construction courses management should be careful not to restrict the scope of their promotional activities. They should use a mixture of both personal (meetings) and impersonal (newsletters) communication tools in their marketing program (Srivastava and Smith 1994, Dawes, Dowling and Patterson 1991). In the wake of health care and professional service advertising on TV (for example, HBF and Institute of Engineers) it seems reasonable that there is a place for construction courses to advertise (Srivastava and Smith 1994). This comment leads us to the ever-pervasive World Wide Web where significant communication benefit may be accrued.
It enhances service information for example, by detailing construction courses through web publication of a handbook that lists units offered. The handbook indicates unit relationship with alternatives, provides cost information and required hours of attendance together with other generic student information that may relate to the School that offers the course.
Course development online (the process of learning) goes some way to meeting market demands in terms of flexibility of delivery. However, how construction courses actually become enhanced via the web lies in relationship building, proving reliability and responsiveness to student needs.
Sampling of courses by prospective students becomes possible in a similar way to contemporary web sampling of music and video (Preece, Moodley and Cox 2001). Following this there is an increased potential using virtual courses mentioned earlier for viewing coursework. These attributes reduce intangibility and prospective students may even sample the full scope of courses. Students can benchmark and determine reliability using these as measures.
Links to related industries and publication are important to both new and existing students. Students in final year will be looking for part and full time jobs, contacts in related professional association; industry links will assist in this area. Publication links are valuable for ongoing course research and life-long learning.
Typically construction courses rely on Subject committees, Department meetings, Advisory Committees, Boards of Study, representation on Professional Association committees and Accreditation reviews to determine course quality. These mean nothing to students and often the process of review receives sceptical support from industry. Regular contact with industry personnel, preferably recent graduates enables potential students to gauge reliability of construction courses. Course coordinators should take every opportunity to introduce students to experienced project professionals at the earliest opportunity. Videoing engagements and developing promotional CD's displaying these outcomes may be handed out at School/ Industry promotion venues. Referral provides a valuable source of new students to any course and informal gatherings of students with their friends will assist in tapping the source.
An informal monthly newsletter that the writer publishes for students addresses the above. Regular contribution from graduates identifying their life after Curtin experience provides reliability. It aims to show a picture of how students are dealt with by the course management, academic expertise and how the department members think (Srivastava and Smith 1994, Graham 1994).
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|Author: Peter has been teaching at Curtin University for 10 years and has actively pursued his interest in teaching research over the period, presenting papers at many Teaching and Learning Conferences. Peter is currently Chair of AUBEA (Australasian Universities Building Education Association) and convened the 25th AUBEA conference on Teaching and Learning, Perth 2000. In 2002 Peter was appointed as the Divisional Teaching and Learning Associate for Humanities and represents his Faculty on Divisional Teaching and Learning Committees.
Peter R. Davis, Senior Lecturer
Faculty of the Built Environment Art and Design
Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia 6854
Tel: +61(0) 8 9266 7350 Fax: +61(0) 8 9266 2711 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: Davis, P. R. (2004). Marketing university construction courses: Is it all in the name? In Seeking Educational Excellence. Proceedings of the 13th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 9-10 February 2004. Perth: Murdoch University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2004/davis.html