Executive Summary

The Internet has become an inseparable part of our lives, from e-mail to online shopping and online learning, increasing internet penetration has changed the lifestyle of human beings. Training is one of the sectors that has gone through revolution due to the development of the internet. According to Statista (2020), the online learning sector is expected to surpass 243 billion US dollars by 2022 by comparison of 200 billion dollars in 2019.

The number indicates that the online learning sector owns a large part of the training market and still has the potential to grow. In addition, the trend is speeded up due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. According to the World Economic Forum, nearly 1.2 billion children are out of classrooms with schools shut down globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Global Research Report, 2020).

Estimates show 98% of higher education institutions have moved lectures online (EducationData, 2020). A growing number of university students are adapting to online learning, and this has offered higher education institutions opportunities to expand their online learning market.

Temple Bar University (TBU), a Dublin-based higher education institution plans to seize the chance to enter the online learning market. To assist TBU to achieve its goal, in this report, secondary research and SWOT analysis will be deployed to provide a comprehensive analysis regarding the opportunities and challenges TBU may face in the future. At the end of the report, follows the recommendations based on the analysis.


  • University Background

Rudhumbu, N et al. (2017) revealed in their study what factors play important roles when prospective students applying for universities by conducting quantitative research. Results showed that students are more likely to be enrolled in universities with a reputation, academic programs offered, and has a high quality of staff, employment prospects are also one of the key influences for potential students.

However, tuition fees, chances of being sponsored scholar are not appealing to students when considering the future options of universities. Temple Bar university has a history of 70 years and enjoys a good reputation for teaching and research, which have a positive impact on prospective students in the decision-making process. Moreover, TBU shares global partnerships with China, the US, and mainland Europe.

An international network means the collaborative schools could assist with student recruitment using their local resources. Governments and cooperated organizations can also be involved to make an influence in the process. With an existing campus in London and a finalizing campus in Shanghai, TBU has distributed its network centers in central Europe and East Asia. Therefore, students who are close to these campuses can share the opportunity to do activities, interact and build real connections.

  • Academic Programmes

As mentioned above, a diverse selection of high-quality courses is also essential for students to choose which university to study at. High-quality courses not only mean the content delivered is practical but also refer to benefits brought by the courses. This involves the cores of why it is necessary for students to attend universities (Bui, K. V. T. 2002). Thus, there are purposes of seeking career development, building networks within the expertise, and develop an international horizon.

  • Diversity

As for the TBU online initiative, the venture would assure enrolled students with employer-relevant validated degrees, even though students who performed below average could be encouraged by this feature. Additionally, the courses provide full scholarships to the top students, which would also attract deserving students. Besides, TBU considers creating a diverse environment for students from different backgrounds, students from Central Africa, Latin America, and Australia, where students have limited access to high-quality learning materials.

Avila, J. G. (2007) demonstrated in his research that students in Latin American have the lowest mobility rate of 4% compared with 45% in Asia, 30% in Europe, 11% in Africa, and 6% in North America. Nevertheless, there is a growing interest among students desiring international experience, especially for Europe and North America. TBU’s online initiative has opened the gate for Latin American students and given them opportunities to gain international experience. Similarly, African students, who also have a relatively low rate of mobility, have been entitled to the right of embracing equal education resources and quality.


  • The Existence of Technical Barrier
  • The possible cost during the establishment of the platform

For a traditional university like TBU, it is undeniable that transferring from a traditional offline classroom teaching mode to an online teaching model means a big step. Unlike those online teaching institutions, Coursera, Udemy, and Udacity, for example, with a strong technical background and highly experienced technical team, TBU will be in the need of a professional team or outsourcing company to establish its online platform. Thus, it is not hard to predict the huge amount of time and cost that is going to be spent on such a new and big program.

  • The possible obstacle during utilization

Comparing to the single important factor — teaching quality for the most traditional offline classrooms, the internet speed, and equipment quality are essential factors for a successful lecture as well (Beqiri, M. et al., 2010). Students have encountered internet issues during an online lecture and, as a consequence, the teaching quality would be dramatically influenced in a passive way.  Not to mention the new market TBU would like to target but might suffer from the internet issue.

  • Lack of Experience and Potential Training Cost

As a newly launched program, especially a technical program, a series of preparation and training regarding to the new platform should be done towards teachers, students, and administrators. From the fundamental operation processes to the differences between online teaching and face-to-face teaching. All those three parties mentioned above should be arranged with corresponding training which could be quite time-consuming.

  • Employer Validation Uncertainty

Although not being mentioned in the provided information, it is reasonable to speculate that the employer-relevant validated degree is not universally accepted for three reasons. First of all, despite the rising of the online education industry, it is still an unfamiliar or uncertain ability guarantee for the job market and most employers. From the employer’s perspective, the acquisition of an online degree might face the risk of overrated abilities, and there might also be a doubt on the degree’s authenticity.

Secondly, the employer validation is restricted to geographic conditions. For instance, a university that enjoys a good reputation and brand awareness in European countries might not be widely recognized by employers from China or South America.  Last and most importantly, majors vary from each other, some subjects are highly practical and require experiments in real life. For instance, medical students rely largely on practical experiments to avoid mistakes in the future real world, this cannot be achieved simply by attending online lectures.

  • Deployment Challenges of the Website

A fully functioned education system should consist of a wide range of lectures, workshops, seminars, variety of assessments, to name just a few. Assuming that TBU has equipped with two fundamental factors: technology and educational resources. As a newcomer to the online education industry, a lot of effort, economic effort, human resources and time, will be needed to put in before finalizing the online TBU system and getting positive feedback from users, which are students in our scenario.


  • The Rising of Online Learning

According to Inside Higher Ed (2018), a third of all students now take at least one online course. There are existing numerous online learning platforms such as Udemy, Coursera, and Udacity that provide online courses to millions of students. In addition to the advantages of accessing resources online conveniently, one thing these platforms share in common is that they collaborated with the leading universities and enterprises.  As a result, students are free to choose a course they prefer without restrictions of locations and experience.

In real-life lectures, the number of students who can attend lectures is restricted to the classrooms’ capacity. Nevertheless, online lectures enable an extensive number of students to receive the knowledge at the same time (Currie, N. S., 2010). This is a huge benefit for TBU because it is world-renowned for its teaching and research, and students who did not have the privilege to get in touch with the university are given a second chance. The existing number of 15,000 students could extend to double or even grow to a larger quantity.

Online learning has transformed traditional methods of teaching, within the online learning industry it has also been transformed.  In the past, online learning was considered a one-way teaching transmission because students only perceive knowledge instead of interacting with teachers and other students compared to traditional classes.

With the advancement of digital communication, students and teachers can communicate with each other seamlessly. Gamification elements and interactive quizzes can also be added to the online classes to make the learning process more engaging (De Freitas, 2015). Furthermore, AR and VR technology are also in the process of integrating into the online learning process, which will contribute to the engagement to a large extent.

  • The Collaboration and Network

TBU could also utilize and these online platforms and start collaboration to provide featured courses and build a good reputation online step by step.  Since TBU already has a network in the EU, Australia, Canada, China the USA, TBU could take advantage and exchange its online course links with these universities, for the purpose of targeting potential students as well as providing a wide range of choices to the future students. Besides, collaboration with diverse universities in different countries means they can also transfer students between each other if students tend to gain experience and to win certification verified by the other universities.

  • Global Uncertainty

A survey QS has conducted with approximately 11,000 respondents on how COVID-19 has changed prospective international students’ plan to study abroad, showed that 47% of them tend to defer their offer to the next year (QS, 2020). It appears that students would prefer to attend the university in person. To clarify possible misunderstanding, QS also added the question to the survey about whether these international students would choose to be enrolled in online courses to study their degrees because of the coronavirus. 58% of the respondents showed their interests.

This means more than half of the students can accept the e-learning way. Online learning has shown students its advantages over traditional learning approaches when face-to-face classes are limited to access. Meanwhile, during the lockdown, higher education students are adapting to the online learning approach.


  • Transform Students to Online Students

In the book “Trends and Issues in Distance Education”, it is mentioned that paper-based, traditional learning continues to be more reliable, sustainable, and widely used in less developed places in Africa and Latin America (Visser, L. 2012). Therefore, students might need proper training in catching up with the modern approach of learning. If it is not convenient to deliver training face-to-face, maybe TBU should consider implementing a comprehensive online tutorial for students who have limited experience of online learning and dismiss their concerns by improving student satisfaction.

This is the challenge of transforming students from undeveloped places and ensuring their utilization of the platform.  Another challenge student from all locations face is to overcome themselves and achieve self-regulate. The results of achievement goal research have shown that students who have intrinsic goal orientations are likely to persist with learning in challenging tasks in the learning process by regulating their cognition and motivation (Cho, M. H., 2013). Lacking immediate support and being socially isolated might affect students’ attention and performance in the class. Thus, tutors need to figure out how to motivate students and provide support more effectively.

  • Newbie to the Market

TBU has a history of 70 years by 2020, it still is a young university compared to the majority of European and British Universities who have a history of more than a century. Young universities are generally expected to be active and revolutionary. Nevertheless, TBU is not an early bird catching up with the trend of online learning. Online learning itself owns a history of 170 years, in 2002, MIT begins offering lectures and learning materials online (Staples, K., 2020).

Until now, the online learning market is rather competitive with online learning institutions such as Coursera and Udemy, there are also platforms offering courses specialized in specific subjects. In addition to these platforms, a growing number of universities have established their own online learning platforms for students to access learning materials and for distance learning. As a world-renowned university, TBU might be more or less, late to enter the marketplace, and subsequently, will face challenges through the whole process of establishment and further development.

Conclusions and Recommendations

From the SWOT analysis, it is not difficult to tell the opportunities and challenges TBU is now facing. With the current trend and global uncertainty, it certainly is the right time for TBU to seize the opportunity to enter the online learning market. With enormous competitors existing in the market, TBU still has its unique advantages of being part of the European education system and retains a global network with universities in other continents. However, it is essential for TBU to stand out from its competitors and grow its recruitment. Here are the following suggestions:

  • Training Required to Grow- Students and Tutor

Due to the lack of experience in teaching online, TBU should consider providing comprehensive training to the instructors in giving more engaging lectures and how to assure the majority of the students are motivated. In this way, students are likely to be guaranteed the quality of online lectures. In addition, TBU should also concern students who are unfamiliar with online classes and provide them with training to make sure that they have a thoroughly high-quality online learning experience.

  • Online Operation

Prior to the launch of the online initiative, TBU may need to pay efforts to the design of the website, including the interface, engine searching friendly, and content useful for potential students. It can also add features to online classes, such as video interaction, online quizzes, games to involve the students in. Furthermore, ensure to provide timely support whenever there is a technical issue and make sure that students’ questions can be solved within a certain time, these are key factors to deliver satisfying services.

  • Take Advantage of the Network

Although TBU has its campus in London and Shanghai, it can continue to grow its connection in real life, the new campuses are not only for online students to interact in person and build a professional network, but also to provide students a place to organize events, to do workshops together, which is difficult for online lectures to achieve. Overall, to diminish the disadvantages online learning might have.



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