Thursday, February 6, 2014

Top 3 Virtual School Buzzwords

Search the word phrase "virtual schools" and link to any of the results that Google provides for you. Pull up the top three, or four, or five, or ten schools/companies. Then, take a look at what each one is saying about themselves and you will quickly notice several words that are repeated over and over again.

For the sake of brevity though, I will focus on the top three buzzwords that are popular with virtual schools:

1) Individualized

School A: Each student receives individualized instruction. (Bold intended)
School B: . . ., we deliver individualized instruction for each and every student.
School C: . . . utilizing highly trained and committed staff to individualize educational strategies . . .

Merriam-Webster definition of Individualize

to change (something) so that it fits each person's needs

2) Customized/Personalized

School A: Customized Learning Programs (heading)
School B: Individualized learning plan, customized to each student (double use here)
School C: . . . our students enjoy a customized education that is second to none.

Merriam-Webster definition of Customize

to change (something) in order to fit the needs of a person or business

Merriam-Webster definition of Personalize

to change or design (something) for a particular person

3) Flexibility

School A: Meet some of our students to see what they accomplish when given the flexibility . . .
School B: Learn how our flexible approach . . .
School C: For each student who needs greater flexibility . . .

Merriam-Webster definition of Flexible

easily changed

So, what is the point of all of this? The point is -- do their actions (and others not mentioned here) match their words? The attrition rates at virtual schools causes me to wonder if these are merely words without actions to support them.

And yet, new virtual schools will launch this year, and produce marketing speak on "individualize", "customize/personalize," and "flexibility." Then they will hope for different results than their predecessors.

If you are launching a virtual school and want to have a "purple cow" as Seth Godin describes it, I encourage you, even implore you to carve a new path. Try building a program that authentically meets the definition of each of these buzzwords, then avoid using them in your marketing language.

If your school truly offers students an individualized, customized, personalized, and flexible learning experience, your customers will let others know about it. You won't have to.

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