Bad marketing practices can lead to poor choices of course provider.

Since we started Compass Education 15 years ago the provision of distance learning education has changed beyond recognition. There are so many more people and groups involved and accreditation has developed from non-existent to a reasonably common feature. Unfortunately the increase in provision has brought about its own problems and students are still left wondering who is worth signing up with and spending their hard earned money on. The problem is not made any easier by courses that have appropriate accreditation yet still offer poor value for money in terms of the quality of what is taught. I have written before about the potential pitfalls that students face in choosing a course provider because I am angered that despite all the safeguards that seem to be in place, students frequently end up at Compass following a poor experience elsewhere. Comments such as ‘the tutoring was terrible’ or ‘what I received was a waste of money’ or even ‘they claimed to be experts but clearly did not know what they were talking about’ are all too common even when supported by suitable accreditation.. Politicians quite rightly receive heavy criticism for massaging the truth and dodging questions in order to appear whiter than white and sadly the same bad habit has crept into the descriptions that some course providers use about themselves. Some of the tricks that are employed are: 1. The use of a fake address, apparently impressive addresses can be rented for very little money when the ‘national college’ is actually being run from a back room in someone’s house. 2. Tutors and course writers being described as experts yet they have little or no proper credentials to support the claim. 3. Appearing to have a wide selection of courses when they are actually just agents selling on other people’s courses. 4. Using recorded messages such as ‘All our staff are busy answering calls at present please leave your name and number….’. When actually there is nobody there at all. 5. Inflating study levels, I was actually told once that if we advertised a level 2 course as a level 3 it would sell better! 6. Making unsubstantiated claims, for instance making statements that are not, in themselves untrue but when the full context is known a very different interpretation emerges. An example might be a claim to be influencing government in the formulation of animal related policy when the truth is that suggestions were made in a public consultation that was open to everybody. I could go on and on but you can probably understand where I am coming from. One important point is that even though proper accreditation is of value, it only covers the academic process, not the content. There is so much more in the way of bad practice that is not controlled by this measure alone. It can be very difficult to work out who is genuinely providing a quality education in all respects and who is more motivated by profit at any cost. Be careful. David Montgomery

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