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In your role as an external consultant to Leicester College you have been asked to undertake a SWOT analysis for the proposal to offer more courses to overseas students through distance learning. Your analysis needs to be detailed and will require you to research the DL marketplace, examine what the College currently offers, what its resources are etc. You need to then create and provide a SWOT diagram based on your analysis.
Based on this analysis, write a short report that includes a summary of your findings and a list of any specific recommendations that you have. These recommendations are likely to include how any weaknesses or threats identified in the SWOT analysis can be overcome.

Having completed your SWOT analysis, using any external situation analysis model for e- commerce that you have knowledge of, for example, Porters Competitive Forces Model, or Angherns’ ICDT model, undertake an analysis and use the outcomes from the analysis, to provide a set of objectives, identify some critical success factors and key performance indicators that could be used to measure if the objectives were being met. You need only set a maximum of 5 but a minimum of 3 objectives. These can be presented in either a report or tabular format Part of your analysis should focus on what competencies and resources are required, what competition exists, what organisation changes are required or forced, what is the demand?
NB In your submission you must include any documentation that supports your analysis in parts 1 &2

In about suggest what Leicester College could do on its website to address issues such as culture and trust and how it could use on line communication tools to reach out to its potential target audience. 

Part 1

Leicester College is located in Leicester in England and offers further education to the students. It is one of the most famous and largest colleges in UK and have a student strength of almost 26000 and staff strength of about 1600. There are three campuses of the college in the city which are called Abbey Park Campus, St. Margaret’s Campus and Freemen’s Park Campus. There are several certificate courses that are offered by the college and they have a very strong department for distance learning which provides the students with the best courses and the best quality study materials. Leicester College is also an associate college of the De Montfort University which is also situated in Leicester. The following study contains tjhree parts. The first part of the report contains the swot analysis of the resources provided by the college through distance learning followed by the findings of the analysis and certain recommendations for the college. The second part of the report contains the external analysis of the college with the use of the five forces model of Porter and have identified the objectives which needs to be fulfilled by the college. Furthermore, the report contains the critical success factors followed by the key performance indicators of the college. The final part of the report contains the communication tools that could be used by the college to focus on their target audience.

The college provides variety of courses for distance learning which can be learnt by an individual from their home or work instead of having to come to college. The learning material for the courses are offered at the home or the workplace of the students who enrol for the distance learning courses. The different study areas where the courses are provided are childcare, sports and fitness, uniformed public services, accounting, health and social care and teacher training. There are separate courses under each study area which gives the student a broad choice to pursue their desired course.  

Strength

· Variety of courses are provided at Leicester College.

· Courses are offered at affordable prices (Chen 2014). The fees depends on the course that the student will choose.

Weakness

· Even though the college states that the fees for some courses are not very high, but the brochures and the details of several courses show that the course fees are high as compared to the course fees for normal regular education in the college (Aithal and Kumar 2015).

Opportunity

· Through their distance learning courses they could motivate the student to pursue their education and continue to do other works or even earn their own money by being involved in a job (Minnaar 2013). This would not affect their studies as the college will deliver all the materials at the doorstep of the students.

Threat

· The main threat that could be faced is that if the college fails to deliver the required course material then the student have to face much harassment and unnecessarily waste their time into communicating with the college to send their study materials (Odom 2013).

· This could also create a barrier for the student into taking forward their education since they might get disinterested into continuing if the college does not support them.

It can be determined from the above SWOT analysis that the colleges provides various courses of distance learning which are distributed into different fields such as equality and diversity, customer service, business administration and other courses which are mentioned in the SWOT analysis above. Distance learning is useful for those people who want to study in international colleges and do not want to travel or for people who are working full time and cannot attend college but want to pursue higher education to increase their knowledge and degree (Keegan 2013). The college also provides continuous support to the student and gives them proper updates regarding their progress. However, if the college fails to provide them the materials on time then the studies and the progress of the students might get hampered. The fees of the courses are also a little high as compared to the regular courses (Simonson, Smaldino and Zvacek 2014). However, all of this could be worth if the college cooperates with the students and provide them the necessary materials and the desired information which would help the students to get good results in the courses along with the personal efforts of the students.       

Part 2

To ensure that the distance learning courses are properly available to the students, the college should first of all make the updates information available on their online site through which the students will be able to connect with the college. Moreover, the college should give the reading materials to the student at the right time and give them timely updates regarding the course that they student is taking. A proper communication should be present between the student and the college which should happen from sides.

The tool of Porter’s Competitive five forces model is applied for conducting an external analysis of the distance learning of Leicester College.

Competitive Rivalry

The competition between the different colleges that are present in England is intense. The competition is very high since there are numerous universities present in the country which provides distance education. The need for education is premium in every country and it is mandatory that the colleges which provide distance education have good curriculum and good position in the education industry (Rothaermel 2015). Therefore, it is of utmost importance that Leicester College are able to overcome their competition with a strong curriculum structure and their ability to provide the best courses in the best fee structure which will urge the students to pursue their higher education from Leicester.  

Power of Suppliers

The suppliers in this case is the college. The power of the college is low in this scenario as the college has no control over the students or the admissions that would be done in the college. The college would have to try their best to ensure that the students are convinced and satisfied with the information that they are getting from the college and the website (Marshall 2013). It is completely upon the students to decide if they want to study in the college or to get associated with them for distance learning courses. Therefore it is important for the college to maintain their position among the other ones.   

Power of Buyers

The buyers in this industry are the students who will be pursuing their education from the college. They have moderate power over the college. This is because there is no scope for negotiation for the fees of the college as the structure of the course fees is always fixed from the beginning of every year. The college will not change the fees no matter what the situation is. However, the students do have the power to choose whether or not they want to study in the college. This does not always depend on the fees of the courses, but also on the subjects or the structure of the course (Daniel 2013).    

Threat of Substitutes

The threat of substitutes is quite high in this scenario because there are many colleges which offer distance education in a variety of courses. The student can find several colleges which provide their desired courses and the fees structure of all the colleges are also different (Siemens, Irvine and Code 2013). The student can review the information of each college regarding his favoured course and can compare them to find the best possible option. The option might not be Leicester College if the student finds another college with a much better course and fee structure and also a better rated college. Therefore it is of utmost importance for the college to take care that the students find every aspect of the course included in the curriculum and that the student finds reasons to join the college. The college have to ensure the students that choosing Leicester would be a better option than choosing any other college.   

Threat of New Entrants

The threat of new entrants is low for Leicester College. This is because it is hard for a new university to establish itself in a place where there are already certain established universities. It would become tough to get students who would study at their university due to the presence of the other more famous universities such as Leicester itself (Dhanarajan and Porter 2013). The students would not have much trust on the new universities and hence they would seek to study on the older ones which have been present for years. This is why the threat of new universities are not much for Leicester College.           

The Porter’s competitive five forces model have derived certain out comes which would help the college to understand their position in the external environment. The outcomes are as follows:

  • The college has several rivals which would possess a threat for them. The rivals are the other universities who provide distance learning course to the students. Since distance learning is way in which students can learn and take their education forward without having to attend college or classes, therefore, it is mandatory that the college that they take admission in is well known and has the desired course that the students want to study (Lockwood 2013).
  • Leicester College has to provide the students the trust that they will get the best education from them and that they will be able to complete their education without any hassle on the part of the college (Giesbers et al. 2013). The college should provide the necessary materials at the correct time so that the student do not face any problems.
  • The students have no power over the college negotiations as there is a set curriculum and fee structure for every course which is set at the beginning of the year. Those cannot be changed by the college even if the student wants to go somewhere else (Ryan et al. 2013). Hence, the college has to negotiate with the students regarding the culture and the support that would be provided by the college to the students. The college has to make the student trust them that they would be able to give them the best educational opportunity to the student if they become associated with the college.
  • The college has to ensure that the new universities which are emerging day by day does not give them competition regarding distance learning. The new emerging universities provide the same courses that are offered by large universities but at a lower fee. Thus is why it is not rare for students with low financial background to approach those universities in the hope to learn their desired course but without having to pay much money (Rennie and Morrison 2013). However, this is where the college has to make the student understand that money should not become a factor to studying from one of the top colleges in the United Kingdom. The students can also get financial assistance from the college if they have a problem to pay the amount on their own. The college has different financial schemes which can be helpful for the student to pursue their dream without facing any hindrance.
  • Finally, it has also been derived that the college also has no power on the students and their choice but they do have the power to persuade the student to come and study in their college by showing them the advantages that they might not get in any other college (Salmon 2013). With these advantages the college can attract the students and help them to make their educational dreams come true.

The above mentioned outcomes are derived after the analysis that is being done with the help of the Porter’s Competitive Five Forces Model which conducts an analysis of the external environment of Leicester College and the outcomes will help to further form objectives which can show the college a direction which they could follow to get their desired result.   

The outcomes that are mentioned above after the external analysis of the college have led to the identification of certain objectives which if followed by the college can give them a strategic direction which would help them in their growth in the future. The college have been trying to expand their number of international students that have been studying in their college and this could be done only if some restructuring was done of the courses and the complete fee structure. The college would have to make these changes for the local and the international students as well as for the students who do not have proper financial support so that everyone gets the scope to study in the esteemed college. The objectives which could be followed by the college are as follows:  

  • To ensure that complete financial support is being given to the students.
  • To give complete support to the international students.
  • To provide all the required materials to the students on time and to share every important information with them through the help of online tools.
  • To keep proper communication with the students and give them solutions to the issues that they might be facing within the shortest possible time.
  • To evaluate them in the correct manner based in the answers that they send back to the college and give them proper feedbacks.

Critical success factors are those factors which shows and determines the reason for their success in the actions that they have taken. Leicester College also has certain critical success factors which makes it one of the top colleges in UK and especially a good college for distance learning. The critical success factors for Leicester College are as follows:

  • The college offers a variety of courses for distance learning which provides ample opportunities for several students to get associated with the college so that they might be able to properly learn and gain knowledge about the field that they are in (Abu-Al-Aish and Love 2013).
  • The college provides financial background to the students who are not able to pay the fees and the financial loan is structured in such a way which makes it easy for the students to pay once they get a job and do not feel like a big burden to them (Gaytan 2013).
  • Leicester College is also well known for their course structure and for the quality study materials that they provide which will not only help to get good results if they are studied properly by the student but also help the student to gain knowledge which they can apply in their practical lives (Morden 2016).
  • The college also gives prompt replies and solutions to any course relayed issue that might be faced by the students and help them to clear out any doubt that they might be having with the help of experienced teachers who teach in the college and even visiting faculties (Liaw and Huang 2013).

The key performance indicators are the tools which measure the quantity that is used to understand the success of the staff of the organization and the organization itself, in this case Leicester College, which is used to meet the objectives that is set by the college. The key performance indicators of the college are as follows:

  • To evaluate the number of students registering in the program– This is to determine if the students are coming and registering themselves to the college to pursue their dreams and determining which course to study or not. For this the measure that could be calculated are the number of student registered every month along with the net income per month to determine if the targets are met (Tzanakakis 2013).
  • To evaluate the number of students that are taking financial assistance from the college- The amount of the money that is being given by the college as a loan will have to be recorded by the college alongside the name of the student and the course that he is taking (Blasco-Arcas et al. 2013). The duration that has been given to the student to pay back the loan is also mentioned in the details.
  • To evaluate the standard of their teaching and the materials that are being provided by them - The college would have to calculate the achievement rates of the student who are pursing distance education form the college and evaluate their results collaboratively to get the best possible outcome of the evaluation (Hu, Lo and Shih 2014).
  • To understand and evaluate the progress and the work of the support staff– The people who helps the student with their issues and their academic problems, the statistics of response time of the staff has to be calculated so that a track is there regarding the help that they are providing to the students (McCaffery 2018).

These key performance indicators mentioned above such as the number of students, net income, loan amount, achievement rates and response time statistics will help in the success of the objectives and to see their progress.    

The concept of distance education is one of trust and dependence between the student and the college. Students often aim to pursue distance education from colleges which are located internationally and do not or cannot travel to some other place. This could be due to the fact that they are working in some organization or due to some other constraints. This means that the student will have to rely completely on the college for the completion of the course in the proper way. Therefore, to ensure that the students can incur their trust on the college, Leicester would also have to take certain measures. The main thing that would attract the students is the availability of information about the course that would be present on the college website. The website should contain every detail about the course such as their fees, the structure of the course, the course duration, the subjects to be studied and every other necessary information. If every information is present on the website then the student does not have to take the time out to call the college and gather the information. The college would also have to make sure that they take the help of certain online communication tools such as web mails and message boards on the college website to give proper information and updates to the students once they begin the enrolment process till the time they complete their course with the college. The college should provide all the necessary study materials and information on the student portal in a timely manner so that the student does not have to feel any pressure of connecting with the college. Every student should also have their individual student portals so that they are able to derive all the necessary information from one place without any issues. If these recommendations are followed then Leicester College could get positive reaction from their distance learning students, make them feel valued and also that they can trust the college with their education.       

References:

Abu-Al-Aish, A. and Love, S., 2013. Factors influencing students’ acceptance of m-learning: an investigation in higher education. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 14(5).

Aithal, P.S. and Kumar, P.M., 2015. Applying SWOC Analysis to an Institution of Higher Education.

Blasco-Arcas, L., Buil, I., Hernández-Ortega, B. and Sese, F.J., 2013. Using clickers in class. The role of interactivity, active collaborative learning and engagement in learning performance. Computers & Education, 62, pp.102-110.

Chen, M., 2014. SWOT analysis and strategies to support college physical education through distance education. World Transactions on Engineering and Technology Education, 12(4), pp.671-674.

Daniel, J., 2013. Mega-universities and knowledge media. Routledge.

Dhanarajan, G. and Porter, D., 2013. Open educational resources: An Asian perspective. Commonwealth of Learning (COL);.

Gaytan, J., 2013. Factors affecting student retention in online courses: Overcoming this critical problem. Career and Technical Education Research, 38(2), pp.145-155.

Giesbers, B., Rienties, B., Tempelaar, D. and Gijselaers, W., 2013. Investigating the relations between motivation, tool use, participation, and performance in an e-learning course using web-videoconferencing. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(1), pp.285-292.

Hu, Y.H., Lo, C.L. and Shih, S.P., 2014. Developing early warning systems to predict students’ online learning performance. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, pp.469-478.

Keegan, D., 2013. Foundations of distance education. Routledge.

Liaw, S.S. and Huang, H.M., 2013. Perceived satisfaction, perceived usefulness and interactive learning environments as predictors to self-regulation in e-learning environments. Computers & Education, 60(1), pp.14-24.

Lockwood, F. ed., 2013. Open and distance learning today. Routledge.

Marshall, S.J., 2013. Evaluating the strategic and leadership challenges of MOOCs. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2), pp.216-227.

McCaffery, P., 2018. The higher education manager's handbook: effective leadership and management in universities and colleges. Routledge.

Minnaar, A., 2013. Challenges for successful planning of open and distance learning (ODL): A template analysis. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 14(3), pp.81-108.

Morden, T., 2016. Principles of strategic management. Routledge.

Odom, L., 2013, June. A swot analysis of the potential impact of moocs. In EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (pp. 611-621). Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).

Rennie, F. and Morrison, T., 2013. E-learning and social networking handbook: Resources for higher education. Routledge.

Rothaermel, F.T., 2015. Strategic management. McGraw-Hill Education.

Ryan, S., Scott, B., Freeman, H. and Patel, D., 2013. The virtual university: The internet and resource-based learning. Routledge.

Salmon, G., 2013. E-tivities: The key to active online learning. Routledge.

Siemens, G., Irvine, V. and Code, J., 2013. Guest editors' preface to the special issue on MOOCs: an academic perspective on an emerging technological and social trend. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2), p.iii.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S. and Zvacek, S.M. eds., 2014. Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education. IAP.

Tzanakakis, K., 2013. Measuring the Performance. In The Railway Track and Its Long Term Behaviour (pp. 363-366). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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