Recently after having a look at a number of university website, it got me wondering… Why is it the majority of their websites do such a poor job at selling their courses? With the majority of universities offering similar courses, there’s a real need for them to stand out.
Go visit a few university websites, I bet you’ll have the same experience as me… You’ll get the feeling that you’re looking at basically the same sites that are dull and uninspiring.
You’d think they’d be better considering going to university is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life… right? Wrong! They’re pretty poor and this blog post attempts explains why.
So besides the dull design, what’s the real problem with these websites?
I’m just going to focus on how they sell individual courses online (as after all, this is their primary function). The real problem is that many just don’t put the student experience at the forefront of everything they do online.
Putting the student experience first
The question they need to ask themselves is “how can we put the student experience at the forefront of everything we do online?” In my humble opinion, the answer is by creating interesting and engaging content that the students find interesting + helpful to their search for a university/course. This then needs to be integrated throughout the website, especially on the individual course pages.
What questions do students need answering?
After working at a number of open days for my university delivering presentations, talking to prospective students and their parents there are always common questions that crop up:
- What do you actually learn on the modules, what are they like?
- What is covered in lectures, tutorials and how do the assignments differ?
- What are your lecturers and tutors like?
- How do they make the course relevant to the real world?
- Did your knowledge from university help you on your years placement?
- Is there anything they’re really looking for in my personal statement?
Now all of these questions could be covered in some detail on the website, however it needs to be in a language and format that appeals to them.
Answering all of these questions online first means that when they visit at an open day, they’re already in the know and ask questions that are more likely to push them into making a decision.
Does this example look like they answer all of these questions in an engaging way that speaks to their target audience?
London Kingston – Click here for link
Just look at those buzzwords hidden in those big blocks of text.
Snapshot from London Kingston’s Marketing Management course page
Northumbria University - Click here for link
The structure of this page is all wrong, they’ve got an overview of the module and then they dive straight into a reading list. This is all before they’ve broken down course content, which is really what the user came here for.
Snapshot from Northumbria University BA Business with Marketing Management course page
How can they be answered through engaging content?
They need content that speaks directly to students and their parents, however it’s the students that you need to win over as they’ll (typically) be the ones making the final decision. Who can speak directly to them? Existing students at the university!
Having video interviews with students at the university about their course, their experiences and advice they’d pass onto those considering applying to university will be easy to get. They need to really explain what they love about the course, the type of opportunities they’ve been given and how they’re going to use all of this to bag their dream job. Here’s a good example from London Kingston:
This video does a pretty good job at selling the course, now the question is why isn’t this type of visual content that appeals to the target audience on every course page? Video does a far better job at selling than a big block of uninspiring text ever could. I bet they have the capabilities in house to produce half-decent videos… So why don’t they have a large collection of them?
Other types of content
I’ve only included an example of video to keep this post as short as possible, however they could easily do student and lecturer blogs, SlideShare examples of student work or course lectures and podcasts discussing industry issues! (There’s an opportunity here to get employer partners involved and successful alumni!)
Finally, why don’t they get their own students involved?
Many universities offer web design and marketing courses, but I bet that not many of them actually give their students the opportunity to get involved in their digital marketing. Here’s why they should get them involved:
- It’s a story in itself. Our students are good enough to build our digital presence.
- It would give students some real experience that will make them more employable
- It’s a more cost effective solution to hiring an external agency
- The students know exactly what the student audience wants… It’s only been a few years since they went through the application process!
I can’t be the only one in thinking that they’re crazy for not utilising their own resources!
Let me know what you think, any sites that you think do a great job or a terrible job, I’d love to hear your thoughts!
By Jaz Blakeston-Petch