If you are reading this blog as someone who works in the student recruitment and engagement office within an education establishment, you would understand the challenges involved in capturing young applicants’ attentions, increasing their interest to your establishment; eventually persuading them to become registered students. Furthermore, once they graduate they would become a good ambassador for the university and help you to promote the brand and spread the love to the university around the globe!
A recent technology news published on Business Insider (link) shows that having your institute’s website poorly optimized for mobile devices can reduce your ranking in an online search result, lowering the amount of exposure it has. I have talked to many universities and many of them claimed that they already have a mobile-friendly website, usually through simple editing via HTML5-based programming tools, but are these mobile-friendly website appropriate for international applicants? Problems related to mobile-friendly websites are:
- A need to show the content that website visitors want to see – If proper scrutiny is not performed and the wrong content is displayed, mobile device users may be unsatisfied and have a poor experience.
- Optimising web content for all devices and screen sizes – There are so many different devices on the market that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, so a simple conversion of a website via HTML5 editing wouldn’t be the right size for all screens etc.
- Consistency of web content on different devices -If a visitor can find one piece of information on a desktop, but can’t locate it again when they return on their mobile device, they are likely to be unsure of what services your establishment offers.
- Requires separate maintenance – Content needs to be updated and managed twice over. This is generally the responsibility of your web agency, but it’s definitely worth bearing in mind when the time comes to update offers, etc.
According to our market research conducted on a sample size of 200 international students, the primary reason for applicants for not choosing a particular university is a low level of emotional commitment. While international students share some commonalities with UK-based students in the methods they use to choose between universities, they also exhibit different attitudes and behaviours. These differences arise because they (and their families who are often important influencers of the eventual decision for both financial and emotional reasons) have more complex information and support needs arising from their unfamiliarity with cultural, social, educational and other aspects of the locations they are considering. There are, however, ways to create and increase the emotional connection international applicants feel for the universities they are applying to. One of the solutions is to engage with applicants in a way that feels culturally appropriate to the ethnic group from which the applicant comes, as well as providing a fun and personally engaging means of outreach.
This Z generation of young people (age between 18-25) being so dependent on mobile-devices exhibit behaviour such as preferring virtual communication, searching for information rather than being told of what to do, etc. Their attentions are hard to catch through conventional ways such as prospectuses or a website which does not optimised for mobile usage; research has shown that people who are age between 18-24 spend on average 75 hours on apps per month, and 56% of them have used mobile devices when doing research about universities and courses information. In view of such statistics, it seems that the best way to attract international students for educational establishments would be through websites optimised for access through mobile devices, a conclusion supported by Euromonitor International in 2013.
It is my company’s belief that a mobile-driven solution is the way forward in fostering a greater commitment from the applicants to a university. Engagement with their educational institution on a mobile device is consistent with the “on-the-move” lifestyle of this generation of applicants. Research has done to show that the whole experience of being engaged in an instant manner by push notifications triggers the production of dopamine (Krista Peck in “The Role of Dopamine in Internet Craving”). In addition, this product can be utilised on existing students with some modification, e.g. It can be used for home students to prevent drop out.
Hence our decision to develop HelloUni as a means of addressing prospective international students’ information needs via a cross-platform app which they can use on their Android, iOS or Windows smartphones or tablets.