CASE Europe Annual Conference: Day 2

Second day of CEAC 2008 in Brighton and it was an early start to walk a few miles across the city in time for the breakfast round tables at 7:45am!

I attended a session titled Technology for Higher Education run by Rebecca Avery from Hobsons. There were six of us and Rebecca had prepared a number of questions to form the basis of discussion. A number of examples of institutions using different types of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn were given with everyone chipping in their own experiences. For my part I talked through the Hi applicant website and some of our other forays into “Web 2.0”. I attended another session on day three run by a representative of Hobsons so I’ll talk more about that later!

Why the student experience is unmanageable and what this means for marketingPeter Slee, Northumbria University

Great session covering the process of attempting to manage the student experience. He covered so much it’s hard to put it across, but I’ll do a notes dump:

  • Compared the decision process to that of choosing a gym:
    • Surroundings
    • Facilities
    • Staff (support, fitness programme)
    • Clientel
    • Cost – affordability and value for money
  • Most students have a pretty acurate view of support, what frustrates them is mismatch of support; e.g. VLE engagement, timetabling,
  • Three issues
    • Conflicting expectations
    • Conflicting motivations
    • Conflicting service levels: This is the easy one to address! (there’s no excuse for cancelled lectures, cardboard sandwiches, grumpy receptionists)
  • Who are their students? They’re not, local, working class, underachievers! They are 75% middle class, above average grades, and only 40% are local.
  • A chart was circulated showing what types of people deviate from the mean for drop-outs – some surprises, some not. Mature, international and clearing students more likely to drop out so this year they’ve not accepted anyone through clearing, but have accepted more “near misses” – someone who wants to come to the university with lower grades is better than someone who doesn’t but chooses through clearing.
  • Develop a sense of belonging: no college/hall means course is the centre of the community. No freshers week (instead apprentice year); every building has a learning hub; 2nd/3rd years act as learning mentors; attendance monitoring.
  • Friends
    • 9 students from across faculties and departments engage with applicants
    • Spaces within social networks
    • VIP web pages
    • Improved conversion rate
    • Lower drop out rate
    • Running for three years… yet this was the first I’d heard about it!

Listening to our users: how Imperial used “mental models” to guide their redesign – Pamela Michael, Imperial College and David Poteet, New City Media

  • Goals of redesign
    • Enhance reputation
    • Find information
    • Reflect the brand
  • Mental Model idea from Indi Young
  • 39 one-to-one interviews over a six week period
  • Research page features a tag cloud… but still not live… hold up at backend, still discussing statistical model
  • Search is really popular – Pamela didn’t know which search system they’re going for (not Google) but it does fancy stuff with publications
  • Oracle CMS
  • Internal blog (not launched until 6 months into project); user guide attached to payslips; banner on old website informing of change 2 weeks before live
  • Added Google Analytics to new site; track usage and show how homepage features drive traffic to other pages (1000% increase in some cases)
  • 65,000 visits per day

Turning MySpace into YourSpaceHotCourses

A couple of chaps from HotCourses, the makers of WhatUni and a few other websites spoke about the web. Brain dump time…

  • Don’t be swept up by the hype – got the impression he wasn’t a fan of Twitter!
  • 12% trust Facebook and YouTube compared to 62% of people who trust Amazon (I think this was in a particular market (16-18 year olds)
  • 37% of Year 12 and 59% of Year 13 students would be prepared to join a University group on Facebook.
  • WhatUni has a gadget allowing you to pull reviews into your site (Southampton may be doing this already)
  • Facebook groups:
    • Keep up to date
    • Content is king
    • Keep it visual
    • Be open – show students what they’ll be getting
    • Students would click a link on the University website to a Facebook page
  • Video: three types
    • Frivolous but of value
    • Students and departments
    • Dull but worthwhile

Branding Online: Engaging with Job seekers and Potential Students in a Digial World – Andrew Wilkinson, TMP Worldwide

Andrew’s useful take on employer branding talking first about how some of their clients had raised awareness online. RBS, KPMG and Yell created an area in SecondLife where potential recruits could come along, be matched to a suitable employer and engage with them. I’ll be up front – I’ve never “got” SecondLife – and I think as with many things, they gained more exposure from the fact they were first and featured on BBC News Online than people actually stumbling on them naturally.

Another innovative approach which I think has a bit more potential is in-game advertising. GCHQ placed adverts inside X-Box Live games which presumably helps target otherwise hard to reach audiences.

46% of people have accessed the internet over a mobile phone. This is possibly a little higher than I’d imagine and I’d be interested in knowing more about frequency of access and the types of activity they undertake. With products like the Apple iPhone gaining popularity this is clearly a growth area and “mobile” is on my to-do list for Edge Hill.

He then went through a bunch of information about how people search for jobs online, how people are more likely than in regular searches to page through results looking for brands they know. Very few universities place posts with online jobs sites. Those that do make very little use of extras such as buttons or adding their branding to pages. on the other hand is very popular but still very few universities take advantage of the extra branding that can be placed on job pages.

Jobs search sites aren’t the only way people look for jobs though. I was really interested to hear that people use Google directly and that through paid adverts you can quite effectively direct traffic to relevant jobs on your own website. I’ll be looking at the SEO of the jobs website to try to get more organic results for searches like “jobs ormskirk” too.

Andrew then went on to apply some of these thoughts to the area of student recruitment. He admitted himself that this was a new area for him but it was quite refreshing to hear someone cut through a lot of the complexity we build up.

Buzz, Brand and Budget – Helen Aspell, University of Southampton, without the chaps from Precedent

After missing her at IWMW 2008, I finally got to see one of Helen Aspell’s sessions! As is the trend these days, very little text on the slides so you’ll have to cope with my scrawled notes.

  • Web 2.0 is about people and gossip
  • Technorati, bloglines, blogpulse, google alerts to track not just your University but notable alumni and professors
  • WhatUni provides XML feeds
  • Not engaging with Facebook institutionally but they’re paying SU to do so, student ambassadors in that space as well
  • Flickr – School of Art but not corporate images
  • Select technologies through the SAFE matrix. Might work for them but I’m less convinced – bypasses the gut instinct that is often required
  • Hobsons Ask product, soon to make ratings visible on site and do some interesting stuff with tracking response satisfaction
  • 16 subscribers to news feed, would like to know what they’re using for that figure – mentioned bloglines but surely FeedBurner is more accurate?
  • When launching their new website they had a blog – 435 comments, many quite negative
  • Focus on what to measure rather than how
  • No common reporting metrics – MeasurementCamp
  • iSoton

And that was day two! Tune in next time for all the excitement of day three!

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