Other than course information, course fees and rankings were indicated as the two most critical pieces of informations applicants look for on business school websites, revealed the latest GenerationWeb study.
The GenerationWeb study by CarringtonCrisp, supported by EFMD, has reviewed more than 200 business school websites since the study began life in 2007 as WebWorks, providing a detailed overview of the evolution of digital tools, their role in business education marketing and data on how students use business school websites.
Although the website is important, it is only one tool available to schools creating a digital communications strategy. Today, the website needs to be integrated alongside social media, apps, email, CRM systems and a host of other digital activities, all of which contribute to building the reputation of a school among prospective students and other stakeholders.
The 2017 edition of the study conducted among 459 undergraduate and postgraduate students from 52 countries through a series of interactive focus groups, presented respondents with 13 pieces of information on business school websites, asking which they viewed as the most important.
Other than course information, respondents listed course fees (73%) and rankings (81%) as the two most critical, with men (84%) placing greater importance on rankings than women (79%). Almost identical percentages of men (73%) and women (72%) were interested in course fees. Next on the list of information sought are student accommodation / housing followed by living costs, accreditation and career services.
Four of the top seven choices in this year’s study are related to money – fees, living costs, accommodation and scholarships. Affordability is a key element of decision making and schools that provide comprehensive and easily accessed information about the costs of study and the support that may be available to reduce costs through scholarships will be popular with prospective students.
“However, students rarely want cheap, instead they want value for money,” concludes the report.
Social media plays an ever more important role in student decision making. In this year’s study, 44% of the participants said that they used social media to search for information about business schools, up from fewer than 20% six years ago.
Facebook is the most popular social media channel used by nearly all (95%) respondents, followed by Instagram and WhatsApp (both 83%). Whilst Facebook and WhatsApp were used by similar amounts of male and female respondents, far more women (89%) used Instagram than men (74%). A similar picture emerged with Pinterest (32% women / 14% men) and Snapchat (72% women / 55% men).
Andrew Crisp from CarringtonCrisp, comments: “Whether it’s men or women, schools need a clear social media strategy to attract potential students, going beyond factual information and delivering value added content that makes their offer ‘sticky’ enough to engage applicants.”
It’s not just which social media are being used, but how students use them that is important. Social networking tools are most likely to be used to post information for friends (56%) and for social groups (55%), but nearly half (48%) the respondents use groups in social tools to support their studies, up from just over one-third last year.
The digital landscape also means search, video, blogs and more. While YouTube is popular, video is also widely used on business school websites; 63% of the study participants agree that they often watch video on school sites.
In the 2017 study, the percentage using their smartphone reached 63% (up from 4% in 2010). If you add in tablets, then the number using mobile devices reaches 66%. Laptops are used by 32% of respondents and desktops by just 2%. On a smartphone, the most important content on a business school website is scholarship details, chosen by 68% of respondents with 54% looking for accommodation information, but on a desktop/laptop site, other than course details, the key content is rankings and fees.
“On smartphones it appears that much of the information valued by students tends to be relevant further through the application process once they have decided on a shortlist of a couple of schools or perhaps even a preferred school,” commented Andrew Crisp.
The GenerationWeb study is a rich source of data on how students use the internet in general, specific school websites as well as digital tools and social media when making study decisions. Schools that included their website and paid to take part in the study receive a separate report and feedback on their site in addition to this report.