Course Descriptions.... Telling a Story

This week we are looking at course descriptions and how by telling a story in your course description you will engage students.   A simple description engages the student- students want concise, to the point and honest communication.  The description is key to getting the student to explore the course option further.   

We invest lots of resources in getting students onto the website and it is there crucial that we provide engaging content.  The student will look at their chosen subject area and read the course description.

If description tells a story it sticks in the students mind and, humans are wired to recall stories, the student therefore is left with a clear picture of what  the course is about and the outcomes should they enrol on the course.  The description is the beginning of a long investigative journey for the student, if the description engages them they will search out the specific information they require about the course to make an informed decision. 

We have taken an example of a Masters in Communication, it is written in the third person but could be written in the first person.  We look at how the components tell a simple story for interested students.

Masters In Communications

This programme has been designed in consultation with business and industry in response to the increase in the use of communications throughout industry and business.

The foundations of the course cover all aspects of todays communication tools and how they interconnect.  This includes digital media, social media, audio visual and traditional print media. Students have the opportunity to specialisation in one area of communication through a research project that is done in conjunction with an industry/business partner.

On Completion of this course students will be eligible for membership of UK Communications association. Previous students have gone to take up communication roles at Microsoft, IBM, leading universities and within the not for profit sector. 

The Setting 


The Plot

The Climax



 Joanna Turner H.E Coms  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  0044 797 342 9617




Perceptions of Teaching Quality

Teaching quality is a phase that is not often seen on university websites yet it is information on teaching quality that is sought by potential students from across the globe.  The difficulty with teaching quality is that it means different things to different people, and more specifically different cultures.

Teaching quality is commonly measured in the class room with student satisfaction being one indicator used for teaching quality.  QS in its university rankings awards gives 40 points to student satisfaction within teaching quality, but for those universities that cannot provide statistics on student satisfaction the alternative is completion - the number of students that complete the course.

The value of student satisfaction is summed up by Mo Saqib Academic Affairs Officer at the NUS:

“ Overall, being educational, eclectic, empowering, and needing effective managing in addition to subject specialism- that's what quality teaching is. When institutions ask whether they are meeting that quality, ultimately, students have always been the ones best placed to reply.”

However, the highest weight within the teaching quality within QS criteria is given to student/faculty ratio.  This can be illustrated by all universities and shared with potential students, it is measurable and comparable.

The National Student Survey (NSS) in the UK raises the following questions with students to get an indication of teaching quality

•Staff are good at explaining things

•Staff have made the subject interesting

•Overall, I am satisfied with the quality of my course

•I have received sufficient advice and support with my studies

•Feedback on my work has been prompt

•Feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand

•The library resources are good enough for my needs

•I have been able to access general IT resources when I needed to

This is very specific and personal and the overall score should give potential students guidance on the teaching quality at this level.  However this is only in the UK and cannot measured against overseas universities.  For an international picture of student satisfaction students have to look at each individual country and the criteria may well be different.  We know that in some countries that teaching quality is related very much to rankings.

Looking at other areas that are used measure teaching quality we find the following:

Tuition fees

Technology in teaching

Academic Profile of Lecturers

Links with employers


Employment outcomes

These are all important areas and would be profiled on most universities websites.  However, there is rarely a dedicated area to teaching quality that highlights the universities  teaching quality strengths, and provides links through to other areas that are used as a measure of teaching quality by students across the globe.

Stimulating a Call to Action

A call-to-action (usually abbreviated as CTA) is an image and/or text that prompts your visitors, leads, and customers to take action. It is, quite literally, a "call" to take an “action."  Call to Actions are important as they capture data of interested students and allow you to start to develop a relationship with a potential student.

So why in a recent survey of 30 universities across the globe did only 9 universities have CTAs in prominent positions?  Maybe universities were putting their call to actions in targeted positions when students were looking a specific courses for instance?  Not really, on specific pages we found Apply Now buttons but few CTAs.

Can we call Apply Now a CTA? It is asking for action but are students really going to apply straight away? Currently 74% of students enquire before they apply so for most students apply now is not going to apply…excuse the pun.  Apply Now is more appropriately placed further into the website, the further a student researches into specifics  of a course, here they likely they are more likely to apply, so Apply Now buttons are needed on deeper pages but so are CTAs buttons. 

QUT in Brisbane offers an excellent example of using three call to actions, enquire, apply and accept on the home page of the international site. 


Further into the QUT site the course specific pages offer further calls to action; apply, enquire, email me and an option to stay connected. 


QUT are providing clear calls to action, capturing data and then working on relationship development with the students by sending regular informative emails based on how the student reacts. 

What is common across all university pages is the Contact Us, contact us does not stimulate action as its really not giving anything away.  Enquire Now indicates that by clicking you will receive relevant information.  Contact us is often hidden in the darkest corners of a website  and for some universities it does even offer a form just an address and email.

Making the CTA Alive, reflective and Emotive

We know that the CTA is important so why is it commonly placed in a little box? We know for  students  to act they want action verbs, short and concise engaging messages, and images to stimulate emotion.   Lets look at how some of the bigger companies are presenting their CTAs;




There is a big difference between what is happening on university websites and corporate sites.  However both are trying to engage an audience and stimulate action.  With the emphasis on the university websites as the main source of information for potential students, the CTA is properly the most important aspect of the site yet is given a small priority, if any, on the website.  For a small investment you can implement an engaging CTA, this will increase the amount of potential student data you capture through your website.

Joanna Turner
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Emotions, Ethics & Empty Messages- Marketing to Today's Student

Emotions, Ethics & Empty Messages- Marketing to Today's Student

Personal messages and emotions are important to days students, you need to understand what your target audience think and feel.  Ethics are important to young people today, for instance young people are very well informed on environmental and human rights issues, support of ethical issues will strengthen your brand.  Students want to be involved in social projects they are very conscientious.

Marketing needs to be relevant, engaging and even entertaining. But students are not just talk, many volunteer to support local causes, charities and social projects. Today’s students – tomorrow’s big consumers - are very conscientious.

Students demand honesty there is no spinning today’s student, in fact it can be damaging to make claims that aren’t 100% true, social media will spread the word very quickly.

Students preferred way of connecting with a brand is email, students are adverse to mobiles being used for marketing messages. Phone calls are intrusive today’s students especially if it’s a sales call, they like their phones to be used only for personal messages and calls.

Less is more, and what you do need to be creative and entertaining to engage students, messages must be meaningful, brief and to the point.  Students will not read pointless messages. The subject line is crucial to get students to open emails.

For Further information on marketing today’s student email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.