Engaging today's Student - Knocking Down Text Walls

Travelling with a well-known airline last week I was interested to see that the inflight magazine had an index that was an infographic, in fact a number of articles and adverts were using infographics and the question of the future of wall text in advertising and marketing was once again brought to mind.
We know todays potential students will discern the entire content of an email from the first line or two. The use of images and graphics gets past this, as information can be picked up very quickly from these methods but is this an adequate way of getting important information across? Traditionally we always say you need to see it in writing, does it stand up when you say I saw the diagram?
The reality is whether we like it or not today’s millennials are time short with attention spans that have to be caught in a second.  The challenge for today’s marketers is ensuring that all the important information is accessible in an engaging manner.  For many this is alien, for others it is shocking that today’s younger generation won’t read a wall text.
The reality is exciting, creating complex information in an engaging way. What is also interesting is how information sticks if it is presented in a simple format.  For instance this blog could easily be an infographic or just four sentences with images…….  

Talking today’s students – Are we listening?

Connecting with today’s students – Do we understand?

Today’s students are savvy…they have questions that they want answers to straight away, answers that are clear and concise.  Today’s students will not scowl through block text; they want the answers in a sentence, or a picture or even a video. 

The changes in how students select a university are subtle, quality is still the main factor but climbing steadily up the priority lists of demands for todays’ student is graduate outcomes, links with employers. The changes in priority may be subtle but the demands in terms of information required are growing at a steady rate.

At this point I have certainly lost the interest of my potential student, in fact most would have left after the first paragraph as I haven’t answered the question.  To engage today’s student this article would start with the answer;

We are not listening to today’s students; we continue to provide them with the same information that we were providing students with 25 years ago.

Now I have engaged the student I have answered the question, but how do I continue to keep the attention?  An infographic will do the job nicely showing standard information that is provided to student in a prospectus for instance.

Selecting the right course and the best university for today’s student is a huge information gathering exercise,  we all know that information overload can cause indecision and for some decision paralysis.

We have to make it easier for students with clear, concise text that provides the right information. Complex text turns students off.  Information presented in a visual format can be understood and absorbed quickly.


I am a person

Teenagers want to feel that the university is treating them as a human being,  as reflected in a recent letter to the Times by  Jenni Herd a 16year old,  the letter went viral.  If the university is communicating with the student in a personal manner, providing accessible and relevant information, the student believes that is reflective of how their experience at the university will be.  The first impressions are the lasting impressions yet many universities are happy with an automated we will respond in the next 48 hrs.



Parents can be a  part of the process

The increased investment in education alongside parents who are concerned about the future for their children has brought a huge increase in parental involvement in university choice.   We all want our children to do well, and the current nurturing and helicopter parenting means that parental involvement goes well beyond 18 years old.

What provision have universities made to engage with parents? They attend open days and look at the university websites but in terms of a dialogue with the university it doesn’t seem to happen. Yet we know parents are playing a big part in the decision making process, parents need to be engaged.  Providing parents with answers to their questions and queries will mean they are connected with the university and are able to have informed conversations with their children about options.

Joanna Turner

Student decision making process

Although many academics find it difficult to accept, the international student is increasingly been seen as a consumer by universities, the behaviour that is exhibited by students when making that important decision resembles that of a consumer.  The decision making process for students is complex impacted by external and internal factors.  What is key is that students require clear communications to answer the many questions they have to ask universities.  The diagram below reflects a number of decision areas that can be identified in student decision making process. 

Full-size image (52 K)

Chinese students' decision-making process: A case of a Business School in the UK - The International Journal of Management Education July 2012     

However, the growth in the number of degrees across the globe on offer to students and more importantly the increased costs has made another factor an important part of the decision making process - employment prospects.  This is measured in many ways by students, employment outcomes of graduates, internships in degree programmes, and links with industry/business and lecturers background.

The complexity of student decision making has to be embraced by the institution and communicated through new media to students.  The channel of communication is clear but the content within the delivery is also very important, today's students do not engage with block text they are looking for clear, concise and to the point.