Higher ed

You are currently browsing articles tagged Higher ed.

School is back in session, and for Washington, that has meant more than a return to politics and the end of vacation.

In addition to President Obama’s well-publicized back-to-school speech, VP Joe Biden traveled to Syracuse University with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to discuss college tuition and  how to make higher ed more affordable for everyone.

The event featured discussion of financial aid and community college options, and occurred in conjunction with the White House release of three reports, one on financial aid simplification, one on 529 savings plans and the third on the major barriers to a college education.

The basic jist? We’re continuing to see major change expected in higher ed, both on the institutional front in how classes are structured and paid for, but also on the federal front, in how education is supported and funded. Why does this matter? Because universities and colleges now have a unique opportunity to take advantage of new funding, new technologies and new ideas to shape how higher ed will be administered in years to come.

Check out the video of the town hall meeting on Syracuse’s campus this week which we’ve included below. We’ll be tracking how this all unfolds, and would love to hear some of yours thoughts!

White House Taskforce on Middle Class Families

Mashable wrote a piece last week that is getting a lot of attention in the higher ed space. The writer focused on ten ways universities are engaging alumni in social media, a topic that we’ve discussed around here before. The post discussed both the successes and failures universities are experiencing in attempting to connect with alumni on social media.

It also discussed two separate tracks: those that are engaging with alums on social media for the purposes of fundraising, and those who are focused more on connecting alums with the school and with each other after graduation, maintaining a better and more up-to-date database of where alumni are and what they are doing.

We work with universities to help them get more out of their alumni networks, and so I have a couple thoughts on the article I’d like to share.

First, building your own social network is really hard, takes a lot of resources, and is rarely successful.

I don’t want to be a downer here, so let’s think about it this way: For every hugely successful social network that has been built in the last ten years, commercially speaking, there are probably at least 20 or more that failed. It’s really hard to build the right system, harder to keep it up-to-date and constantly evolving, and even harder to get people to use it. Even for companies that are dedicated to only that product. You shouldn’t feel like you HAVE to build your own network, there are other, better options to consider.

Universities should think about ways to leverage existing social networks to their benefit. For example, huge populations of current seniors and recent grads are on Facebook. Meet them on their turf, don’t make them come to you. You’ll spend a fraction of the resources you’d need to build an internal network, you won’t take on nearly the upkeep cost, and you’ll have a ready-built audience. That doesn’t mean your Facebook efforts can’t direct people back to you site, or provide content exclusively to your alums, you CAN do that, but doing it through and already-successful platform will bring you much greater success.

And you don’t have to just focus on Facebook either. The Mashable article notes universities that are using Flickr, Google Maps, LinkedIn, etc. The point here is to go where your audience is.

Second, make sure you have a specific goal in mind when you begin working on these social media projects.

I can’t stress this enough, especially when you’re devoting a lot of time and resources to building a network and creating an infrastructure. If your goal in connecting with alumni is raise money, then you need to focus on the ways you are going to encourage them to do that. So for example, the Mashable article calls out the success of a University of Texas Austin program that encourages alums to post pictures of themselves giving the hand signal of the school, and fill out a profile when they do.

That’s a creative plan, and one that has been fairly successful for them so far in terms of the number of people who have participated. But their goal going into it was to get people more connected with the school and see what alums are up to. It’s NOT meant to make money. Yes you’ll now have their contact information, but this social media effort is not going to have any direct relationship with donations. If your school is asking you to support and increase donations using social media, you are going to have to think differently about how you engage with the audience.

Take Emory for example, and their giving campaign efforts that they managed and updated through Facebook, Twitter and other media, or Colgate, where donors could make a donation and then share that information with their networks through Facebook. All these are examples of how schools are beginning (and I say beginning because in each of the examples I just gave, a lot more could have been done) to think about how social media can have a major impact on fundraising efforts.

The point is, read the Mashable article. But don’t get so excited about what one school or another is doing that you just try to apply it to yours. Each group of alumni is unique, each school has different goals, and each social media program should tie back to your institution’s communications and fundraising goals. There is so much untapped opportunity in connecting with alumni on social media, you just have to find the program that is best for you.

Universities seem to finally be getting the picture that use of social media is vital to reaching their core constituents, especially given that Facebook and other social networks have surpassed e-mail as the best way to reach many of the university’s core audiences: students and alums.

Yet despite the idea that Facebook and Twitter are gaining popularity, universities still struggle with how much prominence to give these tools.  Brad Ward’s blog had a great post on this subject in February, with some intriguing preliminary research on how social media tools are built into university Web sites.

Of almost 1400 schools investigated, only 20% had any kind of social media component built into their homepage, alumni page or admission page. While that seems like a pretty good amount, consider the fact that that leaves a whopping 80% of universities and colleges that don’t have any kind of social media component on any of these three key pages! What is even more amazing is that only 56 schools… 4%  of the schools… had a social media component on more than one page. That means if alums get to your site they see it, but potential students don’t, or vice versa. These schools have forfeited huge chunks of their visitor population.

Our question today is… why? If schools recognize the importance of online tools, why aren’t they using them better? And if they’re not using them, what is the main barrier to adoption? Are there more professors and admissions people using these tools but higher levels of administration don’t buy it yet, or are there perceptions of this being a fad and schools are hesitant to jump as far as including these tools where the primary core of their web traffic would actually see and interact with the tools?

How are you seeing social media being used in higher ed?

On March 25th and 26th, CollegeWeekLive held it’s fourth virtual college fair through producer PlatformQ.

In their words, “CollegeWeekLive is the world’s biggest virtual college fair, with more than 200 colleges and universities from around the world exhibiting and more than 25,000 attendees. The event revolutionizes college admissions, making the process easier and more cost-effective by bringing together students, parents, counselors and colleges online to interact, transcending time and distance.

From the lobby, attendees can break off into a several areas.  Students are able to talk to admissions experts on a variety of topics - such as financial aid or essay writing - and can also experience various forms of collateral from each participating school to get a better sense of what college is like on their campus.  Within each university’s virtual booth their are live chats with current students, faculty and admissions officers as well as videos and electronic brochures to offer as complete a set of information on the school as possible.  They also have keynotes periodically throughout the day on topics like preparing for the SATs.

CollegeWeekLive is responding to recent trends in both virtual conferencing and the propensity to accomplish processes in an online setting, especially for the demographic targeted by the conference.

A recent survey of college-seeking high school students, conducted by CollegeWeekLive.com, asked for comments about how the college admissions process could be improved. The comments highlighted frustration with paper communication and a preference for online communications: “Use the internet to promote. It’s easier, takes up no paper, and students won’t have to bother with the multitude of brochures from unsolicited schools.”

In a discussion with Martha Collins, VP of Marketing, we gained some insight into the process:

You’ve done a few of these now.  What have you noticed about the technological uptake on the part of the universities?  Did you come across any issues? Has it improved with each one?

We’re seeing more and more schools understand that meeting the students online makes a lot of sense.  They’re online and they need to be there.  The way the connections happen in this setting are a lot more comfortable and casual.  A student can be watching a presentation - live-streaming - and text in a question, which is much easier for a high school student to do in that context.  They’re at the stage of life where they’re still a little timid and they’re much more comfortable in the environment.

In terms of the technology, many colleges have exhibited several times with us, and they’re the ones leading the pack.  The colleges realize how important it is to be there and be present and available in the booth.  For the high school students, the late afternoons and evenings are the most popular times to visit the conference, so the schools have found how important it is to be online in those peak hours and appreciate the students’ schedule.

In the broader context of online admissions, some colleges are recruiting more proactively online than others, and some of them are still going the traditional route.  Frankly, I’ve signed up for some of the services the students go through, and the amount of paper admissions information that students receive is overwhelming. Teens are not only wanting more of a conversation about these things, but they’re also becoming more increasingly green conscious, and this may affect their perception of a college. Whereas online, the students can choose when they want to speak to whom, how much information they want, or how much interaction they want.  The relationship is more accommodating to their desire to gather information, which the universities are realizing as being, in the end, more beneficial to the process.

Were there any large lessons learned on the part of Platform Q?

Don’t underestimate the technology.  From the attendee standpoint, people sometimes don’t appreciate that we’re putting together a virtual tradeshow on an online platform, and it’s pretty darn sophisticated.  We’re getting tens of thousands of kids in there in a 24-hour period, and we’re pushing the envelope in terms of the technology.  I think a lot of people think that it’s a webinar, just a webinar.  It’s a lot more than a webinar.  We’re streaming a ton of content from around the country, and a ton of attendees are viewing it.  There has been a lot of learning in terms of combining the technology over time, and optimizing the best tool set to get the job done.

In general, why do you think people are choosing to use a virtual conference format more now?  What are the pros and cons?

For admissions, it’s transcending time and distance.  It’s an opportunity for colleges to reach a much broader audience geographically.  Over 30% of our attendees are international.  It’s 100% free to the students, and we have several partnerships in place that make it available to socio-economically disadvantaged students, so it really levels the playing field.

On the admissions side, everyone is concerned with budgets, and this is a great opportunity to increase your general reach at a very low cost.  So while there may be technological barriers for some, most are willing to overcome those.

The next college fair will be held on 16 July, everywhere.

Image via CrunchBase

The Twitter tool kit of the business world only holds so much relevance in the higher ed space.  But there are some tools that would really add to the efficacy of using Twitter for educators who may have different needs.

We’ve listed several great ones below to start off:

Tweetdeck: A desktop application that let’s you organize who you’re following, save and display searches and organize your Twitter account to accommodate issues such as distinguishing student Tweets from colleague Tweets.

Tweet Later: With this tool you can schedule Tweets in advance, so they get posted when you want them to….like during a classroom lecture.

Twits Like Me: This allows you to find other Twitter users who are talking about the things you like to talk about, so you can follow more people who offer you value.

Tweetworks:  Move classroom discussion online into threaded groups that can be responded to from most Twitter applications, with each discussion having its own url.

Seesmic: The new version of this desktop app is great for educators and those in higher ed. It’s Tweetdeck plus maintenance of multiple accounts at the same time.

Twitilator: This is an iPhone app that has a lot of great options for Twittering from your phone.  Twitterberry has gotten some kudos for the blackberry.

TweetGrid: You can break this real-time search browser into several searches that update in real time, not only perfect for general monitoring, but a great visual addition to a class lecture.

Hashtags: Combining this service with something like TweetGrid or Tweetdeck, you can assign a specific hashtag to your lecture for students to Twitter live comments or questions, and project them onto a screen, or pick out the juicy ones for post-lecture content.

Tweetscan: By getting a notification everytime your custom search terms are mentioned on Twitter, you’re able to keep up-to-date on pertinent items coming out in the Twitosphere.

Breaking Tweets: By compiling the latest world news and Twitter feedback on that news, you can know not only what’s going on, but what people are saying about it in the Twitosphere.

TwitTrans: Have your Tweets translated into any language!

Twitscoop: This tool allows you to track trends in what’s being talked about online.  Know what’s going on in your discipline as soon as it comes out, or add some last minute content to the classroom setting.

postica: Have a note you want to get out to your students or your department?  Put it on a post-it on Twitter.

twtpoll: Conduct your own poll, including students, colleagues, etc.

Bad Behavior has blocked 520 access attempts in the last 7 days.