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Teens, Video, and Your .edu Website: The Results Might Surprise You


Teens, Video, and Your .edu Website: The Results Might Surprise You

Sep 06, 2016By Michael Stoner

Teens love video, right? I’ve learned that sufficient bandwidth to stream Netflix should be a constitutional right for teenagers. And if it isn’t “Stranger Things” on their screen tonight, it’s likely to be something even stranger from a YouTube star.

So it’s not surprising that there’s a significant trend to include more video on higher ed websites, as technology improves and video consumption increases. In fact, 76 percent of higher ed professionals believe teens prefer video to text and images, according to research we conducted in May.

This research is part of an extensive study, Mythbusting Websites, that we launched with Chegg Inc., and will report on in a white paper late this fall. We asked web developers, admission professionals, and marketers to answer a set of questions about how teens used higher ed websites, and then asked teens the same questions. [Sign up now to receive the white paper.]

I believed that teens loved the videos on .edu websites, too. Until I saw the responses from prospective teenage college students.

Research shows teens prefer text and articles on college sites.

Almost two-thirds of teen college prospects (64 percent) say they prefer to consume college website content through text and articles.

And more than half of teen prospects (54 percent) rated highly the importance of having compelling text on college websites, with 25 percent rating it “very important.”

In short, in this pick-three question, video content is found at the bottom of the list for prospects. Only 40 percent of teen prospects prefer to consume video content.

If there’s a lot of money in your budget for web video content this academic year, you should consider whether some of those dollars could be used more effectively. And the first place to look is on your academic program pages.

[Tweet “Research shows teens prefer text and articles on college sites. Surprised? #mStoner”]

Start with the academic program pages.

Why? Because academic program pages are the most important pages on your entire website for teenage prospects — they’re the pages they visit first and what they find there helps to shape their decisions on whether to apply to your institution. Also, they’re among the most neglected areas of any higher ed website.

Here are three things you can do to make these all-important student recruitment pages more compelling:

1. Add a clear, concise statement about what the major is, what students study, and what it prepares them to do. Here’s a great example from Loyola Marymount University’s accounting department:

LMU’s Accounting major helps students learn to manage, control, and evaluate businesses from the smallest startup to the largest multinational corporation. Students explain, apply, and evaluate financial accounting concepts at a professional level, while delving into structured and unstructured real-world business problems. The major prepares students for careers in public, corporate, or governmental accounting, and graduates meet the educational requirements to be a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Certified Internal Auditor.”

2. Include the kinds of careers graduates with this major go into. What jobs do they get one year out? Five years out? What kinds of salaries do they command? Outcomes information is important to students and their guardians. As I noted on a recent Inside Higher Ed post:

But the Mythbusting Websites research shows that among the factors teens consider nearly as important as financial aid when selecting a college are professional preparation and graduates’ success. … Yet, when asked “Which of the following sections of college websites are the most difficult to use?”, 46 percent of teens selected “What kind of jobs I can get as a graduate.”

3. Showcase faculty expertise and research. While this kind of info isn’t very important the first or second time a prospect looks at the website for their intended major, it is important when they’re making decisions about which institution to attend — and you’re trying to yield a class.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that prospective students want this kind of information. And they want it in a format that’s easy to scan, before they explore further for more detailed information. So make it easy to find, clear, and straightforward.

One last word about video

Our research also uncovered a specific use of video that prospects prefer.

We asked about the most valuable content areas during each phase of the admissions process, and 73 percent of teen prospects said “videos about academic programs” are very important during the research phase.

Once again, it all comes back to the quality of content on your academic program pages. If you have the budget for video this year, start there.

Download our Mythbusting Websites research.

  • Michael Stoner Co-Founder and Co-Owner Was I born a skeptic or did I become one as I watched the hypestorm gather during the dotcom years, recede, and congeal once more as we come to terms with our online, social, mobile world? Whatever. I'm not much interested in cutting edge but what actually works for real people in the real world. Does that make me a bad person?