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When discussing new opportunities for international students, experts are often keen to talk up the prospects of markets like India, China, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. These places have developing economies, growing middle classes, and student populations keen for better education and career opportunities than their homelands can currently offer.

Too often, however, one the largest sending markets of international students is ignored: Europe. Every year, hundreds of thousands of European students travel abroad to seek university degrees, language education, short-term study opportunities and everything in between, both on other continents and within neighbouring European states. There are currently more international students worldwide from Germany than Saudi Arabia, more from France than Nigeria, and more from Italy than Iran.

Often more highly educated, financially stable, and particular than potential applicants from other regions, prospects from Europe represent a unique challenge for schools. Here’s what your institution needs to consider.

Where do European International Students Study?

Generally, the majority of European international students tend to study in other European countries. For instance, the continent’s largest source market is Germany, which sends over 119,000 students abroad every year. The most popular destinations for German students are Austria, the UK, and Switzerland, with large numbers also enrolled in France, Denmark and Hungary. Only the USA, the fourth most popular destination, cracks the German top ten.

Source: UNESCO

Similarly, the most popular study destinations for Italian students – another large market of over 65,000 – are the UK, France, Austria, Spain, and Switzerland.

Source: UNESCO

This suggests that there is much to be gained from European schools focusing on recruiting from their close neighbours. Promoting the obvious advantages, such as the lack of visa restrictions in the EU, ease of travel, and similarities in culture and climate can be a good place to start.

Example: The University of Twente in the Netherlands ran this webinar specifically for prospective students in neighbouring Germany. The session focused on the close proximity and similarities between the two nations, while still promoting the differences in culture and lifestyle students could look forward to.

Webinar: Study at University of Twente (session in German) - YouTube

Perhaps not surprisingly, the UK is the continent’s most universally popular destination country, suggesting that European students value the appeal of an English-speaking education. British schools would be wise not to underestimate the value of this market – the combined total of European international students currently enrolled in the UK is larger than the amount enrolled from China.

Of course, Brexit could have something of an impact on the number of Europeans studying in the UK, particularly if it results on tighter visa restrictions. Should this happen, Ireland, as the only other country on the continent that speaks English as a first language, could be well-placed to benefit.

Example: The University College Dublin website features a welcome page for prospective students from Europe.

As far as study destinations on other continents goes, the USA attracts healthy of students from a number of European countries, suggesting the pull of living and studying in the States is still strong. Where other non-European countries enjoy popularity, it tends to be due to lingual or cultural similarities with particular markets. For instance, Canada is the second most popular study destination (behind Belgium) for students from France, largely due to the opportunities available in Quebec and other French-speaking regions of the country.

Source: UNESCO

For similar reasons, Brazil is the fifth most popular study destination for Portuguese students, and Argentina is the ninth most popular for students from Spain. Interestingly, figures suggest that British students are actually more likely to prioritize language over proximity. The USA and Australia are the UK’s two most popular outbound study destinations, while Canada is the fifth and neighbouring Ireland the fourth. France is the only non-English speaking country that appears to enjoy significant popularity, coming in at third place.

Source: UNESCO

Several other European countries also have their own specific preferences when it comes to study destinations. Indeed, perhaps the main difficulty schools looking to identify opportunities for international student recruitment in Europe face is the sheer diversity of the market. Each country has its own needs, market conditions, and culture, meaning an overarching, homogeneous regional strategy is unlikely to have much success. Instead, you should look to pinpoint specific countries where your institution might have particular appeal to students.

Recruiting from Europe for Language Schools

Language education is one of the key areas in which there is a wealth of opportunities for recruiting students from Europe. Targeting this market can have a number of advantages for schools in the sector, particularly those that are based in Europe themselves.

For a start, European students tend to have higher average incomes than those in other key LE markets, meaning schools are less likely to attract inquiries from leads who might struggle to finance their studies. Focusing on European recruitment can also be a good strategy for language schools on the continent looking to fill places in shorter courses. For instance, many students from countries like Italy and Spain will book two or three-week ESL programs in schools in the UK and Ireland. With cheap flights available and only a short distance to travel, these kinds of programs can easily be booked during an annual vacation from work, and may even appeal to companies as professional development options for groups of employees.

Example: The London School of English offers tailored corporate English training options for companies. These kinds of courses may appeal to European businesses.

Junior ESL courses are also very popular among European students, as many parents will look to send their children abroad for short summer courses in order to improve their skills. One particular area of this market that has grown in recent years is the demand for specialized, language+ programs, where language education is paired with particular activities or experiences. Speaking to ICEF Monitor in August 2018, Paris-based agent Laurent Pasquet specifically noted this trend in the French market:

ICEF Monitor Interview: Laurent Pasquet, France, Part 1 of 4 - YouTube

Schools that can offer these kinds of courses will have a much better chance of gaining an edge on their competition.

Example: Centre of English Studies runs a specialized junior summer course in Dublin that combines language training with rugby.

It’s important to note that language education opportunities aren’t limited to ESL, too. Many prospects will be just as interested in learning other European languages like Spanish, Italian and German either for professional reasons or for their own personal interest.

Example: This ‘Top Ten Reasons Why Everyone Should Learn Italian’ page appears on the website of the Italian Academy in Syracuse, Sicily. The content perfectly highlights the language’s unique appeal.

Certain countries, such as Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands, also have very high levels of English literacy, due to the language being taught extensively in schools, so LE prospects from these nations are more likely to be seeking courses in other tongues.

Example: Debla language school in Malaga includes a number of testimonials from Danish students on its website, and also offers Danish language content, highlighting the importance of this market for the institution.

Additionally, while there are many practical benefits to seeking language education in a neighbouring country for European students, many will still to opt to study further afield, often out of a desire to expand their horizons and see the world, so schools in North America, Australia, and other places may still find great success in the market.

Example: This promotional video from Vamos Spanish Academy in Buenos Aires, Argentina features students from the UK, France, and other European countries. While traveling to Spain may have been easier and cheaper, many language students from Europe will look further afield for a more unique and unfamiliar cultural experience.

Spanish School in Buenos Aires - Vamos Spanish Academy - YouTube

European Student Recruitment at Tertiary Level

For universities and other tertiary level institutions looking to attract European students, much can depend on the specific education systems in the country you are targeting. Students in Germany, for example, have access to free undergraduate education in the country’s public universities, which can lessen the incentive for them to seek degrees elsewhere.

However, short-term study abroad opportunities for undergraduates are hugely popular in the country. This is largely driven by the German government’s Auslands-BAföG program, which offers state-sponsored grants or loans for students looking to spend a semester or year abroad.

Indeed, short-term study abroad and exchange options can be very popular in a number of European countries, with initiatives like the Erasmus+ affording European students the chance to study in other countries on the continent, as well as partner schools around the world.

Example: University College Cork in Ireland offers students a number of exchange options in various schools in North America, including University of California, Boston College, and Concordia University. Developing strategic partnerships like this can be very beneficial for everyone involved.

European students may also seek full-time undergraduate or postgraduate degrees abroad if the standards in their own country are low, or places are hard to come by. Master’s students in Germany for example, do receive some funding, but competition for places is high, while cuts over the last decade to the education system in Hungary has led to increased interest in going abroad for degrees among Hungarians.

Example: The University of Birmingham in the UK has a dedicated page on its website for prospects applying from Hungary, which includes a video testimonial from a Hungarian Master’s student.

Smaller European states may also have very limited options on this front. For example, UNESCO Figures estimate that Andorra, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg actually have more nationals studying abroad than in their own university systems.

Another thing to note is that while those in other major international recruitment markets tend to favour more practical subject areas like business and STEM, European tertiary level students can be interested in a much more diverse range of fields, including the arts, humanities, and the media. This means that schools offering those kinds of programs may find focusing their efforts on Europe more fruitful than other regions.

Example: In this excellent student blog from Bournemouth University in the UK, a Polish undergraduate talks about how she found the school after deciding to study abroad in order to find a quality computer animation course.

Appealing to the Unique Motivations of European International students

Regardless of what kind of institution you are working for, it’s important to mindful of the unique challenges of appealing to Europeans seeking international study. To put it simply, because the standards of education and economic prospects across Europe are generally quite high, international applicants in the region are more likely to opt to study abroad because they want to, rather than because they need to. They may be seeking opportunities for personal growth, or to learn more about a different culture or country, so selling them on the experience of studying in your location can be especially important.

Example: English Studies Institute in Berkeley often blogs about unique experiences students can have in California. This kind of content is likely to speak to the mindset of many European students.

This isn’t to say that European students aren’t ambitious. Often, they may be seeking international study to learn a second language, build a global professional network, or otherwise develop skills which can give them an advantage in their future careers. Highlighting how your school’s course offerings can help them do this can be crucial to nurturing them towards conversion.

Example: This blog post from Geneva Business School focuses on the advantages the Swiss educational approach offers for business students.

In other cases, a prospective student may be seeking to study a very specific course, or looking for a niche education opportunity that is only available in a certain place. At university level, they may also favour specific institutions due to their rankings or reputation for excellence in a particular field.

Example: WU Executive Academy highlights its global reputation in the business sector in order to attract international students.

Again, prospective students from different European countries will have very..

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Think of a typical social media post, and you probably picture a short snippet of text accompanied by a photo or video. While the specific features and layouts may differ slightly from social network to social network, the basic parameters of what most people post on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have been broadly the same for several years now. But what if that were to change? What if it already has?

Social media stories – essentially short slideshow reels that combine text, visuals, and graphics – have been growing in prominence for a few years now, originally introduced by Snapchat before being replicated by the likes of Facebook and Instagram. Far from being a niche or fad, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has predicted that stories will eventually became the most common way that people share on social media.

For marketers across all industries, including the education sector, this essentially means learning to create posts in a whole new format, which can be a big ask. Here’s a beginner’s guide for schools.

Want to improve your school’s social media marketing in 2019? Request a FREE assessment today!

Planning Social Media Stories for Schools

There is a big difference between approaching creating regular posts and social media stories for schools. This was perhaps best summed up by TechCrunch’s Josh Constine, who noted that “advertisers must rethink their message not as a headline, body text, and link, but as a background, overlays, and a feeling that lingers even if viewers don’t click through.”

With that in mind, it’s important to take some time to think about the stories format and how your school can make the most out of it before you dive in. Consider your key messages and unique selling points, and how they can be best conveyed using this new format. Think about your school’s events, your location, and the daily happenings on your campus for possible ideas that would work as Stories. And look at the various features available, such as graphics, text overlays, and AR filters, and try to identify options that fit your school’s tone, character, and voice.

It may also be worth following other schools, colleges, and universities to see how they are using the format, and which posts stand out to you. This can give you some great ideas to apply to your own creations.

Example: Harvard University posted this excellent social media story recently detailing some of the people that had visited the school in 2018. The cast of characters included everyone from Bill Gates to Hilary Clinton to Elmo from Sesame Street.

Targeting is important to consider, too. Stories usage and adoption varies across different social networks. For instance, while usage of Stories on Facebook is growing, the format is still more popular in its subsidiary platforms Instagram and WhatsApp. Additionally, while Snapchat innovated the idea, and arguably offers the most sophisticated and advanced version of the feature, its share of the market has been eroded as its competitors have introduced their own versions.  Here’s a breakdown of the current daily users on each of the most popular sites:

YouTube also launched its own version of the feature in late 2017, though it is still only available to channel owners with more than 10,000 subscribers.

Another thing to keep in mind is that stories are more commonly viewed on mobile than on desktop, so you may want to examine your lead generation data to see what devices are favoured by your target student personas.

Creating a Story for Your School, Step by Step

Creating a story is thankfully quite simple, and can be done on most smartphones. Here are the basic steps you would need to follow on Instagram:

  1. Either swipe left on your home screen after opening the app, or tap the plus symbol next to your profile picture in the Stories feed.
  2. You can tap the circle button in the Instagram camera to take a photo, or hold it to shoot video. Swipe up or tap the photo icon in the bottom left corner to add existing content from your gallery. In the bottom menu, you will find Instagram’s signature shooting options, such as boomerang, superzoom and live streaming.
  3. Once you’ve taken a photo or video you can add filters, stickers, text and other effects using the top menu in your screen.
  4. When you’re happy with a frame, you can post it by clicking the Your Story icon. After, you can add to it by repeating the steps again, post it to your feed, send it to or share with followers, or save it to your account.

There may be some minor variations in this process when creating stories on a platform other than Instagram, but the basic steps will be the same.

Shooting Basics to Keep in Mind When Making Stories for Schools

To ensure your school’s stories are as high quality as possible, it’s important to keep in mind some basic things when shooting video or taking photos. First, remember that it’s preferable to shoot in vertical format rather than landscape framing for Stories. This will ensure your visuals don’t have to be reduced in size, or cut anything important out of frame.

Example: This Cornell Admissions Student Takeover was shot in vertical format throughout. Note how the student uses a sticker to encourage questions from students.

Lighting is another simple but crucial detail that can make or break your visuals. A poorly lit or shadowy area can make your stories look drab and unappealing. For best results, natural light is often best, and many experts recommend trying to shoot during the “golden hour” of the day  right after sunrise or an hour before sunset  to avoid unwanted shadows.

Example: The University of California makes good use of natural light in this story about some of the animals that students work with.

It may also be preferable to use your phone’s camera rather than the native one offered in the social media app for your stories, as video recorded through these tends to have lower resolution than most high-quality smartphones.

Engagement Tips for Higher Ed Stories

There are a number of things you can add to your stories to increase the value and engagement they generate. As a first step, you should use text overlays in your images and videos where possible. Text helps to knit your story together, and give prospective students more information about what they are seeing.

Example: Boston University make good use of text overlays to add narrative to their Instagram Stories.

In general, it’s a good idea to try and keep your text overlays consistent, and use fonts and colours that match closely with your school’s branding. You may also want to use text frames – full slides of text – in between your visuals to break things up and add more narrative.

You can also add hashtags and location tag stickers to your Stories to make them easier to search for. The Stories search feature on Instagram curates any stories using hashtags or location tags into a series of clips that show up in the search results page.

Example: The search results page for the hashtag #universitylife. As you can see, a Stories collection appears at the top of the page.

Any clips with the hashtag are included in the story:

The same rules apply for location tags, which will show up in the places search.

Example: The places search for Delfin English School in Dublin has its own Story attached.

The story is mainly made of contribution from the school’s students, and encouraging your community to tag your school in stories could be a great tactic to increase your reach.

Keep in mind, however, that Instagram only creates these for the most popular hashtags and locations, so it’s best to target broad terms and wider locations like cities or towns.

Above all else, it’s important to use CTAs to drive prospective students who are viewing your stories towards further engagement. Stories allow creators to link to webpages and other social media posts by clicking a link or swiping up on their phones. This can be a great way to use stories to attract real conversions.

Example: This story from Wharton School of Business encourages users to click through to a video on the school’s YouTube channel.

Making the Best Use of Stories Extra Features for Higher Ed Marketing

Of course, one of the main reasons that stories caught on in such a big way with social media users is the array of fun and creative features and visual effects the format offers. Even if you are new to Stories, these options are easy to use, so there is no reason why your school can’t take advantage of some of these to add a bit of spice to your posts.

Here is a quick rundown on some of the unique options available on Instagram Stories for Schools:


This is a short, repeating video clip similar to a Gif, and can be a great way to put some life and animation in your posts.


Superzoom is a feature that rapidly zooms in and out of a close-up of your image, and can be overlaid with a number of animation and sound effects.


This option is exactly what it sounds like – you simply take a video, and Instagram will play it in reverse in your story. It could be a neat option for schools looking to put a different spin on their clips.

AR Filters

This is Instagram’s version of the AR filters popularized by Snapchat, which allow you to place graphic overlays like animal ears and noses, hats, and sunglasses over the faces of anyone in your shots. There are also filters that overlay entire shots, like old-style camera film effects.


You can add a range of text, emoji, and gif stickers to your stories, including banners, pictures, polls, and even countdown clocks.

Example: Some of the stickers available in Instagram Stories. Note that they will often change depending on the day of the week – this batch of suggestions came up on a Friday.

Each of these options could add something special to your story, and help stop it from coming across as flat or dull. Similar options are available on other platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook and Messenger, so don’t be afraid to play around with the features and see what you come up with.

Maximizing the Shelf-Life of Your School’s Stories

Although most Stories disappear from your profile after 24 hours, there are a number of things you can do to prolong their shelf-life and extract the maximum amount of value from them. For a start, you can save and archive your best stories on Instagram and Facebook so that you can reshare them in the future. The Highlights section on Instagram, which appears permanently at the top of your profile page, is also a great place to put higher ed social media stories with evergreen potential.

Example: Cornell Admissions make good use of the Highlights feature on Instagram.

You can also take single or multiple clips from your stories and share them as regular posts. This can be a great way to generate quality content for your feed. Additionally, Instagram now allows you to share all of your Instagram Stories on Facebook, which could prove very fruitful as the format grows in popularity on that platform.

While there are minor variations in the creation process and features available on different platforms, the basic principles outlined here can be easily applied to the likes of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and even YouTube Stories once the feature becomes more widely available. With a little practice, your school should be well-placed as stories begins to dominate the social media landscape.

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The increasingly international and interconnected world of student recruitment continues to create new opportunities and challenges for institutions of all kinds, and 2018 was another year of great change in both digital marketing and education.

As it comes to a close, however, it is time to start looking forward, and 2019 is already shaping up to be a landmark year in digital marketing for schools, in which we could see the rise of emerging social media formats, exciting new features, and even brand-new platforms.

Curious to learn more? Here are some of the biggest new developments to keep an eye on as the next twelve months unfold. 

1. Could Stories Overtake Other Social Media Post Formats Next Year?

While social media stories are now far too well-established in and of themselves to qualify as an upcoming trend, the growth and adoption of the feature could be one of the most important things for those in higher education digital marketing to keep an eye on next year.

The format originated on Snapchat, which meant it was mainly popular among younger users. However, as more and more social networks have introduced their own versions of the feature, its usage has grown among people across all channels and age groups.

In Facebook’s Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2017 Results Conference Call, Mark Zuckerberg predicted that the sharing of Stories would eventually overtake posts in feeds. Later in 2018, Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox reiterated this view, going as far as to state that “the Stories format is on a path to surpass feeds as the primary way people share things with their friends sometime next year.”

If this comes to pass, it could represent the most fundamental shift in the way social media is consumed in the modern era. Schools and other brands alike will need to reorient their strategies away from the familiar news feed formats and focus on capturing attention in the Stories reel.

Example: An Instagram Story from the University of California. The unique mix of visuals and text in Stories requires more savvy for schools to navigate than traditional social media feed posts.

It will also have a dramatic effect on advertising. Presently, Stories ads are just one of a number of formats available on social media ad platforms, which derive much of their value from the range of different options they offer to customers. Should Stories become the dominant way that users consume social media, networks will need to ensure the ad options they offer are attractive in order to continue monetizing their platforms effectively. Mark Zuckerberg himself has acknowledged as much, commenting that one of his company’s immediate priorities was “making sure that ads are as good in Stories as they are in feeds. If we don’t do this well, then as more sharing shifts to Stories, that could hurt our business.”

Interestingly, Facebook itself will perhaps be the deciding factor in whether Stories do ultimately surpass feed posts. The social network’s own version of the feature has taken time to grow, and still lags behind its subsidiaries like Instagram and WhatsApp in popularity.

While Facebook Stories now has over 300 million daily active users, this still means that over 70% of their user base is not using the feature yet. Still the largest social network in the world, convincing the bulk of Facebook users to make the switch will likely be crucial to consolidating the status of Stories as social media’s new standard.

2. YouTube’s Version of Stories Could Be a Valuable New Outlet for Schools

With that in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that more and more social networks are hopping on the Stories bandwagon, and perhaps the most intriguing of these is YouTube. Originally called YouTube Reels when it was launched in late 2017, YouTube Stories has been slowly rolled out to select influencers over the last year, and was recently opened up to any channel with over 10,000 subscribers.

YouTube’s version of the feature has some important differences from its competitors. For a start, the clips last for 7 days on the site after posting, as opposed to the 24-hour lifespan of Stories on most other sites. They are also displayed to both subscribers and non-subscribers of the creator’s channel, giving them more potential reach.

In addition, YouTube Stories allow users to leave comments and questions which can be answered by creators and viewed publicly by anyone. This could give schools a new avenue for engaging with followers using the medium, although it should be noted that creators can only reply to comments with photos or videos, rather than text.

Stories creators on YouTube have also shown a tendency towards using the feature for different purposes than those on other social media sites, emphasizing engaging their community and promoting the full-length videos on their channel more than offering spontaneous day-to-day updates. For instance, behind-the-scenes looks into the making of videos, as well as promotional teasers for upcoming content, have been common on the platform in its early days.

Check out this video for an illustration of how YouTube Stories work:

YouTube Stories | Fashion by Ally - YouTube

While YouTube Stories could be a useful channel for schools if it becomes more popular and widely available, it’s worth noting that the feature has received mixed reactions. Many YouTube users feel the site should be more focused on improving the features it offers within its own unique niche, rather than attempting to compete with other platforms. The lack of linking or ‘swipe up’ options on the feature has also been criticized. Nonetheless, YouTube Stories is still in its early days, and a bit of tweaking could see it become a real competitor to the likes of Instagram and Snapchat.

3. Will IGTV Rival YouTube for Student Recruitment Videos? 

If YouTube Stories represents the video giant’s attempt to compete with Instagram, it’s worth noting that the rival company is fighting back. Launched earlier this year to much fanfare, IGTV is a standalone Instagram app that hosts videos of up to one hour long, and is widely seen as Facebook’s latest attempt to unseat YouTube as the dominant video platform on the internet.

IGTV’s key differentiator is that all videos on the app are presented in vertical format, rather than the horizontal shooting which is standard across TV shows, movies, and most YouTube clips.  This makes the content instantly more mobile-friendly, as users don’t need to rotate their phones to view it.

As we mentioned in a previous blog, IGTV has not been particularly successful so far, with view counts on the app coming in at considerably lower than might be expected. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean that it should be written off just yet.

For one thing, unlike YouTube Stories, anyone can create content on IGTV, which could help drive more adoption. Indeed, many schools are already active on the app.

Example: A video about Spanish flu posted on IGTV by the University of Cambridge.

Perhaps more importantly, Instagram recently introduced an option that allows users to share previews of IGTV videos in their Instagram Stories. This could allow them to harness that feature’s enormous popularity to nurture the growth of their new project.

The prospect of IGTV becoming part of a more complete social networking experience along with Instagram’s other offerings is perhaps where its real potential lies, and many experts have encouraged users to think of it along those lines. For instance, AfterBuzz TV COO Phil Svitek encouraged brands to strive for cohesion between their IGTV and main Instagram accounts.  “Treat it as a part of Instagram instead of a whole,” he said. “Your entire Instagram (photos, stories and IGTV) should be cohesive. They should convey the same themes just in different ways.” If IGTV does start to really take off in 2019, schools could be very wise to heed these words. 

4. Exciting New Social Network Vero Could Offer Opportunities for Higher Ed Digital Marketing

In its early days, the social media landscape tended to fluctuate quite a bit. New sites and apps were introduced and rapidly gained popularity, only to quickly fade away and be replaced by the latest trends.

Over the past several years, though, it has become something of a more closed shop as the market has reached a kind of maturity. In the past decade, arguably only Instagram and Snapchat can truly claim to have broken through to become one of the major players in the market, and even those platforms are now 7 and 8 years old respectively. What’s more, the former has long been bought out by Facebook, while the latter has seen its audience and influence erode in the face of competition from the bigger, more established platforms.

However, there is a chance that this could begin to change. The more the market has become the sole preserve of a few dominant players, the less choice users have, particularly given their recent tendency to compete by mirroring each other’s features. This could potentially open the door for newer platforms to find a niche.

So what new social networks are worth considering when it comes to digital marketing for education? One interesting proposition is Vero, which launched in 2015, but began gaining widespread attention and new users earlier this year. Styling itself as a more ‘authentic’ social network, Vero allows users to control who sees their posts by categorizing them under four options: close friends, friends, acquaintances, and followers. This simple system gives users more of a sense of control and privacy.

The platform is also ad free, and is aiming to stay that way, eventually planning to introduce a subscription model in order to monetize. While this might seem like a disadvantage for brands, it also means that the site’s feed has no algorithm, meaning all posts appear in chronological order. For schools who can gain followers on Vero, this means that organic reach would be drastically better than it is on other networks.

Here’s a video from Vero which illustrates the company’s philosophy and approach:

Vero – True Story - YouTube

Essentially offering a kind of ‘old school’ social networking experience, Vero could make a huge impact, though its fate will most likely depend on whether internet users can come around to the idea of paying a subscription for social media.

5. Is the Future of Search Voice-Based…

Away from the social media battleground, the development of search marketing in the near future is largely predicted to revolve around the continued rise of voice search. Over the past number of years, the increased use of voice search assistants on mobile and desktop like Siri, Cortana, and OK Google has cause a shift in how people search for things on the internet, with more emphasis on localized queries, answers to questions, and real speech.

This has only been intensified by the use of smart home voice assistants like the Amazon Echo, Apple HomePod, and Google Home Hub, combined sales of which are expected to grow to 275 million worldwide by 2023.

Search engines have adjusted their algorithms accordingly to prioritize pages that can help answer common voice search queries, and many experts now recommend that marketers should begin developing dedicated voice search strategies in order to optimize their efforts for these devices.

6. … Or is it Visual?

While voice search gets a lot of buzz due to its widespread adoption, it’s worth paying some attention to the continued development of visual search, too. Google Lens and Bing Visual Search have made great strides in bringing this technology forward, creating easy-to-use applications which allow users to point their camera at objects and have search engines bring up information about them.

While there are obvious limitations to the usefulness of visual search, it could still become a bigger part of the larger search engine world in the future. Imagine, for instance, if a prospective student could call up information about your school by pointing their camera at a building on your campus, a brochure, or even one of your admissions team members’ business cards? It’s an intriguing possibility that is already becoming a reality.

Example: Google Lens correctly identifies the contents and information of this business card.

Source: Lifehacker

7. 5G Internet Will Revolutionize Digital Marketing for Education

One final big thing to look out for in the digital world next year is the long-awaited arrival of 5G – or fifth generation – mobile and internet technology. Offering unparalleled speed and responsiveness, a number of service providers in various countries are already beginning to roll out 5G internet networks, while Samsung and Verizon are partnering to bring out the first 5G smartphone in early 2019.

Check out this interesting video from Engadget to learn more about what 5G will bring:

How 5G Works with Your Next Phone - YouTube

While it will take time for 5G to become the standard across the globe, it’s exciting to think about what this sort of speed and connectivity could do for your higher ed digital marketing campaigns.

As always when discussing new developments in the digital world, it’s important to preach caution. After all, for every Instagram Stories there is a Google Glass, and it’s possible that even the most hotly tipped trends will fail to catch on among internet users.

Nonetheless, staying on top of what’s new and current will help to ensure that your school is not caught napping when the next big thing comes along, and can continue to maintain an online presence that truly engages and connects through 2019 and beyond.

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We’ve decked the halls, trimmed the tree, and wrapped the presents here at Higher Education Marketing, and you know what that means? It’s time for our annual rundown of the best higher ed holiday videos!

This year has been one of the best yet for this festive higher ed tradition, with schools from all over stepping up to deliver some of the most creative, heartwarming and unusual holiday greetings we’ve seen in all our years making this list.

So, with further adieu, here are some of the best holiday greeting videos produced by schools in 2018.

1. UNCG Bryan School Make a Great Higher Ed Holiday Video About Making Holiday Videos

Coming up with new, original higher ed holiday video ideas can be stressful, and no one knows that better than UNCG Bryan School, whose efforts are routinely among the very best every December. In the past, they’ve lifted the lid on Santa’s history as a UNCG graduate, while last year they tackled a cybersecurity breach at the North Pole (which was featured in our 2017 holiday video rundown). 

Their video this year has something of a meta narrative, taking us inside their higher ed marketing team as they scramble for new ideas, only to be saved by a festive interjection from their students.

Holiday Marketing Stress - YouTube

2. USC Annenberg Takes Suggestions From Their Online Community

USC Annenberg put a similar spin on their holiday video this year, as Dean Willow Bay sought suggestions from her school’s talented community of media and communications students. Messages come in from a range of channels, including email, Snapchat, Instagram videos, and much more.

Holiday Greetings from USC Annenberg Students! - YouTube

Each student’s ideas reflect their unique area of study or interests, and serve to highlight the diverse course options and extracurricular activities on offer at the school. It’s the perfect example of a holiday greeting which also underscores the institution’s unique selling points and key recruitment messages.

3. OSU President Straps in for a Wild Holiday Ride

At many schools, it’s customary for the University President or Dean and their partners to star in the annual holiday video, but few go to the lengths that Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis and his wife Ann do in their effort this year.

Holiday Greetings from Burns and Ann Hargis - YouTube

Accompanied by the OSU Swift Water Rescue Training Team, the couple brave a seasonal white-water rafting ride at Riversport Rapids in Oklahoma City, the most advanced rapid water facility in the world. The unusual, high octane setting makes for a truly memorable festive clip.

4. Emory University’s “Unofficial Mascot” Spreads Some Holiday Cheer

Every school has its own unique traditions, but few are more interesting than Dooley, the biology lab skeleton who roams the halls of Emory University. Since first appearing on campus all the way back in 1899, this mischievous character has served as the “Spirit of Emory” and a kind of unofficial mascot for the institution.  The campus even celebrates an annual Dooley Week in Spring, when Dooley dismisses classes for a few days of fun activities and events.

Dooley always adopts the first name and middle initial of the current university president (she is currently Lady Claire E. Dooley) and the identity of the students who portray her is always a closely guarded secret. And while she may look like she would be more at home at Halloween, Dooley isn’t adverse to some holiday cheer around December.

In this video, entitled Holiday Hand Delivery, she spreads some festive cheer on her scooter to various students and faculty around the Emory campus, accompanied by falling snow and some fantastic acapella carolers.

Happy Holidays 2018 - YouTube

It’s a great example of a school creating a video that’s truly in keeping with its individual identity and character.

5. Penn State’s Lion Stars in His Very Own Version of Home Alone

Another great effort starring a school mascot comes from Penn State University. In this clip, PSU’s Nittany Lion finds himself with the run of the campus after the school’s students and faculty head home for the winter break in a clever parody of the 1990 holiday classic Home Alone.

Penn State End-of-Year Video / 2018 - YouTube

Just like Kevin McCallister, the Lion initially enjoys pigging out on junk food and generally creating chaos in the campus library, hockey rink and gym, among other places. Eventually, though, he realizes that his Penn State ‘family’ are what really makes the school feel like home.

6. McMaster Engineering Hit All the Right Notes in this Higher Ed Holiday Video

Reworking the lyrics of popular festive songs is a common higher ed holiday video trope, but this effort from McMaster University’s Engineering Department is a cut above the rest. In a parody of a talent show audition, a diverse cast that includes students, staff, and Milo the Dog lip-syncs to a Mac Eng-themed version of Mariah Carey’s ubiquitous All I Want for Christmas is You.

Have a 'Pitch Perfect' Holiday! - YouTube

7. A ‘Cool’ Yuletide Effort from Carlson School of Management

This video from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management is one of the most beautifully shot of the year. The clip depicts the school’s community coming together around a specially built ice sculpture of the school’s logo. Set to festive music with lightly falling snow and exquisitely framed shots of cheerful students sipping hot cocoa with marshmallows, it has an understated elegance that few other schools can match.

Carlson School of Management 2018 Holiday Card - YouTube

8. Azusa Pacific University Find the Spirit of the Season

Last but certainly not least, this video from Azusa Pacific University is perhaps the most heartwarming higher ed holiday video you’ll come across this year. Finding Christmas: An Azusa Pacific Christmas Story has a deceptively simple concept, with various members of the school’s community talking about what the holidays mean to them.

Finding Christmas: An Azusa Pacific Christmas Story - YouTube

The results are deeply moving, as students mention everything from small moments to deeply personal memories. Touching, brave, and honest, it’s a great example of the power of storytelling and authenticity in higher education marketing.

As always, it’s worth mentioning that there were plenty of other schools who created excellent holiday greeting videos this year and narrowly missed out on being included in our list. Unfortunately, there just isn’t room for everyone! Nonetheless, it is well worth searching online to see what else you can find.

In the meantime, we hope this list has given you some ideas for your school’s own seasonal marketing efforts, or just helped you get in the holiday spirit. And finally, from all of us at Higher Education Marketing, we’d like to wish all of our readers a happy and joyous holiday season, and all the best for the New Year!

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We’re excited to announce that we will be presenting a free webinar on Thursday December 6 at 11:30 am EST, entitled How HEM’s CRM & Marketing Automation Can Help Language School Recruitment.

In just 30 minutes, this exclusive session will provide language schools with an introduction into how our customized Mautic CRM and Marketing Automation platform can be used to improve their lead management and digital marketing operations.

We will also demonstrate the array of features on offer in our new, custom-built Application Portal, and how it can be combined with Mautic to create a convenient, centralized suite of digital solutions for your student recruitment efforts.

Keep reading to find out more about what you can expect.

Why CRM and Marketing Automation Matters for Language Schools

In order to remain competitive in today’s market, language schools face a number of challenges. The increase in online inquiries from prospective students means that admissions teams have to deal with a higher volume of leads from a wider range of sources than ever before. Not only that, but they need to maintain an active and visible online presence across a range of channels to ensure that they can be easily found by prospects. This can make it difficult to follow up effectively with each and every lead, prioritize tasks, and allocate your resources efficiently.

Our webinar will outline why our tailored CRM and marketing automation for language schools can be such a difference-maker for professionals in this sector. Using CRM, you can easily view the contact history of individual leads, create manageable workflows that systematically assign them to specific team members, and even set up comprehensive reporting to track your productivity and follow-up activities.

This functionality integrates seamlessly with marketing automation tools that allow your team to automate routine follow-up tasks to save time, while still keeping in constant touch with potential applicants.

Get a First Look at HEM’s New Application Portal

In addition to providing an introduction to our Mautic system, the webinar will include an exclusive look at HEM’s new custom-built Application Portal. Designed using our years of insight into the challenges schools face, this simple, comprehensive platform provides everything you need to easily create the smooth, seamless booking experience today’s students demand.

The portal includes customized form creation, a quote builder, file upload capabilities, payment gateway integration, and even dedicated accounts for your international agents. Best of all, it integrates with your CRM and marketing automation system, giving you everything you need to revolutionize your student recruitment management in one place.

Our webinar will demonstrate how these two systems come together to create a single, powerful digital solution that could transform the way your school operates. Be sure not to miss it!

Interested in learning more? Click below to register!

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If you are working in the education sector, you will be well aware of the importance of China. Long established as the world’s largest market for international recruitment, the country has provided a steady flow of qualified, capable students to universities, language schools, k-12 schools, and other kinds of institutions around the world for many years.

However, as the global market continues to evolve, so too does the educational and digital landscape of China, and the tactics required to achieve continuing success there. Schools have to remain up to date with the latest trends and happenings in China’s unique online ecosystem, economic factors that might influence student decision-making, and the international policies and developments that might influence the flow of Chinese applicants.

Can schools look forward to more or less recruitment opportunities in China in the coming years? What does the current playing field of the Chinese internet look like? And how can schools gain more visibility online? Keep reading to learn more about the changing face of digital student recruitment in China.

The Current Digital Marketing Landscape in China

The launch of the Golden Shield Project – commonly known as The Great Firewall of China – in 2009 saw the banning of many popular global websites and apps, and a resulting period of flux for the Chinese internet, as domestic alternatives attempted to fill the gap. Because the new market was somewhat less mature than the global environment, it underwent much more change in the ensuing years, with sites like early Chinese social network RenRen becoming popular, only to quickly be replaced by superior competitors and all but disappear.

In the past few years, however, a kind of stability has emerged in the Chinese market, with the country’s biggest online players Tencent, Alibaba, and Baidu and Sina – often referred to as ‘BATS’ – consolidating their market power. This newfound stability makes it somewhat easier for schools to approach international student recruitment in China with a clearer idea of which channels and sites will drive growth.

In search, Baidu still very much leads the way, with over 68% percent of the overall market, although alternatives such as Qihoo 360 Search and Sougou do offer their own advantages.  The latter, in particular, is the only search engine that can show results from Tencent’s social media app WeChat. Schools looking to improve their results in Chinese organic search should prioritize developing Chinese language content, localizing their web hosting and domain name, and developing a simple, easy-to-follow architecture for easier SEO indexing.

Example: A typical Baidu search results page. The site’s format is reassuringly similar to Google.

In paid advertising, meanwhile, one area which has shown huge growth is mobile news feed ads. Offered by a range of platforms, this format has become increasingly preferred by both brands and consumers as a non-intrusive form of online promotion.  A recent report from iResearch predicts that ad spend in this area will grow by over fifty percent in the next year alone:

Source: KoMarketing

Baidu, in particular, has seen massive success with news feed ads, which have helped to drive huge profit growth for the company over the past year. The ads, which appear in Baidu’s personalized news feed app, are driven by AI to better target interested users. Tencent-owned social apps like WeChat and QQ also offer their own versions of news feed ads, while another player to watch out for is Toutiao, a news aggregation app which boasts over 100 million daily users.

Example: An illustration of different news feed ads in Toutiao. Note how the ads blend quite seamlessly into other results.

Source: Netizen Natives

Social media marketing in China, at least in the wealthier regions, is now very much dominated by two sites: Sina Weibo and WeChat. The former is similar to Twitter, offering a microblogging platform that allows users to create short text posts, photos and videos, and follow others to keep track of the latest trends. Weibo has long been one of the most receptive Chinese sites to content from western brands, and is a favourite for many schools looking to recruit students from China. The site also has a fairly advanced advertising platform, with numerous formatting and targeting options available.

Example: The Weibo homepage of the University of New South Wales.

However, there are signs that Weibo’s popularity is dwindling, with the aforementioned Toutiao haemorrhaging some of its market share, so much so that the former accused the latter of illegally copying its content last year.

WeChat, on the other hand, is very much going from strength to strength. Encompassing instant messaging, social networking, ecommerce, and even gaming and online dating into a single platform, it is really more of a suite of different apps than a single one. The platform’s incredible functionality has seen it amass over 980 million monthly active users, eclipsing the country’s former most popular social and messaging platform QQ – which is also a Tencent app, and essentially an older, less sophisticated version of WeChat, though it still has over 800 million monthly active users.

There are many ways schools can effectively leverage WeChat for student recruitment.  The app offers a comprehensive ads suite, a social media feed known as WeChat Moments, and numerous features within its IM platform which can be used to engage students. Most significantly, this includes a number of automated tools, such as customized link menus and auto reply options.

Example: Dorset College integrates a customized menu on its WeChat IM screen for prospective Chinese students. The buttons at the bottom offer an introduction, campus information and a Q&A. Automated messages are sent to users depending on what they click.

One area of the Chinese internet which schools may find becoming more important is video. Over the past couple of years, online video consumption has grown significantly in the country, with a recent WeChat Social Commerce Report released by Youzan and Newrank showing that it now accounts for 18% of total mobile browsing time, an increase of 7% on the previous year:

Source: WalktheChat

The most popular video sites in China include Youku, which functions as something of a hybrid of YouTube and Netflix, offering both user-generated and premium licensed content. The site has over 580 million users. It may also be worth keeping an eye on a number of sites which specialize in sharing micro video and livestreaming content, such as Meipei, Miaopai, Yizhibo, and Kuaishou.

Example: The homepage of livestreaming site Yizhibo.

These smaller sites may come to threaten the dominance of larger, more established platforms as time moves on, and while they do not currently offer much in the way of student recruitment opportunities, this may well change as the sites mature. Conversely, their popularity may lead the likes of WeChat to focus more on livestreaming and video – much as Facebook and Instagram did in order to ward of the threat of Snapchat – in a bid to consolidate their position.  

Opportunities and Challenges in Chinese Student Recruitment

While international student mobility from China continues to grow fairly steadily year over year in most markets, many in the education sector are rightly concerned about the prospect of it finally reaching its peak and then declining in the coming years. Such is the importance of the Chinese student recruitment market, and its exponential growth, that this scenario could have huge consequences for institutions that have come to rely heavily on the country to meet enrollment targets.

Indeed, World Bank data cited in a Universities UK report last year shows that the college aged population of China will decline significantly by 2025:

Source: Universities UK

Coupled with the fact that more and more schools are making inroads into the Chinese market, institutions of all kinds could face a future with far more competition for far fewer students. 

However, there is a chance that this decline will be offset by another major shift in the market conditions: the growth of the Chinese middle class. In the past, the majority of Chinese students studying overseas came from wealthier and upper class families, as they were the only ones with sufficient resources. As the middle class has grown, though, international education has become a far more obtainable reality for those outside of the elite. With the cost of domestic education in China also rising, this means that international study is both more accessible and attractive for this demographic.

At the ICEF Beijing Workshop in 2017, Beijing Overseas Study Service Association (BOSSA) Director Peng Sang detailed the increase in students from families outside the traditional Chinese upper class seeking education abroad:

Source: ICEF Monitor

On a more macro level, China’s incredibly rapid urbanisation may also contribute to increased demand in the future. The Brookings Institution’s 2018 Global Metro Monitor report, which tracks the growth of urban centres, found that 103 of the world’s largest metropolitan economies were now in China. In 2014, there were fewer than 50. Growth in per capita GDP in these cities was also significantly higher than global averages:

Source: The Brookings Institution

This has also contributed to economic growth and migration shifting away from the country’s two largest cities, Beijing and Shanghai, which Brookings classified as its two ‘Giants’, towards other cities which it categorizes as “Anchor’, ‘Service’, ‘Rust Belt’, or ‘Industry’, depending on the city’s primary economic drivers.

Among these, Brookings makes particular mention of cities with prospering tech sectors as being neatly poised to benefit from the changing landscape. These include Hangzhou, where internet giant Alibaba is headquarted, and Shenzhen, which is home to Tencent and Huawei among other companies, and has been dubbed ‘the Silicon Valley of China’.

Further to that, schools could look to Brookings classifications as a starting point to identify some of the opportunities that may be available to them should they choose to target lower tier cities. As an illustration, this handy chart from Business West offers an overview of 8 second tier cities and the main sectors with high business growth potential:

Source: Business West

While this information is targeted towards organizations interested in exporting, schools who offer programs related to these fields could find targeting these cities very fruitful, as the growing urban population in these areas seek the skills they need to survive in these new economies.

Chinese Students are Seeking Out a More Diverse Range of Study Destinations

Another point which was raised by BOSSA’s Peng Sang during the aforementioned ICEF Workshop was the increased diversification of preferred study destinations among Chinese students. He pointed to growth in Asia particularly, citing Japan as a specific example, where enrollment of Chinese students has increased by 12% over the past year. Destinations in Europe are also gaining traction, including Russia, Germany, and France.

Example: Osnabrück University in Germany offers information for incoming Chinese students on its website.

The increased variety of study destinations may be somewhat linked to a growing number of lower income families looking for education abroad, as they will naturally seek out different, more affordable options.

Changing policies may also play a role. For instance, the United States recently restricted F-1 visas for Chinese students studying in certain areas to one year (although they can apply to renew on a yearly basis), where previously they had been allowed five years. Pertinently, the fields affected include high growth sectors like robotics and technology, which could create huge opportunities for schools in other countries.  

When considering possible study destinations for Chinese students in the future, it’s also important not to leave out one increasingly popular choice: China itself. As its economy has grown and its population has become more educated, the country has taken a number of steps to make its own domestic study options more competitive. The government has put considerable investment behind its so-called ‘C9’ universities- Tsinghua University, Peking University, Fudan University, Zhejiang University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Nanjing University, University of Science and Technology of China, Wuhan University, Sun Yat-Sen University, and Tongji University.

These leading institutions were part of China’s ‘World Class 2.0’ project launched in 2015, which aimed to propel all nine into the world’s top 15 universities by 2030. While they are not there yet, they have made some headway, with 6 of these institutions named in QS’s Global World University Rankings top 100 this year, the highest amount ever for the country.  Should this upward trend continue, staying home may become a more prestigious option for domestic students, while China itself may increase its popularity as an international study destination.

Example: The University of Science and Technology of China – one of the country’s C9 schools – posted this blog on the English version of its website about a welcome event for its international students. Top Chinese schools like this are expected to become increasingly active in the international market.

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This Sunday, Higher Education Marketing CEO Philippe Taza will be presenting a special session at the ICEF Berlin Workshop in Germany, entitled Essential Digital Marketing Strategies for Student Recruitment.

Taking place at the InterContinental Hotel from November 4th to November 7th, ICEF Berlin is one of the world’s largest international education events. The workshop regularly attracts professionals from all over the world seeking to network, share ideas and experiences with fellow professionals, and learn about the latest trends and developments in the global education industry. Our presentation will take place between 3 and 4pm.

Philippe has regularly presented at ICEF ‘s workshops in both Europe and North America for a number of years, and is honoured to once again be invited to speak at this wonderful event.  Read on to learn more about the presentation, and why events like this are so important to HEM’s work.

An Inside Look at HEM’s Digital Marketing Strategies Presentation

HEM’s Essential Digital Marketing Strategies for Student Recruitment presentation is designed for education professionals of any role, experience level, or institution type, and will offer a comprehensive overview of how to approach, build, and execute a multichannel digital marketing strategy.

The topics covered will include:

  • What is Inbound Marketing?
  • Persona Development
  • Content Strategy
  • Using Analytics to Measure and Improve Your Results
  • Optimizing Your Website for SEO
  • Leveraging Social Media to Attract and Engage 
  • Email Marketing
  • And More

We will also demonstrate how student personas inform the development of strategic approaches across all of your online channels, and how each element combines to help drive success. Participants will come away with actionable insights that can be used to help improve the focus, targeting, and efficiency of their international student recruitment campaigns.

About the ICEF Berlin Workshop

Officially founded in 1991 but with roots going back to the 1960s, ICEF (International Consultants for Education and Fairs) has long been a thought leader in international education. The organization offers a range of services including recruitment solutions, agent training and recognition, and online resources and publications, as well as several annual events around the world which routinely attract education professionals from all walks of life. 

Last year’s ICEF Berlin Workshop was attended by 2,816 participants from 1,770 organizations, including universities, language schools, recruitment agencies, and others.

Check out this video from ICEF for an inside look at what goes on at the event:

ICEF Berlin Workshop Postcard 2016 - YouTube

The workshop includes dozens of presentations from industry leaders, expert panels, and socializing and networking activities, as well as the opportunity for professionals to book one-on-one meetings. HEM’s representatives will be taking appointments throughout the event and participants can log on to Marcom e-Schedule Pro to book a slot with Philippe, Archie Pollock or Katharina Benecke.

ICEF Berlin is just one of the many industry conferences HEM attends each year around the globe. As an active member of the international education community, these events are a crucial part of our work, allowing us to share our expertise, gain new insights, and meet and connect with professionals throughout the sector to learn about the challenges they face.

We will be uploading the ICEF Berlin presentation shortly after the event, so be sure to keep an eye on our website for more details, and to learn about other exciting events and presentations we will be attending in the future. And if you are going to ICEF, be sure to drop by booth 76 during the event and say hello to our team!

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Taking a Look at 2015’s Top Trends to Make Recommendations for 2016!

To get your school’s marketing efforts off to a great start in 2016, the fourth edition of our annual eBook is now free for you to download. It’s based on our most popular and informative blogs, featuring the major techniques, trends and emerging best practices from all aspects of digital marketing. We’ve taken a close look at the most important ideas, newly available online tools and exciting developments in student recruitment, illustrating these concepts with relevant education examples and helpful diagrams whenever possible.

This eBook includes 16 top stories that we analyzed last year, covering these subjects:

• Inbound Marketing
• Lead Conversion
• Web Content Development
• Social Media Marketing
• Search & Analytics

We’ve attempted to include a cross-section of all major functions necessary for schools to develop an effective student recruitment strategy in 2016. These digital marketing functions are increasingly interconnected – for example, SEO best practices often inform content development which is then amplified by social media, resulting in data-driven continuous improvement at all stages.

It has been exciting to help schools thrive in these rapidly changing times while always being on the lookout for new opportunities to improve enrollment and ROI. We think you’ll find this eBook interesting and insightful for implementing your own initiatives – as always, let us know if you have any questions and we’ll be happy to provide further guidance.

Click Here to Get your eBook!

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Why buy a whole album when you can just download the one or two songs you really want from iTunes?

Why subscribe to a whole TV channel when you can just download the specific shows or episodes you want online?

Our ability to unbundle purchases in the commercial sector is beginning to rock conventional notions of how degree and diploma programs are delivered – in predetermined, generally inflexible packages of courses, credits, semesters and years.

With the proliferation of MOOCs and other non-traditional sources of education and training, some students are looking beyond the pre-set bundle, using smaller and more flexible programs to “build their own” educational experience.

The advantage? A customized portfolio of credits and credentials that are typically much faster to earn, more affordable, and more easily transferrable than the post-secondary courses of old.

With unbundling, students can customize what they learn, from whom, and when. #Hemktg
Click To Tweet

While there is definitely still a place for the four-year university degree and career training program, colleges and universities are nonetheless challenged to compete with the emerging model of “à la carte” education.

Read on to understand more about how alternative credentialing works, and for ideas about how your school can incorporate the new micro approach to skill-building into existing frameworks.

Bootcamps Compete with Career Colleges with Micro-Courses

Career colleges often market their programs as more practical alternatives to the traditional three-to-four year university degree. Curricula is condensed, career-oriented, and focussed on combining relevant theory with hands-on training. Typical diploma programs run between six and twelve months, and are designed to helps students launch careers quickly, right after graduation.

But career colleges are now up against fresh competition from online “bootcamps” and mini-training programs that have unbundled the diploma into distinct micro-courses.

Lasting anywhere from a single weekend to several weeks, these courses promise the most streamlined learning ever, offering students super-targeted skill building for entry level positions and ongoing professional development.

Bootcamps are often technology focussed and highly intensive, like this example from General Assembly which offers a wide range of tech courses that promise comprehensive training in web design, back-end web development, user experience design, digital marketing and much more in only 10 weeks.

General Assembly even offers a week-long intensive for students who have a bright idea for a digital product and want to learn how to launch it. They get the opportunity to zero-in on a very specific goal and bring it to fruition:

This micro “field study” is legitimized by association with recognized universities and offers students the chance to immerse themselves in product development while making connections with industry leaders. It’s an interesting, highly personalized take on the internship concept.

Here’s another example from DaVinci Coders, a non-profit training school launched by the DaVinci Institute in 2012 to offer students highly concentrated and career-focussed technology training – without a high price tag or lengthy college commitment.

Their programs unbundle, and in their words, “outmaneuver” conventional tech diplomas and university programs by allowing students to select very specific training modules, for example just Javascript or IOS Mobile App Development.

DaVinci Coders goes so far as to call itself a “Micro College,” claiming it offers the very quickest route to re-skilling for an in-demand career. Their programs last on average about 11 weeks.

What’s key about these micro training programs and schools is their strong link to industry. Classrooms and assignments mimic real job environments and tasks to even further streamline the transition from student to working professional. Participants learn by completing the very projects they’d be asked to work on as junior level employees, and are often coached by instructors who also still working in the industry themselves.

Here’s one more example from Udacity, whose tech “nanodegrees” are longer than micro certifications, but still offer students a range of enticing benefits:

  • Every program is developed with industry leaders like Google
  • Flat fee per month and the option to fast-track through the program (study at your own pace)
  • Half of the tuition is refunded when students finish in less than 12 months
  • Students build a professional portfolio of projects to show prospective employers
  • Students get quick feedback from Udacity code reviewers on every project (within 24 hours)

Here’s an example of their front-end developer nanodegree:

Students can mix-and-match courses and programs like these, assembling a customized repertoire of skills and knowledge that relates directly to their career path. And since technology is constantly evolving, short intensives like these are perfect for keeping up with affordable, flexible professional development.

Traditional Universities Get On Board with Unbundling

Eager to tap into the growing trend of micro-focussed learning, some universities and colleges are devising ways to credit students for completion of MOOCs and other courses from outside of their bundled program package.

Excelsior College, for example has partnered with Edevate (a micro-course assessment system) to help students convert their free or alternative online learning experiences into credits that can be applied toward an Excelsior degree. Students enrol with Edevate and are guided toward MOOCs (and other “Open Education Resources”) that fit their learning and career goals.

Upon completion of each course, students are assessed through Excelsior’s comprehensive “credit by examination” process. Credit is awarded based solely on the demonstration of competency – regardless of how fast or slow the students progressed through their chosen course.

Rather than every student having to complete a predetermined number of class hours, with this model, participants can leverage previous experience by fast-tracking through certain courses (and getting credit quickly) – or slow down and spend more time addressing gaps in their skills-set.

Here’s another example from the University of Wisconsin that offers students freedom from rigid course and semester formats. Students can leverage what they already know to move more quickly through certain courses. Their competency is confirmed through assessment, which they can take at any time. Thus, foundational and required degree courses can become ‘micro’ because students have the option to condense them, collect credits, and move on at their own speed.

Here’s how U of Wisconsin lays out their Flexible Option:

Imagine your career college offered Technology students the option to apply credits they earned in a bootcamp micro-course on Javascript toward your bundled diploma program? Or, perhaps you might allow students who are self-taught or have prior experience to fast-track through certain program courses by passing competency-based tests?

This kind of unbundling helps students avoid re-learning material they already know, awards credit for learning they’ve completed elsewhere, and overall facilitates a more individualized learning experience.

It’s compelling to consider how options like these could enhance student recruitment campaigns and support a school re-branding strategy.

Open Badges for Awarding, Verifying & Sharing Micro-Credentials

As students diversify how and where they source their learning, schools and employers are faced with the task of discerning for example, whether that micro-course on data analysis they took was from a reputable source and what knowledge and skills were actually acquired.

Rather than using tests to verify each and every micro-credential, some institutions have begun to recognize Open Badges as evidence of legitimate learning and accomplishment.

Open badges contain hard-coded meta data that verifies skills students learn through credible institutions. Open Badges can be added to job-search profiles, social media accounts (like LinkedIn), and academic records.

Colorado State University Online uses badges to help students unbundle their Certified Gardener Program and share credentials for various stages of learning and accomplishment.  Students can earn badges for individual courses, a select combination of classes, or pursue the full Master Badge program:

Wondering how your institution can get started creating, issuing, and verifying learning badges? Credly, Mozilla Open Badges, and Fidelis are examples of platforms that help schools, individuals, and organizations of all kinds leverage and share learning credentials.

Credly has teamed up with LinkedIn so users can display digital badges on their profiles:

DeakinDigital, a fully owned subsidiary of Deakin University has also recently partnered with Credly to create a new badge credentialing system that will allow students to share their accomplishments online:

Fidelis actually provides schools with a Learning Relationship Management (LMA) platform that integrates badges, career mentorship, academic planning and more. As learning becomes unbundled and decentralized, students will need guidance around which courses to pursue in order to mix-and-match their way to being fully credentialed for their dream career.

Fidelis offers education institutions a way of remaining pivotal to students’ progress, even if they’re going outside of the school to earn credit or badges through MOOCs and micro courses.

Here’s step one of their online relationship-building process:

The idea is that while colleges and universities may not remain students’ one-stop providers of courses and credentials, they can still provide expert guidance, resources, and degree components that will help students create an optimal “playlist” of learning opportunities and professional experiences.

This could be a highly effective content strategy for schools who want to connect with students interested in diversified learning – but who need help navigating the sea of emerging possibilities.

In what ways do you think unbundling will most impact your institution? How do you think traditional career colleges and universities will evolve to handle “à la carte” education?

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Summer is finally here! For many schools, this time of year is a chance for students and instructors to take a well-earned break, enjoy the good weather, and return refreshed and ready for the next term. However, for many engaging in social media marketing campaigns, the real work is only just beginning.

In these days of increasingly limited organic reach on social platforms, summer can be especially challenging for schools.  Faced with an online community that is less present and thus less likely to engage with their posts, institutions can find it difficult to maintain visibility during the warmer months and ensure they begin the next academic year in a strong position.

Fortunately, with a little creativity, it can be possible to engage and even grow your social audience when school is out. Here’s how to do it.

Encourage Students to Share Their Summer Vacation Snaps on Social Media

One of the challenges of maintaining your school’s presence on social media in the summer is that the current students and staff who would be actively engaging with your posts during the year are on vacation. With less of a reason to seek out news and updates from campus on a daily basis, they are less likely to pay attention to your institution in their news feeds.

One simple but very effective solution to this is to actively seek out updates from your online community about how they are spending their time off. Encourage students and faculty to share photos and videos from their vacations using your school’s hashtags.

Example: Bishops University featured this image of a student on vacation in Peru on their Instagram feed, and encouraged other members of their online community to share their summer adventures.

You can suggest they wear your merchandise or school colours in the photos, or even run contests for the best pictures. If this tactic is successful, you might even be able to create full albums of the best submissions from all over the globe on platforms like Instagram and Pinterest.

Example: The University of Michigan’s Wolverines Around the World Pin Board on Pinterest features an array of shots from students and faculty in diverse locations.

This approach will help maintain a sense of connection with your institution during the break, while also providing a wealth of interesting user-generated visual content from far-flung, exotic destinations.

Post Photos of Your Location in Summer

Many institutions use visual social media platforms like Instagram to showcase the natural and architectural beauty of their campuses and surrounding areas. And as the weather gets warmer, you may find that you have even more opportunities to capture picturesque images of your school.

Example: This post from Cambridge University captures the summer flowers in full bloom on the college grounds.

During the summer, your team can take the opportunity to explore your surroundings and look for visually striking images that highlight their beauty. Doing this while the campus is quieter can help you see it from a fresh perspective, especially if it usually teeming with people and activity.

Example: This post from Dalhousie University makes use of its deserted campus to capture a striking image of the quad at dusk, while also including a clever shout-out to the school’s recent graduates.

Showcasing your school like this during the summer will help remind your current students what a great place it is to study, and get prospective students excited about attending.

Inspirational Quotes are an Excellent Fit for Higher Education Social Media

Inspirational quotes are often a go-to tactic for social media in higher education. Famous, motivational words can help your school to articulate its message, reminding prospective and current students what you stand for and of the value of working towards an education and a better future.

During the summer, these posts can be an especially useful way to keep your school top of mind among your online base.  Your school could find interesting, relevant quotes that chime with your message and post one once a week, pairing them with interesting branded visuals to help encourage sharing and increase your visibility.

Example: Tourism and hospitality specialists Eton College in British Columbia do a great job of finding famous quotes that chime with their programs.

Feature Posts About Staff Who Work at Your School All Year Round

While many students will take the entire summer off, the same is not necessarily true for staff and faculty. From updating and improving their curriculums, to purchasing fresh supplies and equipment, to the vast amount of administrative work that may need to be completed before the start of term, summer can be a very busy time for many departments.

Example: This Facebook post from Our Lady of Mercy Regional Catholic School in Pennsylvania emphasizes the work being done by staff during the summer to prepare for the next term.

Students may not often be aware of or appreciate just how much work goes into these processes, so why not use your social media accounts to tell them? Highlighting the tireless work of your faculty and support staff through photos and videos on social media will demonstrate their enthusiasm and dedication.  In addition to keeping your social accounts active and visible, content like this sends a message that your school is one that really goes the extra mile to deliver a first-class educational experience.

Use Contests, Games, and Polls to Engage Students Over the Summer Months

Another great way of using social media in higher education to keep your audience interested over the summer is to feature contests, polls, and games. A contest or a poll can be a fun and interesting way to raise awareness of specific programs and courses, and increase the reach of your posts.

For maximum impact, it’s best to be as creative as possible. An original, unusual poll, for example, will capture the imagination of social audiences, and is more likely to gain attention and be shared by your followers among their peers.

Example: The University of Chicago recently ran an “Arch Madness Championship” using Instagram Stories. The novel poll involved asking students to vote for their favorite arches on the UChicago campus.

The idea was a great way to capture the imagination of users online while also drawing attention to the school’s magnificent architecture.

Likewise, simple games can be another way to encourage student participation. For instance, many schools also use the Stories features on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat to create trivia quiz videos for students, featuring questions about their school, location, and programs.

Example: Boston University create a regular “Trivia Thursdays’ Story on Instagram. The questions highlight some of the school’s unique selling points, and are overlaid on some striking visuals of the campus and city.

Keep Track of Trending Topics to Generate Great Summer Social Media Ideas for Higher Ed

Focusing on trending topics can be a good way to keep your school visible and involved in social conversations over the summer. Monitor newsworthy events, trending hashtags, and any other topic that is generating discussion on social media platforms, and create your own posts about them.

Example:  Inlingua Edinburgh regularly posts content on Twitter linking to the latest news and events in their city.

Of course, it is important not to simply piggyback on trending topics just for the sake of it. Ideally, the topics that you post about should have some relevance to programs or your school. This will stop your posts from seeming contrived, and also ensure that you are adding real value to online discussions.

Example: The use of Video Assistant Referees (VARs) at the 2018 World Cup in Russia has generated much debate on social media. This extremely well-timed Instagram post from Buckinghamshire New University features one of the school’s students who is working as an engineer during the tournament. The post serves to both engage social media users about a topic of general interest, and to highlight the great opportunities available to the university’s students.

Again, don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to topical posts. For instance, this handy calendar from social media specialists Trackmaven offers a list of ‘National Days’ and weeks. Some of these are poignant, some are funny, and others are quite obscure – for example, this blog is being published on ‘National Sunglasses Day,’ and during ‘Water Melon Seed Spitting Week.’ Creating posts commemorating these occasions, many of which may be particularly relevant to your programs, could be a unique way to generate some buzz and get them trending online.

Example: CultureWorks, a Canadian ESL pathway program provider, created this post for International Picnic Day on Facebook. The post ties the event back to the school and the activities it offers for students.

Build Back to School Hype on Social Media Later in the Summer

Finally, as the summer goes on, you can start to create posts that generate excitement and anticipation for the coming academic year. Try featuring videos, images, and Stories around your staff’s preparations, or any new facilities or programs students can look forward to over the coming year.

Example: This Instagram post from Columbia University gets the back to school hype started early, specifically targeting prospective students preparing to enter the school in the fall.

“Back to school” posts will be of particular interest to your new students, who will be especially excited to begin this new chapter of their lives. Creating posts specifically targeted towards them will help welcome them into your school community and cultivate their participation and engagement with your social media presence from the very beginning.

Of course, when considering social media ideas for higher ed, it’s important to remember that some are more suited to certain types of institution than others.  How successful each of the above approaches will be for your school will largely depend on your audience and its preferences. By keeping your main target personas in mind, and thinking creatively about what would engage them, your school will have a great chance of keeping itself visible across social media all summer long.

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