Your website is a primary resource for information for your students.
The current generation of college-aged young adults has never known a world without the Internet. They know how to research purchases online and how to connect with classmates on social media, and many of them might have covered how to cite an online source in their high school English class.
For them, searching for information online isn’t just a skill, it’s an instinct. And they’re not just doing it from their computers—they’re doing it from their phones.
This makes it all the more critical for colleges to re-examine how they present their websites online. When a prospective student can spot a billboard or a local ad and instantly look online for more information, that information needs to be relevant and accessible.
Unfortunately, many community colleges are behind the game when it comes to presenting information about their university in a clear, navigable format. Colleges as institutions have always been slow to change, and community colleges face additional constraints due to limited budgets and resources. Therefore, to make the most of their websites, community colleges need to think carefully about the information they present, and whether it aligns with what students most need to find.
It’s not just about having the information online—it’s about making it findable.
The biggest challenge most community colleges face as they organize their online content lies in determining which information is most important for their students. Not only that, they need that information to be organized in ways that are clear for their users, so that nothing gets lost in the shuffle. Top information that any good community college website must have in an easily searchable format includes:
Many students begin their online experience by looking up possible courses and reading descriptions to see what might spark their interest and fit into their schedule. A student passingly interested in a Culinary Arts program may become more interested once they start reading about the advanced pastry classes, while a graphic design student may be curious about a 3D modeling course. By making it easy for students to browse potential courses, community colleges clear the way for prospective learners to indulge their curiosity.
Satisfying curiosity is one thing, but most students decide to commit to a full course once they start reading about how it might affect their career prospects. Most community colleges only go so far as listing the required courses and theoretical timeline for a career program, without going into detail about the job market. Turning this section of your website into a source of information for career-minded students can help turn a casual browser into a committed student.
Another key deciding factor for students is the cost of tuition, as well as other related expenses such as course books, uniforms, or equipment. For students who enter a degree program in order to find a better job, their financial resources are likely to already be at a limit. While many community colleges are reticent about the full cost of attendance for fear of turning students away, students need this information if they are going to plan for the financial costs of their education.
For colleges that are worried about deterring students with the cost of studies, putting financial aid information front and center can help. Many students who qualify for financial aid never apply because they aren’t aware of the programs available to assist them. Similarly, some students have mistaken preconceptions about who does or doesn’t qualify for financial aid, and may be disqualifying themselves before talking to a guidance counselor. By promoting the assistance programs your school offers, you encourage eligible students to step forward and apply.
Community college students often attend classes part time while working one or two jobs on the side. Because of these varying schedules, knowing when classes are available is an important factor in their enrollment decision. Class timetables should be easy to access and scan, both for students considering enrollment options, and for those who have already enrolled and need a compiled list of their course schedule.
When students are struggling with a deadline or trying to complete an assignment in the spare hour between class and their second job, they need information about library resources on hand with minimal searching. That includes the library open hours, returns policies, information about special collections, and item availability listings.
Students use their phones to navigate the real world as well as the Internet. That doesn’t just mean looking up the college address on their first day of class. They’re also likely to turn to the internet to find buildings on campus, the location of student services, or the closest parking to their next class. And while having a campus map is a great step, it should also be one that students can easily read on their smartphones.
Community colleges needs websites their visitors can—and want—to use.
Websites that are cleanly designed and logically organized aren’t just easier for students to use, they also welcome visitors to return. When students engage more with the content on a website, they’re more likely to have a positive experience, and the information they find can help them complete their course of study.
We understand that creating and managing websites can eat up a lot of valuable resources for community colleges, which is why we’ve designed the EditionBuilder portion of our services to help. Once you assemble the content you want to publish in your next edition of CareerFocus, it’s simple to publish that same content in a mini website that your prospective students can read and share. Contact us today to learn more about how our EditionBuilder can enhance your students’ online experience.