#highered Mobile Solutions: Hitting or Missing the Admissions Target?

February 27th, 2012 Karine Joly 5 Comments

That’s a question I’ve been working on for a few weeks, ever since the latest Noel-Levitz report (PDF) on the mobile behaviors and expectations of prospective students finally provided us with some hard data on the most valuable pieces of content for this target audience.

In a follow-up post arguing for an Admission-First approach for mobile in higher education, Seth Odell declared that “higher ed has missed the mark with mobile.”

Here’s how Seth came to this conclusion:

“For the last few years higher education has been largely designing mobile sites with one audience in mind – the campus community. A quick look through the Higher Ed Mobile Directory shows the vast majority of institution’s mobile sites touting bus schedules, campus directories, news, athletics updates and class information for current students. Nowhere to be found are the above mentioned requests that college-bound students are asking for right now.”

At the time of the posting, I argued that many institutions were indeed targeting prospective students and I had the data to prove it, namely the results of my survey on the Mobile Web in higher ed. Seth replied that the discrepancies between my data and his observations probably meant that there were a difference between the intentions and the behaviors (which is NOT uncommon) of institutions when it comes to admissions-related mobile content.

Since I had data on the mobile goals of my survey respondents as well as their mobile solution addresses, I decided to find out how mobile solutions targeting prospective students for recruitment purposes were actually performing against the new gold standard provided by the Noel-Levitz research, the 6 items considered as the most valuable content for mobile experiences by college-bound high school students.

According to the 2012 State of the Mobile Web in Higher Ed, 73% of the existing mobile solutions are said to target prospective students and 46% identified as student recruitment tools.

After I queried the survey data for the records with student recruitment as a goal but also with an identified mobile address, I ended up with a sample of 49 records. Then, I spent 3 to 4 hours reviewing and analyzing this sample with a matrix including the Noel-Levitz top 6 most valuable content items for prospective students.

So, without further ado, here are some of my research findings:

1) There’s definitely a difference between what institutions say and what they do when it comes to mobile solutions – but it’s not day and night.
Depending on the item, 35% to 60% of the analyzed sample provides the expected piece of information and 43% meets at least 5 of the 6 criteria.

  • 60% for academic program listing
  • 35% for cost/scholarship calculators
  • 43% for a calendar of important dates and deadlines
  • 53% for specific details about academic programs
  • 47% for an application process summary
  • 43% for online application forms

2) A quarter of the sample is doing a really great job meeting the Noel-Levitz gold standard for admissions content.
26% of the mobile solutions I reviewed are hitting all the right points, offering either a dedicated or an integrated mobile experience to prospective students. I will share in a future post or report more details about this cream of the crop along with some best practices.

3) The most commonly represented vendor mobile solutions in this sample ignore prospective students and focus almost exclusively on current students.
It looks like the biggest vendors don’t see the point in addressing the needs of students before they matriculate. A lot could be achieved if these vendors were to understand that prospective students are also an important target audience for institutions (hint, hint, Blackboard Central ;-)

4) Dedicated mobile solutions such as micro mobile sites or application require care and maintenance that they don’t always get.
I came across lots of broken links – especially in the case of academic program details. It would not hurt to schedule a regular check-up for your mobile solution.

As I said earlier, I’m planning to write a follow-up post on best practices in mobile solutions targeting prospective students. So, if you have one you are really proud of and didn’t get a chance to complete my survey, please post a link to it below. I will be happy to review it for consideration for my next post about top admissions mobile solutions in higher education.

Higher Ed Mobile SummitHigher Ed Mobile Summit: Winning Strategies, Top Trends and Practical Solutions
March 13, 14 & 15, 2012 (1PM – 2PM ET)