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Professionals Use Searches to Locate Graduate Programs

Wong_pain_scale.jpgNot only has technology “dramatically changed the way students experience university life,” according to The Guardian, it has impacted how they learn about schools. College selection has progressed far beyond browsing college catalogs in the library, although the many online (web) and offline (college coach) methods primarily target high school seniors. How, then do early- and mid-career professionals find graduate programs? Not surprisingly, through searches.
I have been thinking about this because of two experiences. This first was a program review and technology evaluation for Goucher College’s Master of Arts in Historic Preservation. Students and alumni, when asked how they heard about the program, mentioned searches and word-of-mouth. In the former case, many stumbled upon the program after multiple searches because their initial search terms were not “Master of Arts in Historic Preservation”. One of the recommendations the program review committee made was to determine what are the terms current students used to find the program and make sure through a combination of techniques that these terms actually led to the Historic Preservation program website.
Then, I started helping the Tufts University School of Medicine Pain Research, Education, and Policy (PREP) program promote their program using social marketing techniques. Not surprisingly, they have a similar situation: students primarily find out about the PREP master’s degree online. This time, my recommendations, in a detailed proposal, led to funding for a PREP student, Pam Ressler, and a series of meetings, including one with students, alumni, and faculty providing ideas about the types of students who might be interested in the program and the search terms they might use to find it.
To date we have launched a blog about pain. The initial entries include data about the disturbingly high number of people who are in pain (26% of Americans reported being in pain for more than 24 hours during the prior month) and the provocatively titled, “Is Pain a Symptom or a Disease?” Pam, as community manager, has student, alumni, and faculty commitments to write new posts, since blogs, especially group blogs, rarely manage themselves and the quickest way to lose a visitor is for the most recent post to be 6+ months old.
If you think the PREP blog was a good idea, I will only take partial credit since one of my sources of inspiration was the U Mass Online blog, which is also a group blog that brings in multiple perspectives. I don’t know how successful it has been at attracting new students but I would imagine that someone considering the program would likely be influenced positively by their posts.
Blogs are a great way to come up in a search. I blogged one of the last articles I wrote, “Dr. Google: Your Patients, the Internet, and You“, and, when I search on it, not using quotes, my blog entry comes up first in Google.
If your prospective students are online, they are likely to be doing searches, one of the most popular online activities. Blogs are a great way to attract their attention. There are other initiatives we have planned and I’ll write about those once we implement them.

15 Responses

  1. I agree blogging would be a great way to catch students attention in a natural way. Google also award .edu sites mores significance, which makes them come higher in the SERPS. But it also requires a bit of technical finesse, like finding the right keywords, using the right headers etc in order to come up in the search results. Most teachers have a fear of technology, which inhibits them from using the technology available, in my experince.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree. I have been suggesting, prodding, and yes, pushing my university in this direction for over a year now but it is a hard sell. Anyone have any suggestions?
    The major concerns are privacy and content control. We could restrict postings but I would rather allow folks to participate in the conversation about our program. I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts or experiences about creating social media/blog sites for academic programs.

  3. Lisa, I agree, we do have resistance at Goucher from faculty and directors of some of the existing online programs to upgrade course delivery. Programs that started in the 1990

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