Trendspotter

Web 2.0 Helps the Choice

Trendspotter A December 2008 survey by CollegeClickTV of 2,000 freshmen from 50 US colleges found a whopping 56 percent unhappy about some aspect of their college decision. What's causing this majority malaise? Glenn Pere, founder and CEO of CollegeClickTV, notes, "Campus tours give a biased view of each campus— prospective students are led on the same route and told generic, scripted facts about the school. What students don't get are real, unscripted stories and opinions." CollegeClickTV is developing a new website resource for prospective students, offering streamed interviews with current students, faculty, and others (such as local merchants); collegespecific blogs; and other content and social networking features aimed at providing information that can help college applicants weigh their upcoming college choices.

CT asked three education pros familiar with the vagaries of college choice: Can Web 2.0 applications and social software help prospective students get a more accurate picture of colleges and universities before they choose? Where should this information originate?

Many Voices Tell the Story


Brian VossBrian Voss, vice chancellor for IT and CIO at Louisiana State University and A&M College, remarks: "LSU has recognized that we must use the communication tools that prospective students today rely upon—that's why we have sites in Facebook, in Second Life, and provide online tours and insights via our admissions and university web presence. But the internet is an open and chatty environment, and as such there are thousands more impressions of LSU accessible than just those made available by the university. Prospective students have, then, these thousand ‘windows' into life here; not just the view through the front door that we provide. I don't believe that a third-party company is needed to offer these unscripted insights into life at LSU, or at any campus. The internet itself provides the solution. Students today have a vast network for communication, and they certainly rely upon it intensely to check out what they hear from us!"

Third-Party Contributions Debatable

Robert BrosnanRobert Brosnan, director of web and digital communications at Seton Hall University (NJ), expresses concerns about third-party efforts: "I think there's good reason to be suspicious of the claims that a third party can have an impact, positive or negative, on the decision-making process. Subjective satisfaction—as in CollegeClickTV's survey—is a notoriously weak metric for guidance. More importantly, with today's recruitment marketing reaching up to and beyond 36 months, it's nearly impossible for even the best web analytics software to show any statistically valid link between a specific content element and a business outcome."

A View From the Trenches

Beth TaubmanBut not everyone worries about the validity of third parties entering the market. Beth Taubman, a guidance counselor and college adviser at American Heritage School (FL), has observed her college-bound students first-hand: "There are so many competing voices that students hear during the college search process; they tend to disregard their own inner voice. They are told to go to the best brand-name school or are guided to attend their parents' alma mater. Websites like CollegeClickTV.com give students an opportunity to explore schools and find out what a school is like not from a beautiful brochure but from an expert—a student who attends the college on a daily basis."

The Information Will Keep Coming!

CollegeClickTV has formed partnerships with U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review, and CliffsNotes, to build more content and attract website visitors. The company plans to have info on 400 US-based campuses online in the first quarter of 2009, and will continue to grow the site.

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