This is a guest post from Sarah Smith.
How do people decide which online university will meet their needs?
What drives a student to choose one option over another — especially when both schools have little name recognition?
No one decides on an online education based on a single advertisement or one aspect of a website. Instead, a multitude of psychological factors work together.
Every student is different, bringing personal priorities to the selection process. That said, it is possible to use psychology to decode the common factors. By understanding the thought process that goes into a student’s choices, an online program can grow its enrollment faster.
Let’s look at some of the key factors:
1. The Feeling a School Will “Work With You”
One of history’s most famous psychoanalysts, Sigmund Freud, posited that people are driven to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Prospective students want the “pleasure” of a great education and the opportunities it affords, but also wish to avoid the “pain” of failing!
Schools aimed at working adults should evince a compassionate, caring manner to make the threat of failure seem distant.
2. Social Proof as Evidence of a School’s Intentions
“Social proof” is a key concept in neuro-marketing, the fusion of neurology, psychology and marketing. To overcome their doubts about a course of action, most people prefer to see that others like them have succeeded before.
Testimonials associated with clear, smiling photos of a variety of students can be motivational.
3. The Right Visual Cues
Online schools can offer a variety of programs, from the humanities and social sciences to vocational programs. When visuals are congruent with a college’s offerings, students will be more inspired to commit.
Blue, gold, and gray are associated with “prestigious” subjects in the humanities, while red, white and green evoke the practical.
4. A Sense of Urgency or Scarcity
Deciding to go to college can be a leap of faith, especially for those who have not been in school for a long time. A sense of urgency can shake them up and compel them to take action.
Establishing and communicating clear deadlines for enrollment, along with a path to speak directly to an admissions counselor is likely to improve conversion.
5. Anticipatory Activity
“Anticipatory activity” is a perspective-taking process people adopt when they want to modify their social role. For example, a student who wishes to graduate from college with good grades will usually try to adopt habits they think are associated with that success.
When a college website is written from a future-oriented perspective, with rich details relating to a student’s future success, it can help activate this process, and so would-be students may become more confident that enrolling is the right course of action.
All these tools rely on one central factor: understanding your audience.
Someone who wishes to achieve a degree in philosophy may be very different from someone who wants real estate training online. Although, if you visit NREL’s website (a company that provides online real estate courses for NSW) you’ll see many of the above techniques.
Although each student is different, they all fall into demographic categories that can be used to develop a detailed understanding of the “average” visitor. The better you understand that group, the more effectively you can tailor your site experience to their needs.
Sarah is a small business owner, and is currently learning about marketing using the internet. Aside from working on her own business, she likes to use social media, and read travel books.