True EduLinks – What do students REALLY want?

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Okay, so you’ve got the main EduLinks in the previous post. But now, it’s time to ponder what the deal is with student websites and communication. Why are there very few student specific sites and why are those very few often left to go stale? Why do they not seem to work as well as they surely could? Why does there appear to be an over use of primary colours on some sites and a tendency to try ‘talking the talk’ in an embarrassing way?

The reason why those websites can’t talk to all students is because they are trying to talk to all students. But university is a mini-universe in itself. You couldn’t possibly talk to each and every person effectively using one style. You might get lucky and pull in a high number of punters, but it is as simple as that. It’s luck. Look at Gordon Brown, for instance. He’s the Prime Minister and it’s not like he is able to speak personally to each and every citizen of the UK.

But when I see the provisions for students and I then consider just how important you are, it always looks like the student populace is being ignored more than it should and not enough is being done to engage everyone on an acceptable level. In one of my interviews for the Students’ Union feature, I was told that communication is the holy grail and the magic secret that everyone wishes they could command. Then I found the same thing being said in another interview. And I’ve always personally felt a lack of successful communication aimed at students. There wasn’t enough soul before I went to uni, there wasn’t enough soul while I studied, and there still isn’t enough soul now. So what’s going on?

I mean, is it simply a lack of funds? Is it something boring like money that we can’t get past? Or is there a tendency to give up, because there isn’t enough profit involved in talking to the student body as a whole? The marketing seems to work very well on a specific level, but as soon as you start generalising, things begin to crumble. And this is a shame, because I think there needs to be a more general knowledge of where students can go for help, how they can make a difference, and what they can do for their personal gain. There are some things that can be sorted via Student Services, or speaking to your Personal Tutor, but it doesn’t stop there. Another, more general link needs to be achieved; one which can reach out to everybody in one way or another. And a link that works in a two-way process.

Yes, there are some things close to almost any university student’s heart, but each and every one is an individual trying to make the most out of all the new discoveries and to have a good time while they’re at it. Those experiences are all going to be different.

So what can be done? Is there an easy answer that hasn’t been stumbled upon yet? If Facebook can change the face of communication amongst students, there’s hope. And to show just how the generalisations can filter through ALL of society, look how many millions obsessively flock to Facebook now that it’s open for the whole world to mess about with.

I read an eye-opening article in The Guardian. The author, Ruth Sparkes, has this to say:

“A [college or university] marketing department’s array of activities includes websites, glossies, adverts, PR, events, school liaison and more. These activities generally have just one end: to generate more inquiries. Not enrolments. Not applications. Just inquiries.

“In fact, many marketing departments are so successful at generating inquiries that few colleges are able to handle the volume of calls and visits generated… …Marketing and PR cannot operate in a vacuum; several factors are required to ensure a high level of publicity and good relationships with all stakeholders – including potential students.”

Although the article isn’t focused on what I’m ranting about here, it makes a similar point. The building blocks need to be rearranged so that more can be done.

The only student-specific site that seems to work really well is The Student Room.  If you’ve not been there before, please do.  I think it works so well because the Forums and Wiki are written and frequented by students.  Naturally!

I have started this blog with the aim to talk about all sorts of different things. There is no specific agenda, but neither am I looking to confuse the site into being too many things all at the same time. As a blog, I can post about one topic today, and look at something entirely different the next day. It might not always be of use or interest to everyone, but with a little bit of patience, I hope it will be worth remembering as a useful stopping point that can be expanded on (and searched). And if you have any specific comments, please feel free to let me know in any of the comments boxes (including the About Me page).
Being such a young blog, I have not looked to promote and advertise it all over the place. I intended to get some articles up before making any push about it. But I keep my fingers crossed that I’m doing something right. When I posted the first of my interviews yesterday, I briefly mentioned the post on one single Facebook group that was relevant to University of Nottingham Freshers. To my complete surprise, I had well over a hundred different people visit the site from that one link. And they happily clicked away on various EduLinks I provided, as well as the specific link to the Nottingham Students’ Union. In fact, the SU was the second most popular link to be clicked on by visitors. So I sincerely hope the post was of genuine use to you.

You want to know the most popular link that’s being clicked on? It was the Telegraph article ‘A Student’s Guide to the First Year’. Makes sense really. See, it’s good to generalise!