Examining what makes a good college website

In the UK, further education colleges provide high quality technical and professional education and training for young people, adults and employers. According to recent figures from the Association of Colleges, they prepare 2.2 million students with valuable skills, helping to develop their career opportunities. 

One issue which colleges encounter is, unlike universities, the majority of their students are locally-based, which means there’s a limited number of +16 year olds at any one time in their particular area. According to the Association of Colleges, the average distance between home postcode and learning location for undergraduates attending a college is 17 miles, compared with 52 miles at university.

As with any educational establishment, a college’s website is often the first port of call for prospective students, so it has to be engaging. However, this can be tricky, as colleges are looking to attract a vast range of potential website visitors at any one time – from youngsters who have just left school and don’t have a clear idea what they are going to do next, to employers looking to source some ongoing training for their staff, through to retired people interested in adult education classes. It is also a source of information for current students and for a college’s employees as well.

Added to that, a typical student who has just left the confines of school will be potentially be looking for somewhere that is not only offering the courses they’re interested in – but somewhere that looks fun or at least interesting to attend as well. If you’re an employer wanting to source training for your employees, you’ll be looking for somewhere that looks professional. It can be a juggle to achieve the right tone on a college website which will appeal to all these groups. 

If you’re a potential student with an interest in engineering and thinking about signing up for an automotive course of some sort, then clicking on a website and seeing banners about beauty courses will probably be a turn-off – and vice versa. Whatever course you’re visiting the website to find out about, you’ll want to feel that the college you are considering is an expert in those subjects.

While many colleges attract mostly local students, some will also be wanting to appeal to overseas students too – so it might be necessary to include a little information about how pleasant the area is where the college is based.

At Lake Solutions, we have recently been working with a college which offers both academic and professional programmes, while also serving the needs of local businesses. It had become known for its vocational courses and apprenticeships but it also offers higher education and A level subjects too. 

Moving the college over to a Sitecore website has offered it many advantages – including making the most of Sitecore’s personalisation capabilities. If somebody visits and is looking at A level courses, then their journey through the website is tracked and, next time they visit, they start to see more content about this type of qualification, rather than apprenticeships, for instance. In a similar vein, if somebody starts to research beauty courses – then their next visit will support and reflect that.

The website has also been optimised to allow cross selling and up selling of courses. If you’ve signed up for an adult education course in brick laying, then you will probably start to see similar courses promoted to you which may support that initial course. Similarly, if a student is nearing the completion of one type of course, then their attention will be drawn to courses on the next level. This means that the more somebody visits the website, the more tailored it will become to their needs. 

Since the new site launch, our client has seen a significant increase in the number of online applications it has received for courses. Also, the improved editorial workflows within the solution has allowed the marketing team at the college to focus on delivering innovative and engaging campaigns. Overall, it now engages with its customers – whoever they might be - in a more cohesive, efficient and collaborative manner. 

If you’d like to find out more about how a Sitecore website can benefit your organisation, then get in touch. 

Article Details

Ian Jepp
24 August 2018