Just as classrooms rely on student participation in order to thrive, a college or university website needs student-led content in order to bolster the energy and voice of your overall web branding.
In relation to those who visit your website, student-driven content will allow your site to act as a catalyst to the academic experience offered at your school. It will also play a crucial role in education lead generation, so it is up to you to offer visitors the type of content that will answer the questions that they are likely asking themselves: What does it mean to be a student at this college? What do the students stand for? Is this college the best choice? Can I see myself studying here?
Student-led content is just one element of ensuring that the information on your website is engaging and relevant. And although it can’t suffice on its own, it is still a very important part of the larger whole. Students are the momentum behind your mission. Students are the heartbeat on campus. Students are the driving force. It only makes sense to give them a voice on your website.
Here are just a few types of student-driven content that you can add to your college or university website:
1. Student blogs are the gateway to the spirit of your student body. Whether you’re working at a college that offers career training in niche markets or at a university with programs in dozens of different disciplines, every student has a distinct learning experience. Offering students the opportunity to tap into these experiences through a blog will reinforce the strength and value of the knowledge you are teaching them.
There are so many engaging ways to allow students to host blogs directly on your website. To ensure that the blogs are related to the student experience at your school, you can design them through themes or personalities. For example, launch separate blogs for each faculty, and have students be the primary authors of these blogs: Science students can write about the latest research being done in the labs, Business students can write about fluctuating trends, Arts students can plug their latest work and on-campus events, etc.
After developing the theme of the blog, send out a call for students who would be interested in submitting regularly within the theme and guidelines that you create. The most important thing is to let the students drive the content. Allow them to speak openly about their experiences in order for the content to be both honest and engaging.
Example: University of Toronto
Life @ U of T is just one of more than a dozen blogs hosted on University of Toronto’s Student Life page. Posts are written by numerous students from different faculties, allowing the blog to represent a wide spectrum of the student body. The bloggers also maintain a Twitter feed, which allows then to engage with other students, and also adds to the university’s overall social media marketing efforts.
2. Testimonials put a spotlight on students as they share their overall impressions of their time at your college or university. Featuring testimonials on your website is an absolute necessity, and is likely the easiest type of student-driven content that you can add to your website.
Remember that testimonial content can take shape in a variety of different formats, including text, video, illustrations, audio, etc.
Example: Saint Micheal’s College
Saint Michael’s College presents testimonials through Student profiles (as well as faculty, staff and alumni profiles). The testimonials are presented in an interview format, where the student tells his or her story by answering questions relating to their experience at Saint Michael’s. The end result is a very well rounded and vibrant snap shot of students’ impressions.
Example: University of British Columbia
University of British Columbia recently launched the incredible Continue Your Story student testimonial campaign on their Continuing Studies page. The campaign thrives in its ability to showcase the personal stories of four distinct students and the reasons why they chose to pursue continuing education studies. Ultimately, these stories give visitors a concrete understanding of how higher education can help shape their lives. The mix of media (photos, video) as well UBC’s choice to highlight the campaign by giving it dedicated space and promotion on the website adds to its overall success.
3. Writing contests are a great way to get the creative juices going across the entire student body. Design the contest around a particular theme and send out a call for submissions. For example, ask students to send in their best “Rookies Rule” story, which would include anecdotes about how they overcame a big academic hurdle during their freshman year. Just be sure to feature the winning (and runner ups!) stories directly on your site, thereby giving your students’ voices physical presence on your site.
Example: Mohawk College
The Mohawk College Writing Centre recently did a great job hosting a writing contest on their site. The contest was called “Writing Rocks” and sent out a call for fiction and poetry submissions. Once the winners were chosen, the first place and runner up entries were featured directly on the Mohawk website. They also have a social media buttons on all of the corresponding pages, giving users the ability to share the content on Mohawk site. Integrating all of these elements into the writing contest contributed to enhancing the user experience.
Before launching any one of these student-driven content initiatives, be sure that they are implemented into your overall digital communications plan and content strategy. Similar to how you schedule online announcements of events, new courses, program updates etc., you would need to develop a plan that will map out the dates, contributors and themes of each piece of content. Using an editorial content calendar is the perfect way to stay organized from the start will make the content integration process a whole lot easier!
How does your college or university incorporate student-driven content on your website?