The evidence that the higher education market is booming is everywhere — student debt has eclipsed credit card debt, more students are likely to college than ever, and a degree is increasingly necessary for a decent job. That demand has been met by a growing quantity of colleges, all whom are competing intensely for future students.
That levels of competition are, by and large, has its battles waged on the web . A new project, Best Education Sites, has attempted to compile and analyze — with some surprising conclusions — how the higher ed market has taken to the online world to improve admissions, communications, course offerings and academic outcomes.
Social Media Presence Matters
Colleges have taken to social networking as well as every other sector — UC Berkeley has delivered YouTube happy to over 5,000,000 viewers; Harvard has three-quarters of a million Facebook likes; Syracuse University has over 10,000 Tweets.
Style — Grey, Sans — Constitutes a Difference
Common sense might suggest that a school\’s colors would dictate their site\’s basic color scheme — but that doesn\’t seem to be the situation. Analysis shows that stale, classic greyscales dominate: 33% better ed sites are in grey with 20% in black. Yellow (16%) and blue (15%) are the next most widely used.
Aggressive colors — red and orange — weigh in at 3% and 4%, while purple (4%) and green (7%) don\’t fare any better.
And it\’s sans serif fonts overall for higher ed — 94% of content is in a sans font. There is something about clean, grey and trendy that colleges adore.
High-Tech Doesn\’t Always Mean High-Compliance
Certain institutions have been at the forefront of technological development for any century; we\’d expect that their sites might have strict Internet Consortium (W3C) compliance, right? In the end, if you can bang atomic particles together without growing a state or two, you ought to be able to code a site without too many violations.
Of the top 10 Engineering schools, several have a hefty share of W3C errors — UC Berkeley is #4 and it has 33 errors; Cal Tech, the #8 ranked school, has 51. MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Stanford (ranked 1, 2 and three) all are available in clean with 0 errors.
The University of Phoenix — the undisputed leader in online education — has 198 errors in the CSS code, while the average for that top 400 university websites is around 40.
Educational web design/utility, along with social media efforts, is the hidden college admissions battlefield from the early 21st century. Check out the stats at Best Education Sites and its embeddable infographic to see which schools rule the net — and how.