Please take a moment to remember the last time you booked a hotel, chose a movie or show in a theater, picked a restaurant, or bought a product online. Did a review guide your decision? If these small decisions were influenced by reviews, then we’re sure you’ll be interested in how something as unknown as an education abroad experience needs reviews. Since 2007, Abroad101 has been helping universities manage the demand for reviews by turning the old-style program evaluation into a dynamic online review platform. We’ve processed over 3,000 new study abroad reviews from just the last semester with more coming every day. Abroad101 has pioneered the responsible use of reviews to complement university goals and in this edition of our advisor’s newsletter we take a look at reviews in the bigger picture.
The Best Reviews are About the Student
For students, study abroad is hard, the rewards are personal and telling their story is a big part of the process. Abroad101 helps universities collect student accounts of their time abroad and publishes them as reviews and personal points of pride. A study abroad review is different than a restaurant review or that of a retail transaction as the best reviews are ones that focus on the student. A good study abroad review is reflective, heart-felt and tells about the student’s growth and discoveries, even states the student’s worldview and views for the future.
The reward for a good study abroad review is a lasting testimonial, one the student will take pride in sharing with you the advisor, their friends and family. Please don’t feel it is necessary to pay or otherwise entice reviews through rewards or a sweepstakes. This mentality cheapens the value of the student’s work and can sway students to be less than honest in order to improve their chances of “winning.” When you direct students to submit a study abroad review through Abroad101, the essential messages that you are sending are to share their experience with the world and take pride in those accomplishments.
Re-Entry in a Box
The Abroad101 review is 37 questions in length and is designed to walk students through a reflection of who they were before they left, who they are now and what they hope for their future. As part of this process, they will rate 9 different aspects of their program and provide some insight and tips for future students. Taking 20-30 minutes to complete, the review can help students put their feelings into words and start the process of communicating their experiences in concise and coherent ways. As an advisor, you can manage this process by using the Abroad101 tools and then tally those responses in reports.
Candor is Key
Reviews are very influential in today’s consumer market and study abroad is no exception. People come to review sites looking for balance to the always-positive websites, brochures and in-person presentations. They know things aren’t perfect and want to understand what may be imperfect about a given location, program or host. Quite often the visitors to Abroad101 are coming to validate their earlier discoveries and because of this, we see a significant portion of our traffic from parents and other adults who support students. Students may be drawn to the ratings and comments about food and social aspects of a program, while parents see value in ratings and comments about safety and cost. The 37 questions in the Abroad101 review give everyone something to discuss with plenty of examples to engage in a meaningful dialog and hopefully break some stereotypes about other people and other parts the world.
The vast majority of students who study abroad have an overwhelmingly positive experience, which is reflected in the reviews. Those that struggle and report negative things will actually help future students prepare and set their expectations. We hope you’ll bring these reviews to the attention of future students so that they can put things in perspective. Costs in London are high, academics at Oxford are hard, petty crime is rampant in Paris and the food in Ghana is, well, … different. Knowing these things before a student goes away may make a big difference in how they prepare. As advisors you discuss these issues over and over, but with reviews the students are learning from their peers and for the schools that require reviews of their students, the peer advising affect seems to really help.
Please encourage your students to read the reviews as part of their pre-departure preparation and push them to be candid in their reviews when they return. Students can start their review at http://www.StudyAbroad101.com/reviews/new
Transparency vs. Exposure and Risk
The concept of transparency is another reason universities turn to Abroad101. They want every story to be told and they want to capture the student’s voice in their promotion of education abroad. The publication of these evaluations does worry some, fearing that unpleasant experiences will chase away future students. We have this discussion daily with university officials and Abroad101 strongly believes that the risk of non-disclosure and suppression of a student’s story is a greater risk than any possible adverse affects of a negative review. Failure to publish these accounts in today’s review-focused world is more telling than publishing stories of unhappy participants.
There are organizations lobbying government to mandate transparency and accountability and we strongly believe that using Abroad101 as your platform puts you at the forefront of this issue. Publishing shows integrity and may well mitigate your risk if complications arise in the future. As the old slogan goes, “an educated consumer is the best kind” and when it comes to education abroad, it is riskier not to prepare students for the unknowns they face. Using the Abroad101 system is an effective way to better prepare students and their families for the experience and lessen your liability for not disclosing past details.
Data, Data, Data
When you use Abroad101, you also harvest a wealth of data from your students and can compare it to students from other universities. With our reporting you can see graphs on how your students rate their experience in those 9 categories and you can compare, even benchmark this against your own students (semester by semester) and all other institutions. Those that use Abroad101 for their faculty-led programs can even compare, program by program against other programs operating in the same country. One Dean recently told us about his use of Abroad101 stats in his university’s regional accreditation review. He is using Abroad101 to benchmark his students’ education abroad experiences against others with the graphs report from his Abroad101 dashboard.
Publish or Perish
Faculty members often say they have to publish to stay noticed and relevant in their field. We suggest that same guiding principle is needed for your study abroad offices. In today’s consumer-focused, review-driven economy, reviews are key and those universities that don’t subscribe to this practice risk alienating their core constituency. You may be using some other way to collect your evaluations and assessments, but if you are not publishing them, you are missing a big opportunity. The Abroad101 software can provide you with the tools to manage this process reliably and effectively and at a cost that can’t be beat.
The software is free, the training is free, the support is fast and the process is easy. Custom solutions are available if you need more functionality.
You can use Abroad101 for third-party programs, exchanges, faculty-led programs plus service learning and internships for credit. Programs can be overseas or can include “study away” domestic programs as well.
We hope you’ll call us for a no-obligation demo of the Abroad101 software and use it to advance education abroad at your institution.
Thank you for your time and consideration,
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