First, a reminder to invite returning students to submit a review through Abroad101. We recommend you use the Invite Tool in your Abroad101 account, you can also tell your students to start here: http://www.StudyAbroad101.com/reviews/new
While the impact of online reviews is still a topic of debate in higher education, there is little debate that reviews influence consumers who shop online. How important are customer reviews to shoppers? One recent survey reports 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business, and 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
What do the Scholars Say about Reviews?
While we’re pretty confident reviews do matter, Abroad101’s Social Media editor Caleb House went to work to uncover some evidence. In “How Online Product Reviews Affect Retail Sales: A Meta-analysis” published in the academic “Journal of Retailing”, Caleb discovers that: “the only factor that had a greater influence on sales was price” and “the indication that electronic word of mouth has actually overtaken more traditional sources of information.” Read more of Caleb’s analysis.
The article looked at retail purchases and what would be considered transactional sales. Study abroad is more complex than this so this data should be taken with appropriate disclaimers. This being said, it is a new generation of students on study abroad, what it says when you have NO reviews?
What about Bad Reviews?
The most common objection we get to fully transparent publishing of student reviews is a concern about how a negative experience will impact a program or the institutional stakeholders. In the complex world of social media and online transparency, the opposite is often true.
People often come to review sites to validate their choices and to search for the negative. Reviews of student struggles and reports of negative things will actually help future students prepare and set their expectations. In an odd twist of logic, they go to review sites to relieve the anxiety about what happens when things go wrong. Reviews also provide a practical balance to the always-positive websites, brochures and on campus presentations. For those, like parents, who may not be present in Q&A sessions, reviews provide a welcome reality check.
Taking some best practices from the tech sector, it is ironic to discover that negative reviews actually have a positive impact. We suggest you read “You Don’t Want A 5-Star Review“
Alumni Ambassadors and Beautiful Reviews
This “always sunny” concept is something that savvy marketers are concerned over. Study Abroad providers are increasingly using Alumni Ambassadors in their marketing efforts. These are typically very satisfied students who have demonstrated great affinity for a program and are fantastic spokespeople. When they are tasked with writing a review, human nature kicks in and we have noticed these reviews being too promotional and “too good to be true.” In looking at the traffic these reviews generate, they get less page views than reviews with lower overall ratings.
It is worth noting that Abroad101 modified our page display algorithm to adjust for any one-sided approach to reviewers. We welcome Alumni Ambassador submissions and in your training of them we hope you’ll reinforce the need to be candid in their stories so the review will be viewed as legitimate and credible.
The Latest Study Abroad Rankings:
For the fifth year, Abroad101 has tallied student reviews and produced “The 2015 Study Abroad Rankings.” The rankings recognize the study abroad programs and locations rated highest by American students who have studied abroad in the last year. The rankings also reflect the dynamic nature of study abroad and identify up-and-coming destinations and program types in addition to top programs and providers. From this years data we found that:
- Big cities are in
- Programs are touring
- More students are on programs through their home universities.
For Top Programs, the threshold for inclusion was 15 reviews, or 10 reviews if they came from 3 different universities. For Top Providers, we needed 20 reviews from at least 3 different programs or from 3 different universities. Read details on the rankings methodology.
Each review counts toward the rankings and contributes insight about the whole of study abroad: from academics to food and from cost to the friendliness of the destination. Please remember, rankings are an indicator of quality, not a measure of quality, and it is in the spirit of transparency and strong demand from parents that we publish the rankings.
Reviews as a Re-entry Exercise:
Several universities have described a process where they engage the students in a final day exercise that describes the review as part of the re-entry process. Using the review as the student’s official personal statement makes it their point of pride. It’s a productive exercise if they can put into words their feelings about their discoveries, growth, maturity and overall gains during the time abroad. Abroad101’s 38-question review can serve as the means to do this. Asking the students to bring their laptop, tablet or smart-phone to class is one way to assure high or full participation in the process.
Paper Evaluations into Online Reviews:
We recognize that even with today’s tech savvy youth and Wi-Fi enabled campuses, capturing evaluations/reviews online has its challenges.
- It’s OK to collect your data via paper
- It’s NOT OK to store your data on paper
- It’s JUST WRONG to share your data on paper
If you have paper evaluations, we suggest you allow us to turn them into Abroad101 reviews. For a modest account management fee and a very reasonable per evaluation fee, we will oversee this process and take a big step to modernize your evaluation process.
Introducing Abroad201, A New Addition to the Product Family
At Forum, we introduced Abroad201, a combination of software and services that provides a wide range of customization and options for your program evaluations. With Abroad201 you can:
- Convert paper-based forms into meaningful data
- Manage the publication of some, or all evaluations as reviews
- Publish wherever you want and share with whomever you want
- Turn the results into reports, benchmark them as you choose
- Greatly enhance your reporting capabilities.
Modernize your program evaluation process, reduce survey fatigue among your students, better serve your partner schools and get better data with the expanded line of program evaluation software and services we call Abroad201.
Abroad201 is cloud-based software and services with fees that vary depending on the level of service. Abroad101 is free software that will remain standard in function and purpose. Pick whichever tool meets your budget and your goals.
We’re Working FOR You:
Whether it’s cost effective direct to student/parent advertising and promotion or better ways to capture your student evaluations and work with partner universities, Abroad101 is here to help. Call, write or come visit us at NAFSA, booth #1133.
Thanks you for taking the time to read this and for considering Abroad101.