Abroad101 Update – Reviews are More than Marketing Content

Abroad101-reviews-logo-web

Here’s the latest update from Abroad101 for program providers and host universities.

Software Upgrades:

We’re please to announce these recent enhancements to Abroad101, the first and largest study abroad review website and program evaluation software platform:

Custom Questions Now Available For Providers:

Universities who pledge to use Abroad101 with all their students have always had the option to supplement the standard set of questions with ones unique and specific to their needs.  We have added that same functionality for providers and host universities willing to make that same pledge.  Use Abroad101 as your official program evaluation software and you can customize a significant portion of the questions you ask.  With Abroad101 you can also export the completed evaluation and use the individual reviews in other systems or tally those for required reporting.

Scholarship Directory:

Host universities can now add scholarships to the Abroad101 scholarship directory.  You’ll see a link called “Scholarships Available” on the left side of your account dashboard under University.  Please remember these are for US students that you might designate as “Free Mover” “Visiting Students” or “Direct-Enroll”, attending semester and short-term programs, not pursuing a full-degree.

Changes to “Would Return” Question:

We recently made a modest change to the “would return” question.  Students were asked: “If you could do it all over again, would you choose the same program?” The answer had been displayed as a green check for yes or a red x for no at the top of each review.  To better clarify a student’s thoughts, we added a text field “Please Explain” and moved this answer as a summary to the set of star rating questions displayed in the “Review your program” block.

Updates to Cities List:

We have updated the list of cities to optimize our directories for search.  With more than 1,000 cities, we have plenty to choose from.  If a single city or region doesn’t work, we also have some general categories for you to pick:

  • Multiple = operating in multiple locations in a given country (2 or 3 locations)
  • Traveling = program travels around a country or series of countries (4 or more locations)
  • Field = program operates in a remote or rural setting

As a reminder, for Quality Control reasons, the Abroad101 team adds new programs, changes titles and adjusts cities.  If you would like additions or changes to your listings, please send details by email to support@abroad101.com

Why Reviews?

Think about 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 help in your decision?  For most Americans, reviews help reinforce an initial interest and help set expectations.  If you use reviews to guide your decisions, then you can imagine how reviews can impact program selection in education abroad.  Since 2007, Abroad101 has been guiding students, parents and advisors while at the same time helping promote study abroad.  We’ve processed over 3,000 new study abroad reviews from just the last semester with more coming every day.

Universities are Lagging Behind:

Every day in our outreach to universities there is at least one story of a university that triumphantly states, “we have a successful paper-based evaluation process that we’ve had in place for well over a decade, and we don’t need to change.”  It’s true, they don’t need to change, but they should. 

Collecting and keeping the evaluation results in secret is against the principles of transparency and does little good.  Putting paper copies of evaluations in binders on reference library shelves is not sharing in the Internet era and certainly not student-friendly.

Providers Can Take the Lead:

As program providers and host universities you can take the lead and help universities break out of this archaic practice by encouraging, even requiring your students to complete evaluations and publish them.  As you have taken the “Duty of Care” you can demonstrate transparency and move study abroad program evaluations (reviews) into the modern era.  We hope you’ll choose Abroad101 as your platform to do this and we give you a rich set of tools to manage this leap of faith.  Reviews are not just for marketing.  Recently we shared these sentiments in our Advisors newsletter and asked a number of risk managers “Who’s Looking at Your Reviews?

Why Abroad101?  Re-Entry in a Box

The Abroad101 review is 38 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. 

Each Abroad101 Review becomes a web page.  A notification of the review goes to the student’s home university advising team. 

  • You get noticed when this happens.
  • You get important feedback. 
  • You get performance data. 
  • You take charge of transparency.
  • You get recognized as a market leader. 

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 38 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.

If you are worried that negative reviews will negatively impact recruiting, think again.  For review websites, criticism draws traffic and attention and for the most part, complaints are about things beyond the programs control – weather, crime, cost of living and attitudes of local students.  For marketers, this goes against your natural instincts, but the negative does get people to buy.  We suggest you read “you don’t want 5 star reviews

Transparency vs. Exposure and Risk

The concept of transparency is the prime reason to publish your evaluations. This does worry many in the university community who fear that unpleasant experiences will chase away future students.  We strongly believe 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 a few 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 ahead of this issue.  Publishing shows integrity and may well mitigate your legal 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 you can use Abroad101 to compare it to other programs.  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 other programs in the host country plus other providers as a whole.  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.  We intend to help this practice spread.

Customize the Abroad101 Platform for you.

As mentioned at the beginning of this report, Providers can now add custom questions, so we ask you, why not make Abroad101 your official program evaluation software?  We understand that you might collect your reviews on paper, but that doesn’t mean you can’t publish them.  For less than $5/evaluation we can take a paper evaluation and turn it into a published review.  You get the ability of collecting the evaluations on site and get the power of data managed in the Abroad101 platform.  Call us and ask us how.

The basic software is free, the training is free, the support is fast and the process is easy.  Cost effective custom solutions are available if you need more functionality.

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.