Abroad101 Newsletter for Providers – April 2016

Abroad101-reviews-logo-webFirst, 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.

 You can read the press release or view the full rankings.

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.  Visit the Abroad201 product website for details

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.

Abroad101 Advisors Newsletter – Spring 2016

Abroad101-reviews-logo-webWe appreciate you taking a few minutes from your busy day to catch up on the happenings at Abroad101, the first and largest study abroad review website.  As we wrap up another semester, we start by reminding you to send review invites to returning students through your account on Abroad101.  You can also guide your students to start their reviews here: http://www.StudyAbroad101.com/reviews/new

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 year’s data we found that big cities are in, programs are touring, and more American students are studying abroad on programs coordinated by their home universities.

You can read the press release or view the latest rankings

As advisors, you can help improve the study abroad rankings by encouraging your students to tell their story and submit a review.  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 that we publish the rankings. 

Review and Parents: Helping Set Expectations:

About 25% of the visitors to Abroad101 are parents searching for more insight into their children’s options. It is no secret that parents are increasingly involved in their children’s college education, and study abroad is no exception.  Reviews are a good way to redirect parents’ inquiries about programs and also as tool to help set expectations about a particular host university, host country, or provider.  Each Abroad101 review has 38 questions including star ratings on 9 different program aspects.  Put a review in front of a family and you’ll see the eyes of the student got to the social (or food) ratings, the mother to the safety ratings and a father to cost ratings.  This is more than just a stereotype; it demonstrates that reviews serve multiple audiences and deliver multiple perspectives.  Abroad101’s reviews are designed to foster conversation around the options and build a better sense of awareness before making the final choice.  As the old adage goes “An educated consumer is the best customer.”  For mom and dad, they think of study abroad as a product and themselves as a consumer.  Considering everything else that is rated and ranked it is only natural for parents and students to consider study abroad reviews.

Reviews and Re-entry:

Often we hear that it is hard to get students to do anything, let alone spend 20-30 minutes on a review.  This is especially true when students feel that the activity has no benefit for them.  However, they are inclined to share their stories if the exercise gives them a chance to tell their story, and that is exactly what they do on social media for hours a day! 

If the student believes the review is good for them, they will generally participate.  That takes some groundwork before they go abroad and as they prepare to return.  One idea to get more engagement is to incorporate a review in your re-entry programming and use the review process as a step toward preparing the students to share their experience with others.  Just like career counselors who tell students to prepare a good resume for a job search, we hope that study abroad advisors will help their students prepare for their return home by guiding them to submitting a thorough and candid review.

If you have a formal re-entry process, you can tie that to your Abroad101 results in a number of ways.  Within your account dashboard you can export the reviews of your students.  Those reviews have an email address and a serial number.  You can enter that serial number in your enrollment or student information systems to fulfill a requirement, or you can create a process for the student to do so.  If you are using Terra Dotta for example, we encourage you to tie the returnee phase to a questionnaire with that serial number.  Read more about linking Abroad101 and Terra Dotta Software.

What can be Better than Abroad101’s Free Software?

Since 2007, Abroad101 has been suggesting that program evaluations and online reviews can be the same thing.  A number of colleges and universities have already adopted Abroad101 as their program evaluation platform.  Today Abroad101 is the largest publisher of these powerful study abroad testimonials, yet some institutions feel that the system isn’t right for their needs.

To serve the market better we created Abroad201, a combination of software and services that provides a full range of customization and publishing options for your program evaluations.  With Abroad201 you can take those paper-based forms and turn them into meaningful data.  You can manage the publication of some or all of the reviews to wherever you want them displayed and whomever you want them shared with.  You can take the results and turn them into reports, benchmark them as you choose, and greatly enhance your reporting capabilities.

Abroad201 is a cloud-based software program and service with fees that vary depending on the level of service.  Abroad101 is free software that will remain standard in function and purpose.  Pick whichever tools meet your budget and your goals.  If you’re interested in learning more about Abroad201, please visit the new product website and sign up for a presentation call or an online demo.

Talk to us:

For those of you attending NAFSA, please stop by and say hello.  We’ll be at Booth #1133.

Every university has an account on Abroad101.  If you’d like more details on accessing yours with the option of a private online web demo, please contact support@abroad101.com

 

Happy Spring!

Mark Shay

Abroad101  /  +1-610-357-4648  /  mark@abroad101.com

www.StudyAbroad101.com