3 Top Tasks for “Online” Future Students: Cost, financial aid, affordability

Guest blog by Bob Johnson, Higher Education Marketing Consultant

This blog – the first of two from Bob – summarizes results from a recent ‘Top Task Identification’ research activity.

In a recent top task research project for a U.S. college, we surveyed people using the client website, including “future” students in search of an online program to enroll at. The goal: what were the top tasks potential students wanted to do at the site?

We surveyed on 54 tasks and received answers from 133 potential students who picked the 5 top tasks that were most important to them. As is usually the case in top task surveys, a few tasks rose to the top. In this case, for instance, the top task received as many votes as the bottom 23 tasks.

And what was the top task? “Costs.” The second task was “Online learning” in general. The next two tasks were similar to the first one: “Financial aid” and “Affordability.” And so taken together, three of the top four tasks related to whether or not a person could afford to attend this college.

Rounding out the top 5 tasks: “Admission criteria.”

These results re “cost” issues are similar to a top task survey we did about 5 years ago for another school offering online programs to “adult” students. In that survey, learning the cost was the first task most potential students people wanted to accomplish at the website. At the time, we were surprised. This time, not so much.

The marketing message is clear: If you are recruiting students for online programs, make sure they can quickly and easily learn about your costs and how they can afford to pay them. Not making that content easy to find and understand will frustrate people and make them less likely to submit an application for your program.

In the next article, Top Tasks for “Online” Future Students: Tasks of Least Interest, Bob discusses the recruitment-related tasks that turned out to be the lowest priority for future students – these always have some surprises for Higher Ed senior managers!

We often work on Higher Education projects with Bob Johnson; he manages the branding and marketing aspects, and we focus on user experience and usability. Follow Bob on Twitter: @HighEdMarketing or join his “Top Tasks: Higher Education Website Content” group on LinkedIn. You can also view his weekly blog on Higher Education Marketing.

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