The evidence that the higher education market is booming is everywhere — student debt has eclipsed personal debt, more students are going to college than ever, and a college degree is increasingly necessary for a decent job. That demand has been met by a growing number of colleges, all of whom are competing intensely for future students.
That competition is, by and large, has its battles waged on the Internet . A new project, Best Education Sites, has set out to compile and analyze — with some surprising conclusions — how the higher ed market has taken to the online world to improve admissions, communications, course offerings and educational outcomes.
Social Media Presence Matters
Colleges have taken to social media as well as any other sector — UC Berkeley has delivered YouTube content to over 5,000,000 viewers; Harvard has three-quarters of a million Facebook likes; Syracuse University has over 10,000 Tweets.
Style — Grey, Sans — Makes a Difference
Common sense might suggest that a school’s colors would dictate their site’s basic color scheme — but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Analysis shows that stale, classic greyscales dominate: 33% of higher ed sites are in grey with 20% in black. Yellow (16%) and blue (15%) are the next most popular.
Aggressive colors — red and orange — weigh in at 3% and 4%, while purple (4%) and green (7%) don’t fare any better.
And it’s sans serif fonts across the board for higher ed — 94% of content is in a sans font. There’s something about clean, grey and chic that colleges adore.
High-Tech Doesn’t Always Mean High-Compliance
Certain institutions have been at the forefront of technological development for a century; we’d expect that their sites would have strict World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) compliance, right? After all, if you can bang atomic particles together without blowing up a state or two, you ought to be able to code a site without too many violations.
Of the top 10 Engineering schools, several have a hefty share of W3C errors — UC Berkeley is #4 and has 33 errors; Cal Tech, the #8 ranked school, has 51. MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Stanford (ranked 1, 2 and 3) all come in clean with 0 errors.
The University of Phoenix — the undisputed leader in online education — has 198 errors in its CSS code, while the average for the top 400 university websites is around 40.
Educational web design/utility, along with social media efforts, is the hidden college admissions battlefield of the early 21st century. Check out the stats at Best Education Sites and its embeddable infographic to see which schools rule the web — and how.