This blog gives us a great opportunity to share the expertise of our business partners. Our first featured partner is mStoner. We love working with the folks at mStoner and even had the pleasure of having mStoner Co-Founder and President Michael Stoner attend our user training conference last year.
Like OmniUpdate, mStoner is focused on higher education. They are creative geeks (yes, that’s what they call themselves!) who "do creative strategy and strategic creative." From print publications and websites, to mobile sites, video, and more—they are in the business to help their clients motivate, communicate, and inspire.
To help us dive deeper into the higher ed market, I asked Doug Gapinski, strategist at mStoner, a few questions in relation to mStoner's business:
[CC] What are the top challenges faced by your higher education customers?
[DG] This is a simple question that has complicated answers. A month ago, I re-read Jeff Selingo's College Unbound, a book that does a great job of explaining the core challenges colleges and universities are facing. Following are some of the issues he highlights:
- Colleges are having increasing difficulty making a case for value of education versus the cost.
- Delivery methods for education are ripe for disruption—brick and mortar classrooms alone are not the future.
- The post-industrial world has created the need for personalized education and so far, few institutions have been successful at adapting to this need.
When they come to us for website work, higher education institutions are usually looking to solve more specific challenges than the ones above. There are a few things just about every institution wants from a website: promoting recruitment and fundraising, providing utility and services for current students and faculty, delivering content on all devices, and a decentralized publishing model that works.
We often get more niche projects that have different challenges. For example, we are currently working with a private Ivy League university to create a website for their 250th anniversary that helps students, alumni, and the media celebrate, participate, and explore. In this case, the challenges are to deliver memorable content, organize and present relevant social media, and give audiences meaningful things to do.
[CC] Can you describe a specific customer challenge that your team helped successfully
[DG] Webster University, also an OmniUpdate customer, is one of the world's most global campuses, with more than 80 locations worldwide. In this case, one of their main challenges is to help students find the right program and the right campus. We helped Webster design and build the main site, and we helped create a location finder and a program finder. We worked with them on a number of techniques to shorten the distance between an inquiry and an application, and to reduce the number of people leaving the site because they couldn't find what they were looking for. The new site is also fully responsive, so it works well on smartphones and tablets.
[CC] What advice would you give to higher education institutions facing the same dilemma?
[DG] One of the best pieces of advice I can give any institution considering a relaunch is that the degree and program pages need to rock the house. These pages are essentially the product for higher education, yet colleges and universities often fall short on delivering useful, current information on these pages. Degree pages are one of the best places to explain what's offered and make a case for value versus investment, and they are also a great place to generate raw traffic from SEO. Content strategy for degree and program pages should be viewed as a critical part of any web relaunch. If you're interested in this topic, I've written more about it on the mStoner blog.
We thank Doug for participating and offering helpful insight and advice! For more information about mStoner, visit their website at www.mstoner.com.