Visitors to your website and social media channels are hoping to get an insider view of what life will be like for them as students. Alumni testimonials, virtual tours, and videos of student life are all persuasive ways of offering that insider access, but what about opening the doors of your classrooms and introducing your instructors? Why not let prospective students and parents “meet the teacher”?
A surprising number of schools, colleges and universities don’t even have a faculty page. Their instructors – quite possibly an education institution’s most valuable asset – are conspicuously absent from their website and social media accounts.
Making instructors visible and accessible during the decision-making process should be a key part of your school’s digital student recruitment strategy. After all, students are investing in your professors’ expertise, teaching skill, and industry connections, so they should have opportunities to meet and greet them before visiting the campus or committing to a program.
Showcasing teachers helps define your institutional brand, puts a human face to your college or program, and helps students imagine themselves learning and thriving there.
Here are a few ways schools can move their instructors into the spotlight – and some inspiring examples from institutions that are leading the way.
Put a Face to the Name: Instructor Photos
Instead of burying instructors in a long directory (or omitting them from your website altogether), provide photos and links to brief biographies.
European University provides thumbnail images of its faculty, prefaced by a formal introduction that highlights their academic expertise and industry experience. This approach reinforces the idea of a teaching “community” at the business school – a cohesive, organized, welcoming body of experts:
Each image is clickable for a more in-depth description of the professor:
In this next example, Culture Works: English as a Second Language Inc. invites potential applicants and their parents to “meet” the teaching team with engaging photos. A link to their team section is prominently displayed on the top navigation of the website – and Culture Works devotes an entire page to making these introductions:
When the parent or prospective student clicks on each photo, it flips over to reveal a bit of biographical information about the teacher: academic credentials, professional experience, and a few likes and dislikes:
One gets an immediate sense of the character of the institution – professional, friendly, knowledgeable, and accessible. The viewer feels welcomed into the school community without ever setting foot on campus – particularly useful for a language school that recruits internationally.
Wondering where else you might make your instructors more accessible? Consider the steps your personas (target student audiences) typically take while exploring your website:
- Program Pages
- About Us
- Career Development
- Professional Development
You can use Google Analytics to track which website pages get the most traction, and embed your instructor-oriented videos and images there – where you know parents and prospective students will see them.
Promote Your Teachers’ Success on Your Homepage
Just like sharing alumni success helps to reinforce positive branding, promoting teachers’ accomplishments is an important content strategy for schools who want to attract high quality inquiries (and convert them into enrollments). When your instructors win awards or publish new research, the entire institution benefits by association. These events should be highlighted, front and center on your school’s homepage.
Here’s how John Cabot University keeps personas informed of professors’ success on their homepage news “bulletin”:
In this next example, the University of Toronto uses their homepage slider to highlight a professor who has recently won a prestigious award – and of course, by highlighting their instructor’s success, UofT reinforces their brand as a prestigious institution, where applicants are proud to be considered and accepted:
Be Generous: Share Your Instructors on Social Media
When it comes to effective social media marketing, the watchword for schools is “visual engagement.” Students are looking for entertaining, easily consumed, and shareable snapshots of life in your classrooms. Increasingly, institutions are providing video clips of lectures and field trips, introducing their faculty via short videos, and inviting instructors to share what inspires them as educators. It’s an excellent way to reassure students that your school is dedicated to quality education, and will effectively prepare them for real-world challenges.
In this example from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s YouTube channel, two professors discuss how they co-teach a course on design, emphasizing links to real-world industry contexts and the ways they encourage students to speak up and get involved in class discussions:
This next example is from the University of Colorado Boulder. Featured on both their YouTube and Google+ accounts, the video is part of their Faculty in Focus series, in which professors discuss their research, their passion for teaching, and their commitment to quality education:
On Facebook, John Cabot University features a professor of mathematics joking with students as their profile cover image – and then offers an introduction to a business professor in the video section. This is a great way to remind potential applicants that classrooms at this school are small, professors are attentive, and instruction is personalized:
With Facebook’s new playlist and “featured video” options, it’s definitely one of the best platforms on which to promote instructors in visually engaging ways. Of course, schools should also consider posting teacher-oriented videos and images to their LinkedIn Education page, where students look for evidence that their college of choice will effectively prepare them for professional success.
Get Interactive with Live Video and Chat
For many education institutions, international recruitment is high on the list of digital marketing priorities. When students are too far away to attend your information sessions or campus open house, social media is the ideal platform on which to attract interest in your programs and define your school culture. It’s also considered best practice to maintain thriving communities for local and enrolled students as well – but for prospective applicants overseas, platforms like Twitter, Google+, Facebook and LinkedIn are the next best thing for personalized contact.
Live video conferencing with Google Hangouts on Air is an excellent way to bridge the geographic divide, showcase what goes on in your institution’s classrooms, and offer question and answer periods with course instructors. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill uses Hangouts on Air to host Q&As with current students and staff, helping potential applicants get a clearer sense of what life is like at the school. These videos are streamed live on YouTube and on Google+:
Hangouts on Air are also a great way to connect with the parents of prospective students, who want to meet and talk with instructors as part of their decision-making process. Schools can also use Hangouts on Air to broadcast clips of lectures or training sessions with students – the perfect way to showcase your teachers’ skills and help viewers imagine themselves as enrolled students.
Here’s another example from Twitter, where Professor Jonathan Haskel from Imperial College Business School answered questions on economics, his research and the work of the Business School. Anyone could join the conversation, including prospective students:
Whether it’s through engaging introductions on your school website or vibrant exchanges on social media, granting access to instructors – making them “real” and approachable – should be a key component of your digital recruitment strategy.
How do you present your teaching team to prospective students and parents online? Have you discovered innovative ways to “open” the doors of your classrooms to site visitors and social media followers? Share your insights, observations, and questions below.