Higher education website design to attract international students

With the widespread adaptation of online platforms in the wake of the pandemic, standing out above the crowd of web design and platforms is essential, writes Digital Marketing Specialist Kristen Klepac.

The game is even more charged when it comes to higher education, the audience is younger and increasingly more in tune with the abilities that exist in digital spaces.

So, the necessity to remain agile and on the front edge of trends is imperative.

In the last year alone, we’ve all spent more time online and recognised the importance of investing more in web design, and even realised how utilising the newest technologies can transform our experiences. Higher education leaders who do this will likely have a better opportunity to attract students around the world or even those who may want to attend remotely.

When it comes to attracting international students, these are some higher education design trends that stand out above the rest.

Storytelling: Feel part of something bigger

One thing we can all say in the past year no matter where you are in the world, is that we all felt together in some way. The power of that is hard to put a leash on.

However, there are some schools that employ their websites as a unifying tool for their school community. They use their web design to inspire students and connect with them in unique and effective ways. This can be incredibly powerful for attracting international students who may initially be very far from the school they are researching or considering.

One example is John Hopkins University. The home site employs a stunning collection of bright slogans and showcases articles with retro visuals exploring the school’s diversity, sustainability, and community initiatives.

Plus, socials feature prominently and invite students to click over to the John Hopkins Instagram page.

The power of social (media): Uniting students

Utilising socials can be a powerful tool for universities, think TikTok, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and even Clubhouse. Social media brings students together in a way they are familiar with and allows them to connect and identify with the school and other students no matter where they may be located.

It can also present an opportunity to engage students and invite them to participate in unique and often fun ways. This may help prevent feelings of isolation and simply help them feel like they are not alone.

Interactive tech: Useful and easy to access

One hurdle for international students is often simply being able to swing by the university for a quick tour, particularly for those who are planning to attend on-campus.

Fortunately, many interactive tools (most of which already existed) were implemented to allow virtual tours, chatboxes for connecting quickly with someone, and even opportunities to easily ask questions directly to existing students (thanks to tools like Unibuddy).

This can be really helpful for prospective international students as they likely have many questions simply about life in these new places. Seeing the campus and interacting directly with existing students can help clear up a cloudy image.

Online learning: Here to stay

Certainly not least in this list, but maybe the most important is how online learning will have to become much more fluid and interactive. Students understand the possibilities and will likely not stand for outdated systems that distract the process and further complicate learning the material.

Partnering with established online learning platforms is one solution (for example, Yale has partnered with Coursera).

Maybe more important will be examining online learning protocols. Some universities have placed limits on the number of hours students can take online but may need to reconsider this in order to attract more students.

In the next year, we can’t be sure what will happen or how the pandemic will continue to impact lives around the world. All we can do is move forward, but that also means being open to trying new things. That may mean trying out new ways to learn and connect students, and the digital space provides a plethora of opportunities to do so.

About the author: Kristen Klepac is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Green Flag Digital.