Your Higher Education Marketing Link of the Week… West Virginia University: “Find Your Major”… 11 May 2018

“Find Your Major” at West Virginia University Offers Great… and Not So Great… Results

West Virginia University admissions academicsA top task for virtually every potential student is finding out whether or not a university that interests them offers an academic program that interests them. If it does not, most people will move along to another school.

West Virginia University recently launched a new search-based “Find Your Major” page that also includes an innovative “Career Pathways” component.

Finding an academic major…

Visitors can enter the name of a major and return one or more options that people interested in that major might want to study. The database integration required to do this is admirable. The results are not always quite as admirable.

Design of the page opens to a single task: The “Find Your Major” call to action is immediately clear, with a search box just below.

“Find Your Major” accuracy is mixed. Consider results from these searches:

  • Prelaw: Philosophy is the only major returned. That’s a good choice. But Political Science is also a good choice. That’s missing. As is History.
  • Premed: Medical Laboratory Science, and Exercise Physiology, and Immunology and Medical Microbiology. But not Biology.
  • Accounting: 41 majors are presented, starting with Accounting and including several others of possible interest. The results also include others of less likely interest:  7 engineering majors, Ceramics, Energy Land Management, Pre-Pharmacy and more.

The devil is always in the details. And the devil can sometimes dominate in crafting search results.

Exploring Career Paths…

Potential students who do not have a specific major in mind can move past “Find Your Major” to explore 11 possible “Career Pathways” that show the breadth of what this flagship university offers:

  • Agricultural and Natural Sciences
  • Behavioral and Social Sciences
  • Business and Communications
  • Education
  • Exploratory (for undecided folk)
  • Healthcare
  • Law and Public Policy
  • Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Science, Engineering, Technology, and Math
  • Visual and Performing Arts
  • World Cultures and Languages

Results here include Student Organizations, Facilities, a sample selection of course titles, and a Careers list. But not the majors included within these areas.

A strong feature: links exist for each listing under student organizations, facilities and careers. Even stronger: add links to individual course descriptions.

On Mobile… 5 second mobile download

The “Find Your Major” page wins a “Good” 5 second mobile download speed rating from Google Test My site, with an estimated visitor loss of 19 percent.

Follow the Link of the Week…

Test your top task results as you search for your favorite academic programs with the West Virginia University “Find Your Major” tool.

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  1. HI Cindy… thanks for sharing the link. With the exception o the speed note below, I like the page. It is easy to scan the possibilities. And from the tests I ran under a few headings the collection of programs returned is better than, say, the “accounting” and “prelaw” at WVA. Also liked the link to sort the various types of programs, especially to isolate graduate degrees.

    Mobile download speed from Google Test My Site was 27 seconds with an estimated visitor loss of 37 percent. That’s the slowest speed I’ve yet tested. Maybe run a test on your end, get the Google report, and review with IT folk to see where changes might improve the speed rating.

  2. Bob-

    Thanks for the feedback on our new offering. We’ve already made some changes based on your post and will continue to monitor what students are searching for. Search is difficult. Especially when attempting to implement a free-form tool that tries to handle misspellings (e.g. prelaw and premed which we failed) and job titles (e.g. accountant). CloudSearch may also be aggressive about stemming (e.g. other majors showing up for ‘accounting’ possibly because they have ‘account rep’ in a career description).

    It’s a learning experience.

    • Dave… A learning experience for sure. But you’re leading the way in the learning and I expect things will only get better from this point.

      Be pleased to know that you’re having an impact at Monash University in Australia. An email came yesterday from Rebecca Monk (Student Recruitment Officer – Undergraduate Law): “This is great! Sent it to our team to see if we can do something similar.”

      Will send her a note about your comment here. Perhaps you’ll be in touch with a new colleague from far, far away.

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