“Where are the authentic student reviews on university websites?”
Authentic student reviews on university websites? That’s the question Gerry McGovern asked at a June EUPRIO conference in Spain for higher education communications and marketing professionals. Gerry hadn’t found any. Neither had I. And then Jens Larson at Eastern Washington University responded on Twitter with a note to check at the Western Governors University website.
College and university websites do not, Gerry correctly noted in his presentation, have realistic, credible student reviews. Everything at every school is just about perfect if you believe the website content. Students are always smiling. All professors are dedicated to student success. Rankings are high. Alumni are employed… or in graduate school.
Of course, that’s not quite the case. Everyone knows that. Even if most students are happy most of the time, some are not. And thus our selection today of a rare (very rare?) effort to provide realistic student reports for potential students. Realistic rankings are available on 3rd party sites. Will people believe ratings provided by students on an actual university website? Not, we will assume, if there are no negative comments anywhere.
So, how does WGU do?
Reviews from a 3rd party website…
WGU draws a small sample from 444 reviews available on the TrustPilot website. TrustPilot is a Danish firm and most of the university reviews are for European schools. Many have only a single review. WGU, on the other hand, has 444 reviews, with an overall rating of 9.3 out of 10. Visit the TrustPilot home page and enter “university” in the search box to see a list of all the universities with at least a single rating.
From the 444 available reviews, WGU selects 11 5-star samples and 1 4-star. There is no link to the full collection at TrustPilot but anyone can google the site and check a wider sample. The 5-star reviews are glowing. The 4-star review is also strong, but adds a single negative note:
- “The one criticism is the requirement to complete Algebra in a degree program where it is not used. It is an inefficient use of time, and a useless frustration. I can understand requiring it for engineering, science or finance majors. But not for every degree program.”
A new heading? “No, we’re not perfect. But most students like us.”
Each review is from 2018. That’s good. Including another 4-star review and perhaps even a 3-star review might have added to the credibility level. Potential students who do visit the TrustPilot site will find they can sort the ratings by number of stars, just as with product reviews on Amazon or Trip Advisor. To verify that perfection is elusive, there are 3 1-star reviews and 8 2-star ratings in the 444 total. Several of these are quite detailed.
To increase credibility…
The WGU effort is a good start to providing realistic content re what actual students think of their experience at the university. It attempts to thread a difficult needle in providing on the WGU site reviews collected from an unrelated 3rd party source. The credibility of that would be even stronger if WGU provided an obvious link to the TrustPilot site so that people might more easily review more ratings, including the small number that are more negative.
On Facebook, another review collection…
Visitors to the WGU Facebook site can elect to visit “Reviews” where they will find over 1200 reviews. About 1,000 are 5-star level, but 114 are only 1-star. The Facebook review page is here. A link to this collection belongs on the “What others say…” page.
On Mobile, a “Poor” rating for speed…
Google Test My Site gives “What others say about Western Governors University” an unusually slow mobile download speed of 16 seconds. And as a result, an estimated visitor loss of 33 percent.
Follow the Link of the Week…
Experience one university’s effort to provide realistic student reviews when you visit “What others say about Western Governors University.”
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