Online recruiters vie for attention
by Eugenia Xenos
Ten years ago, choosing the right university at which to study meant talking to teachers, counsellors, family and friends, and poring through program calendars and guides at a library or counselling office.
Today, a potential student also has the option of going online to one of several sites that compile information on Canadian and American universities, or viewing information on CD-ROM about a university. These new "school finder" companies started operating in the mid-1990s, and an aggressive battle is being fought to get universities to sign on with one or more.
For a fee, the multimedia provider normally offers services such as the production of a CD-ROM about the university (which will contain written information, colourful photos, and soundbites or videoclips of faculty and students), the addition of the university to an existing database on their Web site, and even access to online registration technology.
A provider can offer all of these, or some of these services including print publications depending on how the company is organized and how much it charges. Fees can range from about $2,000 to $30,000. Ironically, one of the future developments of some of these providers is a print version of their database.
Concordia University has been investigating some of these companies over the last three years, and is currently subscribed to a few of these services.
For example, the University has signed with Hobsons Digital Medias CollegeView program, which contains hundreds of American and more than 30 Canadian institutions in their database, and has produced a CD with 15 "views" of Concordia. (The top-of-the-line CD contains 40 views). The idea is that CollegeView will give the institution visibility in places it normally couldnt target easily, and the Office of the Registrar is currently evaluating its effectiveness. Company representatives say the CD goes out to 1,000 high schools in Canada, and 5,000 in the United States, and are expanding internationally.
"Students can look for their own universities by doing searches for them on the Web, but we sign on with these services in the hope that by reminding or informing them of our existence, they will consider our programs," said Peter Regimbald, from the Office of the Registrar. In other words, universities with histories like McGill can afford to wait for students to look them up, but newer universities may have to make more of an effort to get themselves known.
Concordia has also signed up with a Canadian-based multimedia provider, EDge Media, which is affiliated with the international recruitment network of Canadian Education Centres (CECs). Launched in 1994-95, EDge Media say they reach approximately half a million potential students. They have a CD containing information about a number of universities that targets the Canadian market, SchoolFinder, and one that targets an international market, Study in Canada.
They have also compiled a number of scholarships onto a CD-ROM, which it includes as a freebie, and have a feature on their Web site called "Ask Einstein," which has guidance counsellors giving out information to students queries.
Other companies, such as the 20-year-old American-based Universal Algorithms, which produces CollegeNet, also offers services such as the development of customized Web applications for university home pages. They work with some 300-odd American schools, and a couple of Canadian institutions are using their online application service. Concordia, however, has already developed its own online application form, so if the University were to work with CollegeNet, it would be for other services, such as their search engine and hotlink to the University.
Another American multimedia provider is CollegeEdge, which says it has the largest Internet university search site. Besides the database and online registration form, it also offers other services, such as Matchmaker, which allows universities to seek out a particular market of students, and which asks students whether they want to receive e-mail directly from institutions that are recruiting them. Not surprisingly, university recruiters like the sound of this feature.
Regimbald said the challenge is to get a good enough cross-section of these providers with limited available funding so that the institutions name is prevalent. Concordia representatives recently were able to get information about four of these multimedia providers at a day-long conference, organized by the Office of the Registrar. Concordia is also subscribed with Petersons, TransWorld, and Streetwyse, all print publishing-driven companies with a Web component.
Take a look at what some of the providers offer:
EDge Media (Canadian-based, affiliated with CECs):
Digital Media Inc. (Multimedia arm of Hobsons):
College Net (Universal Algorithms, Oregon):
College Edge (Snap Technologies):