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Published December 15, 2008 | English (Second Language)

Information Technology: Recruiting International Students to the Vanier College Language School

What can be done on a limited budget without having a lot of specific technical knowhow and very little time? You can build one of Montreal's best Language Schools located in a Cégep. The Vanier College Language Schoolis using easily accessible technological tools that almost anyone can use to successfully recruit international students.

When I started here in 2005, the Language School was well-established but had a lot of room to grow. I spent some time learning how to manage the school and saw that day-to-day tasks would take up 99% of my time. I could not count on having the time to devote to large projects and I had a small budget.

How is it possible to reach students in Mexico, Vietnam, Thailand, Russia and many other countries on a small budget?

Students in the Language School

You have to go where the students really are! Students are on the Web, and they are using social networking tools like Facebook. More than 800 million people use Web 2.0 tools regularly (Web 2.0 Recruiting Strategies for International Education Providers, The Illuminate Consulting Group). This is where the students are, and this is true for students around the world.

I use a variety of easily accessible online tools to help me reach potential students. These are the most important:

Website

I design and maintain the Vanier College Language School website, and when I asked past students how they found the Language School, I was amazed that more than 75% say they found us through the web. Since I never had formal training in website design, I decided to focus on doing two things well. The website is kept up to date and is full of pictures of actual students.

The regular updates keep the information fresh and lively. Potential students can imagine themselves in the pictures and, as a result, we hope that they can see themselves at the Language School.

Google Analytics

Google provides a free service that shows how people found the Language School website, how they visited it, what country they are in, what browser they are using, and how long they spent on the website - and much more! This service is absolutely essential to monitoring the success of marketing campaigns.

For example, I have learnt that:

  • We had 2800 visitors in one month, and this is relatively constant.
  • Visitors came from many different countries, but the most came from Brazil and Mexico (after Canada).
  • 61% of all visitors found us through the Google search engine!
  • Our full-time ESL course receives more visits than any other page on the site.

Google sends a report to my email every week, and this report is always fascinating to read. It allows me to gauge how well we are doing and adjust my efforts accordingly.

Map Overlay in Google Analytics

Facebook Groups and Advertising

Facebook and MySpace are the two most popular social networking websites, and millions of 16 to 25 year olds spend hours on Facebook each day.

I do not use MySpace because I have never seen a Language School student on MySpace. Statistics have since confirmed that MySpace users do not tend to be old enough to travel.

I have to admit that Facebook has blurred the lines between my work life and my home life. I set up a Language School alumni group, added most of my past students to this group and invited them to be my friends. Now, when I post new baby pictures for my friends and family, students come up and tell me how cute my baby is. This was a little disconcerting at first.

I do not mind, though, because Facebook is an excellent place to stay connected with alumni. The Facebook Language School group is where my students keep in touch! They post pictures of their time here and post comments to each other. The really fantastic thing is their friends can see that they joined the Vanier College Language School alumni group.

Manageable Projects Bring Steady Success

These three online resources are easily managed and do not require a great deal of expertise. They do not take much time and are very inexpensive to use. Taken together though, the website, Google Analytics and Facebook are responsible for helping us to reach students where they are and have contributed to the growth of the Language School.

Do you use Facebook in your school? Has it been banned? Use our Reader Response Feature to share your experiences with our readers?

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