If you've ever been in search of study abroad programs, it's likely that you've also been searching for reviews of those programs. After all, doesn't it make sense to see what others who have previously participated, have to say about the experience? As more students continue to study abroad, these user reviews become even more important to the process of selecting a particular international experience.
Today on the GoAbroad Blog, Henry van Wagenberg, co-founder of RateMyStudyAbroad.com shares a perspective on how user reviews are influencing the international education and study abroad industries.RateMyStudyAbroad.com is a GoAbroad Partner, and the leading independent website for students to write reviews about study abroad programs, and research independent feedback from their peers.
#1. Why, exactly, are user generated reviews and feedback important to international education?
Two reasons. The first is that students increasingly rely on reviews to make decisions about which programs to pick. Students want to read peer feedback.
The second is that, to paraphrase management philosopher Peter Drucker, what gets measured gets improved. Student evaluations have always been an important part of the self-improvement process for the international education field. We’re just putting them online.
#2. How is this development affecting international education and meaningful travel?
To judge from our Google traffic, every year more students Google international cities, countries, regions, programs, foreign universities and providers followed by words like “ratings” or “reviews”. Just like a college student might search for her professor’s RateMyProfessor reviews before picking a new course, or a family might search for a Paris hotel on TripAdvisor before booking a room, students are searching on RateMyStudyAbroad for reviews before they pick their program.
That’s a big change. Because before RateMyStudyAbroad, and other study abroad review websites, the only information available on the web was marketing and brochure material from the providers.
#3. What about situations like when TripAdvisor came under fire from a UK advertising regulator. What sets RateMyStudyAbroad apart from these kind of circumstances?
One thing that sets RateMyStudyAbroad apart from sites like TripAdvisor is that we don’t allow advertising on our site by the organizations actually getting reviewed (study abroad programs and providers). Part of the problem for TripAdvisor is that the hotels are paying them to advertise.
We want students and universities to know that we’re independent.
Like TripAdvisor, anyone can come on and rate programs, but we have a three step process to investigate and take down reviews that have been flagged as fake or false.
#4. RateMyStudyAbroad.com is a GoAbroad Partner -- what makes the site independent?
GoAbroad and RateMyStudyAbroad are in the process of signing an agreement that guarantees that GoAbroad can never interfere with RateMyStudyAbroad’s review content. The idea is that we’re happy to share our student’s reviews on GoAbroad, but our reviews will always be independent! In that way, users can be assured that the reviews they read (and write) are free from any bias.
#5. What upcoming changes or trends do you anticipate for the future -- especially in regards to user reviews?
If you look at the trend for search traffic going to WhitePages.com and Yelp.com over the last 10 years, you see WhitePages.com steady and Yelp.com exploding.
I think a change going forward is that student reviews are increasingly going to be the most important part of the online study abroad world.