Every week, I set aside some time to go walking. Getting out of the office is the hardest part. Once outside, I relax and as a bonus, my mind automatically zooms out to the bigger picture.
Suddenly, I’m thinking of what student journey mapping has in common with the way walking routes are signposted.
After #eaie2022, I made a stop in the Pyrenees and let the many encounters and new ideas sink in during walks through the mountains. (Travelling by train, it was more or less on the way home anyway).
As a Dutchman, I’m easily impressed by anything that looks like a mountain, but see for yourself!
My host is so kind to supply me with a few walking maps. With the little French I know, I figure out the route marking system, and off I go!
During the walk, I keep thinking about how the route marking systems work so differently from what I’m used to back home. In the French Pyrenees, this is how the walking map looks like:
- Numbered walking routes (each is described on the back of the map, including the distance and estimated time required).
- While the Pyrenees span the French-Spanish border, all of the routes remain confined to France. (Except the centuries-old camino to Santiago the Compostela, indicated by the blue and yellow shell mark).
Seems pretty straightforward, right? But compare this to how walking maps look like where I’m based in Alphen NB, the Netherlands (below):
- A network of numbered nodes
- The nodes seamlessly continue across the border. There’s some idiosyncrasies as to how the signs look, but the system works seamlessly whether you’re in the Netherlands or in Belgium (or Flanders, to be precise).
This has a number of advantages, all related to flexibility:
- If I’m tired, or the weather suddenly doesn’t look so good, I can cut my route short
- If a particular path looks really enticing, I can adjust my route.
- The border doesn’t become an “end zone”; interesting areas across the border get seamlessly connected. In fact I often end up inadvertently crossing the border.
At home, I end up deviating from my original plan almost every time, and it’s great to have that option. I discover something new every time, at just a few kilometres from my home.
How does this relate to the student journey?
As marketers, we often still have a “Pyrenees-style” map in our heads when we try and figure out what made students choose to enrol with us. Before enrolment and after, the journey is ‘baked in stone’ in a number of discrete steps.
What if we approached the student journey differently. Not like a highway from discovery to enrolment to graduation, but as a flexible process of exploration?
- Put out really good, free educational content in various shapes and forms, be it podcasts, articles, free or paid online courses or events, each of them of course offering a path to related programmes;
- After enrolment, provide a route map of interlinking courses. Inside and outside your faculty / institution;
- Think about possible options for your students after graduation and signpost them explicitly
Now, all of the above will only work if you’re super clear about who you are, and who the ideal students are that you want to attract. Make the scenery on the path to your programmes irresistible!