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Indiana University Online Case Study

Powering Recruitment with the Ranku Platform

Background

Indiana University (IU) has been dedicated to preparing learners for almost 200 years. Its institutional vision is centered on providing excellent, relevant, and responsive education across a wide range of disciplines to students from all backgrounds and around the globe. To continue to deliver on this vision, the team at IU Online recognized the need to boost visibility of its diverse set of online programs offered across the large university system.

Challenge

In 2016 IU Online had a relatively small, comprehensive website that had been created internally. “Online Education is a small administrative office, relatively speaking, so we didn’t have sufficient technical expertise on hand to do things like really effective SEO. Developing those abilities internally would have required resources that would be better devoted to program development,” said Chris Foley, Associate Vice President for University Academic Affairs and Director of the Office of Online Education at IU. The website was also designed to meet the needs of multiple audiences, not just potential students. Foley and his team knew that they needed to do better with a more exclusively recruitment-oriented website and a global growth-oriented strategy: “We really needed a fine-tuned engine to help us convert potential students. So we were looking for another solution.”

The Strategy: Boost Visibility with a Streamlined Online Presence

The IU Online team became aware of Wiley Education Services’ Ranku platform, which maximizes efficiency in search capability, content management, and analytics. By incorporating SEO into the system, it boosts programs’ online visibility, enabling prospective students to find the website and gather information about programs quickly, helping them make the decision to request more information or proceed with an application.

Foley and his team were interested in Ranku’s capabilities, especially its easy-to-use, form-based content management system, which meant staff members without significant technical training could use it. They were also impressed by its record of success at other institutions and its streamlined, straightforward design. “When people think about state-of-the-art recruitment sites, they think all bells and whistles—high-res video and lots of persuasive copy,” said Foley. “In fact, students want a single action or two. You don’t want them to get distracted with a beautiful photograph and then run away to some article that doesn’t have an Apply Now button. You want the student to find a program, find out basic information, and then contact someone, or simply apply.”

Don Strawser, Associate Director of Information Technology for IU’s Office of Online Education, put it another way: “Students come to our website because they're responding to an ad or searching for a degree. Just like when you go to Amazon, it’s because you want to buy a book, not because you want to read about books or you want to see the pictures in books.”

Once the IU Online team made the decision to move forward with the Ranku platform, implementation was fast—about four months. During the initial development phase, IU Online worked with Wiley’s team to discuss what should be included on the platform, and the IU Online team worked on identifying existing copy and plugging it into Ranku’s content management system. Wiley’s technical team also integrated IU Online’s application system with the platform to ensure forms were processed smoothly. The website went live in February 2018.

The Results

Improvements were almost immediate. In the first 30 days after IU Online’s Ranku platform launched, inquiries grew by 77 percent (260 percent year over year) and the conversion rate increased by 395 percent (550 percent year over year). On average, the platform has generated 60 percent more leads per month.

After 90 days, IU Online saw even greater results:

  • Lead volume increased by 59 percent over the previous 90 days (175 percent year-over-year). The conversion rate increased by 250 percent (253 percent year-over-year).
  • Organic traffic grew 15 percent.
  • The bounce rate decreased by 33 percent.
  • Average user time-on-site increased by 62 percent.
  • Site load speed improved by 81 percent.

In addition, in 2017, more than 50 percent of IU Online’s monthly average traffic and RFIs came from paid marketing campaigns. In early 2018, it received the most traffic the site has ever received, largely due to increased organic traffic.

The number of applications received also increased dramatically—in fact, they tripled, growing 202.4 percent year-over-year between 2017 and 2018. Below is an overview of application performance received at the same time of year from 2016 to 2018:

Overall, more than half the online applications originate from the Ranku program pages. In addition, IU Online is receiving inquiries from potential students across the United States, not just areas where it has focused its marketing efforts. “It’s very enlightening to see where the need is out there and where the growth is,” said Lisa Denlinger, Associate Director of Marketing and Communication at the Office of Online Education at IU.  “We’ve definitely broadened our reach.”

The platform’s analytics dashboard feature also provides insights into which programs aren’t performing as expected, encouraging the IU Online team to reconsider its description and positioning, as well as noting the positive impact when information such as tuition costs were added to the website. While users at IU Online can access the dashboard themselves, they also receive a monthly report from Wiley and can request custom reports if desired. “With the Ranku platform, you’re not just buying a product—you’re buying competency as well,” said Foley. “Having access to a monthly conversation with Wiley has been a really nice benefit.”

The IU Online team was impressed that the Ranku platform more than met expectations. “We were able to actually get this in place quickly, started seeing the benefits, and then were able to pay attention to other areas of our business that really needed attention,” said Foley. “I can’t tell you how valuable that is.”

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