Enter the Market – Course Data

I’m not at Dev8Ed this week, though I probably should be, but here’s what I’d have probably tinkered with had I gone – a recipe for creating a class of XCRI (course marketing data) powered websites to support course choice on a variety of themes and that could be used to ruthlessly and shamelessly exploit any and every opportunity for segmenting audiences and fragmenting different parts of the market for highly targeted marketing campaigns. So for example:

  • let’s start with something easy and obvious: russelgroupunis.com (sic;-), maybe? Search for courses from Russell Group (research intensive) universities on a conservatively branded site, lots of links to research inspired resources, pre-emptively posted reading lists (with Amazon affiliate codes attached); then bring in a little competition, and set this site up as a Waitrose to the Sainsburys of 1994andallthat.com, a course choice site based around the 1994 Group Universities (hmmm: seems like some of the 1994 Group members are deserting and heading off to join the Russell Group?); worthamillionplus.com takes the Tesco ads for the Million+ group, maybe, and unireliance.com (University Alliance) the Morrisons(?) traffic. (I have no idea if these uni group-supermarket mappings work? What would similarly tongue-in-cheek broadsheet/tabloid mappings be I wonder?!). If creative arts are more your thing, there could be artswayforward.com for the UKIAD folk, perhaps?
  • there are other ways of segmenting the market, of course. University groupings organise universities from the inside, looking out, but how about groupings based on consumers looking in? At fiveAgrades.com, you know where the barrier is set, as you do with 9kQuality.com, whereas cheapestunifees.com could be good for bottom of the market SEO. wetakeanyone.com could help at clearing time (courses could be identified by looking at grade mappings in course data feeds), as could the slightly more upmarket universityclearingcourses.com. And so on
  • National Student Survey data could also play a part in automatically partitioning universities into different verticals, maybe in support of FTSE-30 like regimes where only courses from universities in the top 30 according to some ranking scheme or other are included. NSS data could also power rankings of course. (Hmm… did I start to explore this for Course Detective? I don’t remember…Hmmm…)

The intention would be to find a way of aggregating course data from different universities onto a common platform, and then to explore ways of generating a range of sites, with different branding, and targeted at different markets, using different views over the same aggregated data set but similar mechanics to drive the sites.

PS For a little inspiration about building course comparison websites based around XCRI data, NSS data and KIS data, it may be worth looking at how the NHS does it (another UK institution that’s hurtling towards privatisation…): for example, check out NHS Choices hospitals near you service, or alternatively compare GPs.

PPS If anyone did start to build out a rash of different course comparison sites on a commercial basis, you can bet that as well as seeking affiliate fees for things like lead generation (prospectuses downloaded/mailed, open day visits booked (in exchange for some sort of ‘discount’ to the potential student if they actually turn up to the open day), registrations/course applications made etc) advertising would play a major role in generating site revenue. If a single operator was running a suite of course choice sites, it would make sense for them to look at how cross-site exploitation of user data could be used to track users across sites and tune offerings for them. I suspect we’d also see the use of paid placement on some sites (putting results to the top of a search results listing based on payment rather than a more quality driven ranking algorithm), recreating some of the confusion of the early days of web searchengines.

I suspect there’d also be the opportunity for points-make-prizes competitions, and other giveaways…

Or like this maybe?


[Disclaimer: the opinions posted herein are, of course, barely even my own, let alone those of my employer.]

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

One thought on “Enter the Market – Course Data”

  1. At the danger of looking like I’m spamming your post some links which might be useful to you and others:

    Owen Stephens UCAS Course code lookup and xcri-cap format http://www.meanboyfriend.com/overdue_ideas/2010/03/ucas-course-code-lookup-take-two/

    I’ve also opened some issues with the xcri-aggregator data:

    Duplicate identifiers in OAI-PMH data? https://github.com/k-int/XCRI-Aggregator/issues/47
    Aggregator sparql interface – timing out https://github.com/k-int/XCRI-Aggregator/issues/46


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