Program Explorer: A game-changing tool for future students

October 25, 2022

RRC Polytech has launched a game-changing new web tool to help support prospective students as they map out their futures.

The recently unveiled Program Explorer tool, along with newly revised program webpages, will allow prospective students to search for programs according to their specific needs and interests, filtering options based on a set of criteria that includes program type and length, location and credential.

In the past, such details were traditionally shared via print and digital versions of the RRC Polytech Viewbook. With the adoption of a more flexible online platform, this information is now easier to update and more relevant to the prospective student journey.

Program Explorer is also completely independent of RRC Polytech’s online Catalogue, making it easier for the College to update aging infrastructure without having to worry about integration issues.

As student recruitment officer Felipe Matoso explains, the project was driven by his department’s primary goal: providing comprehensive supports to future RRC Polytech students.

“To achieve that goal, we listen to what they need,” says Matoso. “Through conversations with future students, research and collaboration with other areas of the College, we mapped the future student journey — from first hearing about RRC Polytech to submitting an application — and we identified the major gaps and opportunities.

“One of our key findings was that future students needed more relatable content in order to choose a program: examples of alumni success stories, work opportunities after graduation, or cool things that happen in a program, such as co-op placements or other events. We addressed that by creating new program webpages that are very easy to navigate, but also rich in content.”

Another finding was that future students often struggle to explore the College’s 200+ programs, and are frustrated by efforts to manually seek out offerings that are a good fit. It was these struggles that spurred the development of Program Explorer, which simplifies the search process and drastically reduces the number of clicks required to easily access information.

Research also showed that future students experience anxiety when faced with decisions relating to post-secondary education — often because they can’t tell whether a program will be a good fit. To alleviate their concerns, developers worked with academic areas across the College to create lists of personality traits, skills and interests specific to each program.

“I’m a Business Administration grad, but I was scared to apply for that program because I had a mechanical engineering background and wasn’t sure if my existing skills would help me succeed in the program or in the industry,” says Matoso.

“It turns out my transferable skills really helped me — and it would have been good to know that before I applied. With the enhanced webpages in Program Explorer, we’re helping students to figure that out.”

Since Program Explorer launched five weeks ago, it’s already racked up more than 170,000 pageviews, with visitors spending an average of more than a minute and a half on each page, indicating a very high level of user engagement.

Not surprising, given the College’s Marketing and Web Presence team has been hard at work on the project since spring, collaborating with the College’s Academic division — including deans and program leads (chairs, coordinators, managers, etc.) — and conducting a fulsome series of user experience tests with a diverse cohort of local and international students.

Going forward, the team will continue making adjustments based on UX best practices and data from platforms such as Google Analytics and Hotjar, which allow the College to better understand user behaviour and address opportunities for improvement.

Upcoming features include a more robust search tool that allows visitors to search by more than just program names, to sort results alphabetically or by best match based on search terms, and to view side-by-side comparison charts of different programs’ various elements.

“Finally having a tool that our prospective students can use to discover their options — and who we are — is such a rewarding gift,” says student recruitment officer Clint Thiessen.

“I’m excited that students now have that additional support to guide them through their post-secondary education discovery and exploration journeys. This tool is also an incredible support for our educational partners — such as guidance counsellors, teachers and agents — who help their students make informed decisions about their futures.”