Finalsite's Founder and CEO Jon Moser provides thought leadership on the competitive international school market.The Association for the Advancement of International Education Annual Conference (AAIE) has proven year over year to hold true to their motto – Connect, Share, Lead. AAIE, a longtime partner of Finalsite, enables our team to connect with old and new leaders from around the world. It's like a family reunion. We see a lot of familiar faces, but this year it was exciting to see new faces as they bring good energy and change to the market.
Internationally we have found that the class of heads is exceptional and they are leading the market in a good direction, including Paul Fochtman of Frankfurt International School, who was voted Superintendent of the Year! He exemplifies outstanding leadership and service among international schools worldwide. It's people like Paul who have committed themselves to international education which in turn has helped fuel the massive growth in this market and bolstered the reputation of international education.
Their 52nd Annual Conference held last month in New York prompted the team at Finalsite to reflect on all that has happened in the past 18 years when we partnered with our first international school to build their website. At the same time, it has inspired us to share key takeaways on the future market direction and how we as a company are committed to meeting the challenges facing schools leaders in the coming years.
Looking back, when we first entered the international school market in 2005 by working with the International School of Brussels, there were 2,419 international schools serving 1.1 million students. Today, there are over 9,450 schools serving over 5 million students according to data from ISC Research, the leading supplier of data and intelligence on the English-medium K-12 international schools market.
Considering both our relationship with AAIE, and our nearly 20-year history in international schools, Finalsite's founder and CEO shared insights from working with over 225 schools in 80 countries. Key themes that he heard included: enrollment, parent communication, teacher recruitment, data privacy and protection and the role of social media in schools.
Below are the top five research and experience-based trends for international schools in 2018 and beyond.
Enroll the right students through a more meaningful web experience
International schools are unique in the fact that often families don't ever visit the school before enrolling so the website is often their first point of contact and sometimes their only point of contact. Cleary the website has to be engaging and up to the latest technology standards.
But to take that a step further, heads are looking for the right fit for their school – they want good inquiries that fit their profile and students that will succeed in their school not only academically but socially as well.
Our team spends a lot of time helping schools get that messaging across to perspective families so they really get to know the heart and soul of the school from their website. Through messaging, photography, infographics, landing pages that guide the user experience, and authentic relevant content, we can really help schools increase their inquiries and drive enrollment.
Search Engine Optimization is more critical than ever before
Another critical piece to the puzzle is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Google is by far the most popular search engine and they are constantly changing their algorithms so it's hard for schools to keep up with the changes. Whether schools tackle it themselves or work with a provider like us, heads need to ensure that no matter where people are searching from - their school is found. If you are an international school in a competitive market like Singapore or Dubai, SEO is even more critical to success.
New to Search Engine Optimization? Get started with this free SEO Worksheet.
Teacher recruitment is equally as important as student enrollment
Another key issue facing heads is recruiting topnotch faculty and staff. In 2005 there were just over 100,000 international teaching staff and today that number is 474,000; and based on growth trends, ISC Research forecasts there will be a need for an additional 200,000 full time teachers at international schools in the next five years.
Recruiting good teachers is just as critical as students: prospective staff and faculty go to your website, so why not provide the information they are looking for to make sure that is also a good fit? Zurich International School recently launched their new site and made great efforts to optimize their recruiting efforts. We have found that schools who showcase their schools more accurately and detailed are able to streamline their recruitment process as well as make better use of their time at recruitment fairs.
Parent Communication needs to be streamlined
Just when schools think they have it right, something new comes along like Instagram or Snapchat. Most schools struggle with parent communication and need to do a better job. Having information all over the place is dysfunctional, and losing a family due to poor communication should not happen.
Finalsite has taken a multi-pronged approach to parent communication as there is no one fit solution for all parents. Through portals, our robust eNotify newsletter, social media feeds and through our newly development blogging functionality called Posts, schools can really engage parents and keep them informed. Our new tools are state-of-the-art and enable schools to create an authentic, engaging and enjoyable parent experience.
Website hosting, data protection, and GDPR should not slow schools down
Heads of schools should not have to worry about the technology running their schools. Companies like Finalsite are here to do that; from website hosting and systems integration, to protecting your data, good technology companies utilize the latest tools and best practices to keep schools up and running.
GDPR is also a big worry at the moment and Finalsite is committed to working with schools to make it through the transition period. This year in particular I have found that heads are savvier about technology and how it can really make their lives easier — this is great to hear as the CEO of a tech company!
What's up next?
It's very rewarding to meet with colleagues year after year and hear their successes, but it is equally critical for our success as company to hear their pains so that we can ensure our products and services are relevant. AAIE provides just this opportunity and reinforces the fact that Finalsite is working on the right solutions to empower schools to meet their needs today with an eye towards the future.
I am always open to connecting with leaders to discuss their ideas, concerns and visions. These conferences last just a few days, but we like to keep the dialogue moving. I encourage people to reach out to me personally but also meet up with our team on the road or attend one of our Web Strategy Workshops where we showcase the latest trends and best practices. I am excited to be headed to ECIS in Berlin in April to meet with European leaders so look to join me there.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
As founder, CEO, and current Board Member of Finalsite, Jon Moser is passionate about web trends and strategies that impact education. For more than twelve years, Jon and Finalsite have been committed to providing cutting-edge web technology for clients. He is a frequent advisor, keynoter, blogger and presenter on all things web related. When he isn't at Finalsite HQ, Jon can be found on his farm raising chickens and selling free range eggs or spending time with his wife and five children.
As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 8 years while living in both Asia and Europe. From conference planning and presentations, to association events, and client success stories, she helps schools understand how they can maximize their web presence while partnering with Finalsite. In her free time she enjoys traveling and attending events at her children's school in Berlin, Germany.