Engage and Excite! 10 Tools to Transform Your Pre-Departure Guide

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It’s one of the most important parts of a study abroad program. It can be the difference between students successfully adapting to their new home or losing their marbles in a foreign place.  It’s the pre-departure guide. These guides are all about prepping students for their upcoming international adventure; giving them the information, tools and access to resources that will keep them ahead of the curve when it comes to going abroad.  It’s a well-supported fact that an effective pre-departure guide leads to smoother transitions, better coping strategies, and maximizes the students’ overall experiences while abroad.

But you may be losing your students before you even start. That’s right! They may be checking out before the prep has even started! Really, it’s not that hard to imagine. How many times have you been faced with a long list of PDFs to read and either breezed through them without total comprehension or just blown it off completely? I know I’m guilty! Let’s face it, using only static PDFs in today’s world is like using an abacus instead of the calculator app on your smartphone.

In business-speak, it’s called “onboarding”, but really it’s just the process of educating and guiding people through a new task or platform – in our case, your pre-departure guide! The key is to enhance the user (read: student) experience.  If the pre-departure guide doesn’t seem to capture students’ attention and resonate with them, it’s probably not.

So, in no particular order, here’s 10 tools and tips you can use to make your pre-departure guide REALLY work! 10 ways to kick your pre-departure guide into 2015 and beyond.

1. Video

Never underestimate the effect that short, relevant videos can have on your students! Humans are visual creatures and actually seeing or hearing what you’re talking about will resonate powerfully with program participants.  Discussing perceptions of Americans abroad? Showing funny, but pointed videos like this can underscore your point more than any lecture will.  Do you have videos from previous program participants? Make those a part of your pre-departure guide and student interest will be sparked, guaranteed!

2. Interactive Quizzes

It’s important to establish where each student is throughout the pre-departure process.  Quizzes can help determine where you need more emphasis or information.  Is everyone acing the questions on medical and health? Is the majority of your group confused on credits or course options? These quizzes can be as specific or general as you want, but will hopefully get you some practical information regarding your students’ needs.

3. AppCues

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Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 5.42.59 PM

AppCues lets you create personalized “flows” on your site or application.  You can create step-by-step guides, notifications, and tutorials (all of which are compatible online and on mobile apps) without having to write a single line of code.  This means that you can design, publish, and manage your students’ online experience, enabling them to get the most out of your pre-departure guide and all of its components.  Bonus: it comes with analytical systems that show you how the students are using the site.

COST: $45-450/month

4. Hopscotch

Hopscotch

Hopscotch

Hopscotch is framework which allows you to make a “tour” of any webpage.  Basically, once you add the Hopscotch CSS and JS files on your page (don’t worry, they have a fantastic tutorial), it allows you to create a tour made up of individualized messages.  It’s a great tool for giving your students step-by-step instructions for anything from assignments to filling out paperwork.

COST: Free

5. WalkMe

WalkMe

WalkMe

WalkMe allows you to make custom, interactive on-screen tutorials (“Walk-Thrus”) which help users complete tasks.  It’s awesome because you don’t need tech experience or knowledge about how to use code to increase the usability of your site. And even if your site changes, the software has a built-in algorithm that lets the Walk-Thru change seamlessly along with your site.

COST: Free to custom price plan

6. Tour My App

Tour My App

Tour My App

With Tour My App, you can engage your students with tools such as “tours”, demos or feature highlights.  All without any coding on your part! These handy tools are all subject to your preferences for look and style, so they match your site to the last detail.  It also comes with an analytical feature so you can tell where your students are getting stuck or if a tour needs to be updated.  Again, this is a great tool for navigating students through your pre-departure guide in a more engaging way!

COST: $24-250/month

7. Nickelled

Nickelled

Nickelled

This is a great support resource for students going through a pre-departure guide.  Basically, guides and tours you create and place throughout the site that allow students to get the most from your site.  In-depth analytics tell you which guides are being used most, how they are being used and if they’re even helping! And it’s easy to set up and integrates effortlessly across all devices and social media platforms.

COST: Pricing available upon request

8. Inline Manual

Inline Manual

Inline Manual

I’m a firm believer in learning by doing. And so are the folks at Inline Manual.  Inline Manual acts as a new layer over your existing website and integrates a bunch of helpful tools to enhance the user’s experience.  You can add walkthroughs to topics which can include text, images, videos or links. You can install “triggers” to help students know when to click “next” or where to fill in an empty field.  And you can create all of this without any code and from a single dashboard.

COST: Free to $59/month

9. Autosend

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Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 5.40.44 PM

One of the most difficult parts of the pre-departure process is making sure students have covered all of the steps necessary to get them out of the country and in their program smoothly.  That means dotting all the “i’s” and crossing all the “t’s”.  Autosend can take some of the burden off of program facilitators by sending personalized emails, texts, or in-app messages to “the right person, at the right time – automatically”.  In a study abroad context, this could be as simple as reminding students to read the next article after finishing one or sending important reminders about deadlines and assignments.

COST: Free (currently in beta)

10. Prezi

Prezi

Prezi

Most importantly, don’t feel like you need to spend a lot of money to make an effective and engaging pre-departure guide.  Tools like Prezi allow you to create slick, interesting presentations which all of your students can access, for free! In Prezi, you can directly embed pictures, videos, quizzes, and links to external content, all within one project.

Hopefully, with these tools and tips you can get out there and make a pre-departure guide that’s really going to stick with students and make your advising practices more dynamic and accessible!