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ApplyBC user experience under discussion

ApplyBC is the provincial service that anyone can use to apply to BC’s public post-secondary institutions. For the previous 15 years, this service has been known as PASBC, and it was the first online provincial application service in Canada. Since 2004, BCcampus has been responsible for managing and operating the service, under guidance from a Steering Committee of institutional and affiliate representatives.

During the past summer, a discussion framework for the future of ApplyBC was developed, distributed, and posted on our corporate wiki.

This framework identified the drawbacks to the current multiple application streams as well as providing three options for consideration and further discussion.

The key questions are: Does it still make sense to have a single, consistent, province-wide online process for prospective students to use to apply to BC post-secondary institutions? Does having the reporting capability to provide current aggregate information about applicant actions help institutions, applicants and government make quicker decisions that improve effectiveness and efficiency? Are the cost savings of maintaining a single set of forms sufficient for participating institutions?

This post focuses on the first question.

For prospective students, it’s pretty common to apply to more than one BC post-secondary institution. Historically, our usage reports indicate that nearly 30% of applicants used the PASBC system to apply to multiple institutions. Today, because a number of large institutions also utilize their own application forms, no-one knows how many people apply to multiple institutions overall. For last year, just under 20% of those applying used ApplyBC for multiple applications.

In 2006, when nearly all institutions referred applicants through the PASBC system, there were more than 340,000 applications processed, and we can extrapolate from more current data that this volume represents approximately 240,000 individuals – and if 30% applied to multiple institutions, that would mean that at least 70,000 people are applying to multiple institutions per year. Isn’t that a sufficient number to support a focus on simplicity and uniformity for users?

Another challenge users applying to some institutions through ApplyBC face is a result of the 2-stage process that these institutions employ: first, basic personal and academic information is entered through ApplyBC, and then users are sent to institutional websites and forms to complete their application process by selecting programs, timeframes, etc. It’s hard to make this a really smooth user experience in the current system, as is noted in this short video.

We can do a better job for our prospective students. See the options described in the framework – and please provide your feedback and your ideas for improvements.