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How Tech Is Transforming the College Search

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Brad Anderson


In the past, anyone interested in attending a college had a challenging time ahead of them. First, they needed to fill out paper application forms. High schoolers had to physically visit campuses, which naturally restricted the number of colleges they could consider. Finally, they had to scrounge and research just to come up with a list of potential candidates in the first place.

Today, prospective students have a much easier path. Technology has streamlined the process of finding, considering, and applying to a university. Here are a few of the most significant ways that tech is transforming the college search process.

1. Digital Marketing Is Opening Up Doors

Search engine optimization (or SEO) is how an organization or individual increases their organic search traffic online. Companies use SEO as a long-term investment to build valuable e-commerce and business websites.

Not surprisingly, colleges and universities use SEO, too. For instance, WebFX highlights different ways colleges are using SEO to increase enrollment. This includes using long-form on-site content, keyword targeting, social media posts, load speed, and other factors to help students find their websites and online resources.

In addition, they use search engine marketing (SEM) to analyze target demographics. They can then funnel digital ads and promotions to their identified audience using pay-per-click (PPC) marketing.

The ability to utilize digital marketing techniques is opening up doors for colleges to reach more potential students. Things like SEO, SEM, and PPC empower higher-education organizations to widen their pool of prospects in a manner that wasn’t possible before the advent of the internet.

2. Online Content Offers Copious Resources

The online content that a college generates has also become an effective part of many universities’ recruiting tool kits. This digital content can have a significant impact on whether or not someone attends a school.

For instance, many colleges have social profiles. This can boost brand awareness and provide new avenues for PPC marketing on social platforms. This also has the effect of engaging with prospects on their terms and in their own environment, where they’re more comfortable and willing to listen.

A college blog is also a great digital content resource. It can provide everything from current class schedules to dorm info, food choices, and other common questions. Pictures and videos can also showcase important or attractive areas of campus. Again, this can set expectations and show off a school’s strengths.

3. Tech Is Simplifying Communication

Gone are the days of limited communication and long phone calls. Instead, students can now choose from various communication channels to engage with a university’s enrollment personnel.

These multiple points of contact include everything from emails and phone numbers to text messages and video calls. It’s easy to provide information about a school’s different communication channels right on its website and social profiles, too. This makes it easy for prospects to reach out and engage with college admissions in whatever format is comfortable for them.

In addition to the basics, tech is also making communication easier in more complex ways. For instance, along with traditional open houses and personalized tours, High Point University offers virtual tours of its campus. HPU presents this in an interactive online format that features visual and audible elements. The tour provides an immersive and detailed experience for anyone considering attending the school.

It’s worth pointing out that, even if an individual visits HPU in person, they can use tech to their advantage. The school also has a streamlined and painless way to schedule on-site tours right from its website. Regardless of if the activity is in person or online, it’s a good example of how colleges can use tech to enhance their communication with prospects across the board.

4. Honest Reviews Are Readily Available

Another area where tech is quietly making a difference is in the area of reviews. The internet has made it possible for anyone and everyone to have their voices heard. This has led to the creation of a powerful, decentralized review framework. Everything from employers to dog treats has feedback at this point — including universities.

There are many sites online that allow students to share their experiences from their schools. The Scholarship System has compiled a nifty list of eight of the best websites for finding authentic college reviews.

As with all feedback, it’s important to take each individual review with a grain of salt (e.g. if someone had a bad experience, expect a review with a strong negative bias at all times).

Still, the ability to effortlessly see what others think about a potential school is a powerful tool in the hands of future students. It’s also a great way for college admissions to hone their online presence and cultivate a positive brand image.

5. Paperless Processes Are Streamlining Admissions

Once a prospect has discovered a school online, conducted research via reviews and on-site content, gone on a virtual tour, and communicated with admissions to apply and get accepted, it’s time for the paperwork. Except, thanks to modern tech, in many cases, the “paper” part of paperwork has been removed from the equation.

Tools like SIGNiX offer paperless admission solutions for educational institutions. Colleges and universities can use digital signatures to speed up the process. This reduces the hassle for everyone involved. Admissions staff can devote their time to other tasks. Students can also focus on preparing for their upcoming educational adventures.

Tech Is Rewriting the College Admission Process

As with every other area of life, technology is completely changing the game when it comes to college search.

SEO and SEM are making it easier than ever for prospects around the world to discover universities that they can attend. Online content generated by universities and students alike offers a treasure trove of resources and reviews for prospects to use as they learn about a school. Tech-driven communication is making everything from asking questions to college tours more accessible. Paperless admission is taking the headache out of college admissions.

No matter how you look at it, there’s no doubt that technology is rewriting the script for the better when it comes to universities finding and engaging with prospective students.

Image Credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels. Thank you!

Brad Anderson

Editor In Chief at ReadWrite

Brad is the editor overseeing contributed content at ReadWrite.com. He previously worked as an editor at PayPal and Crunchbase. You can reach him at brad at readwrite.com.

Politics

A Quick Guide to Understanding Your phpMyAdmin Area

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phpMyAdmin


If you use a WordPress website, it probably uses a MySQL database. Another one that it might use is called MariaDB.

Every website needs one of those to store information like passwords, posts, and user data. When WordPress can’t connect to your MySQL database, your website probably won’t be accessible.

There are a handful of reasons why it’s important to understand how it works. Here are a few that I can think of.

  •   You may need to delete old data or tables
  •   You may need to update the titles of a ton of different posts at once
  •   An individual database table might need to be imported or exported

In order to get to the area we’re going to talk about, click “phpMyAdmin” from your website’s control panel. It may say “Access PhpMyAdmin” or some similar variation like mine does below.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

The next screen you should see looks like this:

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

On the left-hand side, click the database that corresponds to your website. In my case, it’s “backupweathersite” below “New” in the tree. Then, you should be at the screen we’re talking about:

phpMyAdmin

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

The menu highlighted in red has some useful tabs on it for doing the types of things I mentioned above. Starting with Structure, here’s what you can do with each one.

Structure

Structure is probably the most important of all the tabs because it lists the tables of your database. Each table has its own set of options, like emptying it if you want to delete all the data. You can also drop the table if you want to get rid of the entire thing completely.

Be very careful with that. Instead of deleting everything, you can clear out things like old posts by running SQL queries.

SQL

Selecting SQL will give you this screen:

phpMyAdmin area

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

There, you can run SQL queries. For example, on one of my sites, I need to remove expired jobs pretty often. If I don’t, the database fills up even if the jobs are deleted on the frontend. This causes the site to slow down a lot, and I can’t add new posts or other data.

The solution? Running this query: delete from `wp_posts` where `post_status` = ‘expired’

That takes care of thousands of old jobs in about a second, which is pretty nice!

As a side note, the screenshots in this article are from a local WordPress installation I have for a different project.

Search

Search does what it sounds like it would. When you put something in the main search field, it will automatically go through the entire database, looking for anything that’s a match. 

Here’s a tip that might also help: you can choose to include or exclude searching specific tables if you want so it doesn’t search everything.

phpMyAdmin

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Query

The Query tab essentially does the same thing that the SQL tab does, except it offers guidance for creating the query. You can select the table that you want the query executed in from a dropdown and then click “Update query” to see it in the window below.

phpMyAdmin screenshot

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Export

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Export allows you to download all of the tables from your database. This is useful if you want to do manual backups periodically (although there are some great plugins that can handle that). You can export the tables in a bunch of different formats, too.

These include SQL, PDF, CSV, XML, and a handful of others that you’ve probably never heard of. Mainly, Texy! Text and YAML.

Import

The import function allows you to bring in outside database tables to yours.

phpMyAdmin

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

You can only import a table if it doesn’t exist in the current database. If the table exists already, you will get an error, and the import won’t finish, according to DreamHost.

The file can be compressed or uncompressed in a few different formats. Those include bzip2, gzip, or zip files. Something you may not be used to is the compressed file name.

It needs to be structured like “.[format].[compression]”. An example of a common one is “.sql.zip”.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

 

You can choose from a handful of different formats. These include CSV, ESRI Shape File, MediaWiki Table, OpenDocument Spreadsheet, SQL, and XML.

There are also a number of different SQL compatibility modes. The compatibility mode setting will dictate how MySQL works. We won’t go into each one and talk about the differences, but your options for those are ANSI, DB2, MAXDB, MYSQL323, MYSQL40, MSSQL, ORACLE, and TRADITIONAL.

Operations in phpMyAdmin

This tab gives you the ability to perform a handful of different operations, like creating a table and renaming the database. In order to create a new table, just put in a name, and the number of columns, and click Go.

Siteground has a great tutorial for creating tables since things can get kind of complicated. Below that, you can rename the database. The check box that says “Adjust privileges” is there because MySQL does not adjust the original privileges related to the database on its own.

When you check that box, phpMyAdmin adjusts the privilege table, so users have the same privileges on the new items. If you do that, the privileges for all the database-related elements are also adjusted to the new name. That includes things like tables, columns, or procedures.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

This section also allows you to do things like copy the database to another one and change table collations. A collation is a set of rules that defines how to compare and sort character strings.

You probably won’t ever need to mess with things like collation, but it’s nice to be semi-familiar with that, just in case.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

 One other thing is that you can’t really rename a database. When you do that, phpMyAdmin will create a new one (example below) and drop the old.

phpMyAdmin area

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Routines in phpMyAdmin

The Routines section looks like this:

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

“Filters” won’t do anything unless you actually select a database to search. Putting a word into the “Containing the word:” section will find all of the tables containing that word in your database.

Routines are procedures and functions that do various things, like the job data cleanup function mentioned earlier. You can add one there, and it will be displayed under that tab.

Events

In the event scheduler tab, you can create and run tasks automatically based on a schedule. The schedule can vary a lot, like running a task every couple of seconds to every few weeks. In order to use it, you will need to manually turn it on by clicking where it says “off” in the picture and then clicking “Add event”.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Triggers in phpMyAdmin

A trigger is a named database object that is associated with a table and that activates when a particular event occurs for the table. You could use a trigger to perform checks of values to be inserted into a table or to perform calculations on values involved in an update.

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Privileges in phpMyAdmin

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

The Privileges section allows you to make changes to current user privileges or export them to a new database. There are a handful of options for editing the privileges:

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

Designer

The Designer tab can be kind of a mess, as you can see (it’s in the “More” dropdown):

Image Source: Bob Buckley; Thank you!

The Designer feature is a graphical way of creating, editing, and displaying phpMyAdmin relations. These relations are compatible with those created in phpMyAdmin’s relation view.

To use this feature, you need a properly configured phpMyAdmin configuration storage and must have the $cfg[‘Servers’][$i][‘table_coords’] configured. It’s unlikely you’ll ever need to do anything in this tab.

Wrapping Things Up

Going into the phpMyAdmin area for a WordPress site can be pretty daunting. If you find yourself in that position, it’s important to be familiar with all the different aspects of the dashboard. Understanding the basics of what each section does will help you navigate and get things done a little quicker with less of a headache.

Featured Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Thank you!

Bob Buckley

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How to Help Women in Business Get Past Gender Barriers to Management

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Free Your Money: Strategies for Keeping Your Money In The Best Place Possible - ReadWrite


According to a recent Women in the Workplace study from Lean In and McKinsey, the most significant barrier women face in business these days isn’t the glass ceiling. Instead, it’s the floor—the barrier to entry-level management positions.

Although women now own 4 out of every 10 businesses in the U.S. and are making great strides at the top of the career ladder, they’re still missing from entry-level and middle management positions. That’s something companies of all sizes need to address.

Women in business means greater success

It’s not just about diversity (although that’s a worthy goal in itself). Statistics suggest that hiring women for positions of leadership helps your company succeed. For example, one study from Peakon revealed that when a company’s management includes 50% or more women, its employees feel more loyal to the company and its products or services.

2017 Morgan Stanley report echoes these findings, suggesting that gender diversity in a company translates to enhanced productivity, more significant innovation in product and service design, improved decision-making, and decreased employee turnover, with an associated higher level of worker satisfaction.

Try implementing these three strategies to fix that broken rung at the bottom of the career ladder and get more women into entry-level management roles.

1. Start from the ground up.

As the Women in the Workplace study suggests, the first task for any business committed to helping increase the number of women in leadership positions is to hire and promote women more often.

Your job is to make your workplace more attractive to diverse candidates. Start with neutralizing your job notices and ads. Go over every ad line by line before you release or publicize an open position. Avoid potentially off-putting terms like “rock star” and “ninja.” Some of the more qualified female candidates might interpret those as code for “male candidates preferred.”

Also, consider following the example set by Buffer. Based on the understanding that women are far less likely than men to apply for a job if they don’t precisely match the image created by the ad, Buffer encourages all candidates to apply, even if they feel they don’t meet every single qualification.

If you want to reach more women candidates, consider going where they are. For example, open up your job search by sharing the job notice on platforms and websites with audiences with a significant female component.

2. Commit to taking action

Set actionable goals for both hiring and promoting women into first-level management. Clear establishment of metrics and a commitment to meeting those metrics can help foster positive change for your company as you seek to diversify its management.

For example, if there are two candidates, one male, and one female, the female candidate has a 50% chance of winning the job. However, if there are three female candidates and one male candidate, the possibility that one of those women will win the job goes up to 67%.

However, if you reverse that scenario, with three men and one woman, her chance of winning the job plummets. One way to combat this kind of unconscious bias is to set a concrete goal of advancing an equal number of men and women to the final round of evaluation. Creating this type of rule helps you see beyond mere lip service to the ideals of “promoting the qualified candidates” to truly evaluate your candidates based on their qualifications without unconscious bias.

Finally, seek to establish clear, neutral evaluation criteria. Ensure your hiring and promotion evaluation criteria are based on the actual duties required in the position, not on some outdated assessment that hasn’t been standardized and edited for gender neutrality.

3. Get to the root of unconscious bias.

Training evaluators and supervisors to spot and combat unconscious bias can help root out the obstacles to promoting women to leadership positions in your company. But how do you identify a bias when it’s not consciously held?

One way is to test your systems. For example, the next time your company is hiring for a potential leadership or feeder position and a female candidate is weeded out at a pre-interview stage, consider advancing her to the next round regardless. If she proves herself qualified at the interview based on the feedback you get, you might have some bias at work in your processes.

Additionally, implement committed-based evaluation processes. Groups with balanced representation can help root out and neutralize individual biases. At the same time, they can help provide a more robust assessment of each candidate’s strengths and challenges.

Published First on Due. Read Here.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by RODNAE Productions; Pexels; Thank you!

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Simplifying AI Can Optimize Your Entire Business

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Simplifying AI Can Optimize Your Entire Business


Artificial intelligence is becoming less of a futuristic technology and a more integral aspect of today’s business landscape.

The usage of AI across the business universe is revolutionizing every industry, and Gartner reports that at least 75% of organizations use deep neural networks today.

In financial departments, AI is automating menial tasks and reducing errors in traditional manual workflows.

AI’s unfounded fears

There’s no doubt that businesses utilizing the right AI for the right reasons are seeing exponential benefits. Unfortunately, not every business unit is as excited about the available AI solutions that finance departments are gifted with. Change management is a significant component of failure when implementing any transformative technology.

Many humans still have unfounded fears about it gaining sentience or replacing them, and workers are wary of becoming obsolete once their daily tasks are automated.

But that’s never been the point of AI, machine learning, and automation because they augment human intelligence.

Humans are still very necessary

Take OpenAI’s GPT-3 and Dall-E 2 text- and image-generating models for example. Although they can generate a 1,000-word blog post with images within seconds, there could be a lot of legal liability issues if you were to publish raw content generated by one of these models directly on your website.

The content is never 100% accurate; human interaction is still essential to train, implement, and use AI across the business.

Simplifying AI for the average worker

AI data sets and outputs need to remain accessible, and making them accessible means tapping into everyone throughout the organization to apply their professional judgment to the data sets. This provides the machine’s velocity, variety, and veracity as it learns.

AI in financial departments

AI’s use in financial departments is so successful because payroll, compliance, accounting, taxes, etc., is complicated — especially when you’re a multinational corporation or utilizing the remote global workforce unlocked by the pandemic.

Expansive data sets

But you can import expansive data sets into AI to make it more useful. Streamlining all of this and optimizing processes not only reduces errors, but it frees up human workers to perform more advanced analytics that are closer to the reason they got into the industry in the first place.

How simplifying AI can open up usage possibilities

Simplifying AI for the average worker means they can focus on less menial, more innovative tasks and accomplish much more in less time.

GPT-3 and Dall-E 2 may not have flawless, production-ready outputs, but they utilize neural networks on large datasets of about 175 billion parameters across 45TB of text data. As a result, they’re perfect for ideation and conceptual work to get a firm visual image of the final product to work from.

Pass it around

Although their outputs seem wildly different (text versus images), both of OpenAI’s creations work similarly. While it seems like AI leads to faster advancements, what really happens is we discover one important concept that opens the door to new possibilities.

This is why getting the technology in as many hands as possible is important to see how others find use in the outputs it creates.

How AI brings more value to a business

As the quality of content-generating AI debate rages in the media and online forums, the technology’s uses for internal business functions are even more remarkable.

New ways of looking at things — skilled data scientists

AI across the business continues to open new ways of looking at things and allows skilled data scientists to develop complex models to predict anything you need to know — from machine health to possible market conditions and forecasting.

AI across the business can and will go beyond personal assistants, voice-to-text, and personalized recommendations to bring value to the roles of individual employees.

Better use of time

Leveraging specific AI technologies throughout the business keeps human workers at every level working only on tasks that cannot be automated. This includes processing exceptions to the rules (which there will always be), analyzing AI-generated outputs, and more.

Instead of spending our days manually putting together reports, we will be analyzing pre-generated reports and making advanced intelligent decisions.

Embracing artificial intelligence

When GPT-3 and Dall-E 2 were released, both writers and designers feared for their jobs. However, those fears were relieved as they tested the tools and got more comfortable with them. These tools can generate amazing work to assist writers and designers, but it still requires skill to understand how to prompt it for the desired results.

A professional can edit and polish it throughout the process in a variety of ways that will always require human instinct.

And an experienced photographer or graphic designer will get higher-quality outputs and know how to fix them in posts.

Focusing on higher priorities

Familiarizing yourself with these types of tools helps to better understand what they’re truly capable of and how they can be implemented into existing workflows while seeking better, faster, and more optimized ways to do things. That’s how finance departments leveraged AI to accomplish the most laborious and error-prone aspects of their jobs so they can focus on more important things.

And it won’t be long before AI transforms every aspect of every business.

Featured Image Credit: Sergey Zolkin; Unsplash; Provided by the Author; Thank you!

Melissa Chan

Director of Customer Success at MindBridge

Melissa Chan is Director of Customer Success at MindBridge. She has made it a mission to innovate accounting and auditing.

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