Jim Ralph, Dean of Faculty Development and Research
Franci Farnsworth, Coordinator of Sponsored Research
Alison Darrow, Science Grants and Writing Facilitator
Our website serves several constituents:
- the Controller's office: we host their grant-related policies and information
- faculty seeking grants: we supply tips, data, institutional policies & guidelines, forms, etc. to help guide proposal writing and application
- Advancement's office of Corporate and Foundation Relations: we share some policies and procedures, which are hosted at our site
- the Dean of Faculty Development and Research: our site announces faculty grants and annual reports of grants awarded, a key way to celebrate faculty successes
We are a two-person office that reports to the DFDR; both of us maintain and update the site. Out offices are spread throughout campus (the Library, Bi Hall, Old Chapel), so sharing information electronically is crucial. The current site is an artifact of dumping old paper-based documents online in order to have at least some web resource and then not having the time to update or redesign. As a result, the site doesn't invite active engagement and participation and is static and text-heavy. Faculty currently underuse our site, probably because it's easier to just call us than it is to find and use information at our site. Revision and redesign is now ongoing, but a lot of what we do is still email-driven.
What we hope for from a new site:
- an easier and more intuitive way to add linked pages, to help break up long blocks of text a way to add pop-ups, drop-down menus, etc., to keep users from having to navigate to other pages for short bits of supporting or related information
- an easier way to "hide" and control access to sensitive and confidential content
- ability to assign levels of access for stuff the office shares: currently we use Google docs for our department "whiteboard"
- access for many users (including faculty and student workers) to edit the site and notify us easily so we can approve content before publishing it
- dynamic linking to other departments' information, through Banner and other means, so that redundant updates aren't necessary
- a platform-neutral system
- ability to edit the site remotely
Features that would improve efficiency and help our workflow:
- customized user profiles
- a shared calendar
- an anual grants-deadline calendar with a way to let faculty subscribe to alerts and reminders (currently we have to spam them)
- a way to let faculty notify us that they plan to apply for specific grants
- ability to dynamically link to and from faculty CVs and other content required for proposal writing (Institutional Research data especially; links with the library's thesis archive; central database for faculty publications/achievements; faculty pages; career-path info for science alums, etc.)
Types of interactivity that would help our office communicate more effectively:
- drop-down menus and pop-up windows so we don't need to link to new pages - would flatten and simplify navigation considerably
- an index of terms & acronyms (offices, agencies, etc)
- dynamic timelines, checklists, and other forms that could be filled out online
- calculators, worksheets, spreadsheets with College and funding rates and percentages built in
- dynamic comments (e.g., user-contribute FAQ)
- feeds of sponsored & relevant events, such as guideline updates, workshops
- integrated links to Banner information
- dynamic link updating, so that if material shared with another department is moved, the link on our page still works (or we're notified to fix it)
Examples of functionality, design, and features from other colleges or industries that we like and admire:
- Google docs: clean, simple, fast, super-easy to use and share
- Google calendar: ditto
- Boston University: clean, uncluttered design, yet there's a lot going on; really like the tabbed navigation on the Home page and the way each tab slides aside to launch a video, interactive map, etc. (and that user has the option to interact or not).
- The Daily Beast: the Cheat Sheet is a great feature
Current functionality of the Middlebury site and CMS:
- Editing is OK but clunky and subject to unexpected results; especially formatting carrying over when you cut & paste. It would be helpful to be able to see formatting tags (toggle on and off) so we could find and fix weirdness. Currently sometimes have to delete and redo because we can't figure out how to fix the formatting.
- When Save refreshes the screen, it puts you at the top of the page: very annoying to have to scroll back down! Would be easier if it refreshed to where you left off.
- Hyperlink Mgr is great, very easy to use. Same with uploading documents.
- Really hate the way the right sidebar either doesn't reflect the page titles or creates redundancy - not certain what creates this problem - editing page titles after they're created? If so, the sidebar should reflect any changes to the page titles dynamically. Right now, we're not even sure the sidebar can be changed, once created.
- More flexibility with fonts and text size would be nice.
Posted by Ryan Kellett on January 30, 2009