Liaison: Maggie Paine

Stakeholders interviewed: Discussions with communications at staff meetings and with Tim Etchells; written feedback solicited; two focus groups with communicators (Mike McKenna, Stephen Diehl, Diane Foley, Katie Scott (E.S.), Mark Zelis, Regan Eberhardt, Robert Keren, Pam Fogg, Matt Jennings, Liza Sacheli Lloyd (CFA), Kelsey Eichhorn).

Overview

The communications department focused on development and delivery of content, use of content and design to both demonstrate what a top liberal arts college is all about and to differentiate Middlebury from its peers, access to information, and ways to share of information within work groups and across campus.

A key goal of the web site is to strengthen Middlebury's identity as the global liberal arts college and to reflect the College's brand mantra-Knowledge Without Boundaries. The site should demonstrate to visitors who/what Middlebury is, how it's different, and why it's relevant to their lives and to the world.

In addition, many of the requirements described by Admissions, College Advancement, and Project on Creativity apply to communications.

Development/Delivery of Content

  • Home page that conveys the full scope of Middlebury (One Midd), including LS, BLSE, BLWC, Schools Abroad, MIIS, MMLA, but that clearly highlights the undergraduate college and makes it easy to get to undergraduate admissions information.

    • Suggestion for how to reinforce this sense of the global liberal arts college: Use an interactive map/globe showing all parts of the College (including all sites abroad). Let people choose a location to visit and either "fly" them in using Google Earth or let them click on a map location, then provide content about that location (snapshot information, video, links for more exploring). Links would take you into specific areas of the site, where visitors could explore their particular interests.
    • Link this map to the College's online map, but have information about each building in a pop-up screen with brief description of building, photo, and links to other content. For example, for Ross Dining Hall, could have photo of the hall, menu for the day, video tour, link to story on Dolci or food review and other dining-related topics.

  • Use content and design to showcase core strengths
  • Site should be "cool," up to date, convey sense that Middlebury is current.

    • Site should be engaging and interactive with stories, photos, videos, slideshows, blogs, fun features.

      • "Eye candy:" animation, photos, graphics were cited in prospective student focus group as key. However, these should be easy to bypass, so we don't irritate visitors to the site.
      • Must reflect the beauty of the campus, sense of place, the intellectual excitement of classes and research, and convey what it would be like to be a student and that this is a welcoming and diverse campus community, etc. Student life is key (dorms, dining halls, people, activities, town of Middlebury, not isolated)
      • Content should convey advantages of top liberal arts schools and differentiate Middlebury from peer schools
      • Animation, videos, etc. should be easily bypassable and not prevent users from getting to information quickly

  • Engage students with fresh content on a regular basis.

    • Make it easy to pull stories, videos, slideshows, lectures, and photos developed for one purpose (such as admissions or advancement) into multiple other areas of the Web site, without having to re-enter it in the cms.
    • Make it easy to keep content up to date by automatically pulling information from Banner and databases wherever possible (such as course listings and schedules on faculty pages)
    • Ensure we have student-, alumni-, and faculty-generated content on the site. Enable them to submit/post stories, videos, photos etc. (perhaps even post a photo on the Middlebury site at the same time as they are posting on facebook or YouTube).
    • Online "live" chat with students and admissions officers
    • Videos

      • Available on all platforms
      • Ability to deliver embedded video on Midd site
      • Provide text in addition to video and audio files

    • Features that show off the sense of place and of people, some generated by communications, but others posted by members of the community. Example: photo-of-the week feature using some photos from professional photographers and some submitted by students, alumni, faculty, and staff; virtual tour; photo galleries; slideshows

  • Content and web pages that load quickly and are deliverable to web-capable cell phones, such as iPhone and Blackberry.
  • Course catalog that is easy to use, searchable, allows you to view multiple courses from different departments, and that pulls data into professors' individual pages and potentially other locations on the Web site. In addition, the catalog needs to be archivable, since it has historical value as a snapshot of Middlebury in each year.
  • Personalized home page that enables the College to deliver information/content (emergency and HR info, events of interest, news headlines, etc.) to key audiences based on their personal preferences and the College's need to provide critical information.

Easy Access to Information

Site should make access to information easy

  • Improve navigation (drop-down menu?)
  • Improve search

    • Consider artificial intelligence: ability for prospective students to type in a search term or questions and for the server to recognize what information they want and to deliver it.

      • "Ask Middlebury" feature, similar to Ask Jeeves. Ex: What if I don't have a graded essay?

    • Provide search tool that allows you to type words directly into it

  • Robust site index-The Librarians' Internet Index is an example of what we could do: http://lii.org. Example: If you wanted to find information about the College's average class size, you could go to the index under, "statistics, Middlebury," and find a hyperlinked list of sources, broken into categories and subcategories, containing statistical information.
  • Better access to tracking and analytics
  • Ability to easily share content from Facebook or other sites with colleagues on personalized pages
  • One log-on to get to all Middlebury sites. Consider using Facebook sign-on for Middlebury personalized page.
  • Provide html versions of all PDFs

Improve sharing of information within work groups and across campus

  • Develop a searchable database of stories, video, slideshow, quotes that can be used by communicators, admissions, and advancement to tell the Middlebury story.
  • Provide access to Moodle, twitter, or yammer on personalized page to get feedback from colleagues in work group and share documents and other content.
  • Improve the FTP site to make it easy to use and widely accessible.

Other

  • Customer service: provide a central (e-mail) point of contact for web site users. That person could then direct them to the correct department.
  • System for notifying collaborating departments when someone updates shared content on the Web site, ensuring that changes made on a page in one department are reflected in all place where that topic is featured.

Posted by Ryan Kellett on January 30, 2009
Tags: Uncategorized

Total comments on this page: 0

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