Any views expressed within media held on this service are those of the contributors, should not be taken as approved or endorsed by the University, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University in respect of any particular issue.

Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

Creating positive change, one step at a time…

In these early stages of our new team, I’ve been introducing everyone to working within an agile framework. Scrum is new to everyone except Neil and I, but I’m finding everyone is adapting to the methodology really well. This is a quick overview of what it’s all about.

Our bold and ongoing mission can be considered this: create useful, relevant and timely content and experiences so that student enquirers and applicants have the answers they need – where and when they need them. Ultimately, allow our readers to be successful in what they need to do.

And of course, by ensuring our users are served in a meaningful way, we will also deliver tangible benefits to the University itself.

As Neil outlined in the team’s inaugural blog post, much of our early work going into next year focuses on improving the PGT fees experience and can proceed with confidence. Against a backdrop of digital principles, we’ll be looking to bring positive change, ensuring:

  • Fewer ineligible or wasted applications
  • Fewer unnecessary enquiries
  • Reduced duplication of effort
  • Better decision making through evidence

Content as a service – how I think about websites

Working in an agile capacity

But how does our team plan to deliver the work that will make big changes from early next year and beyond? Here lies the challenge. Consider the size of the University’s digital estate (thousands of websites), the hundreds of stakeholders, the multiple points of entry for our (diverse) audience and the many potential routes through our web estate. How do you make tangible change in that ecosystem?

You do it by focusing on the most important things first. For the reader. For the organisation.

The new Prospective Student Web Content Team is adopting an Agile approach to delivery, using the Scrum framework.

Don’t worry about the language here, the terms themselves are not important and are often used interchangeably:

  • Agile is a methodology from the world of software development. And it’s all about creating iterative and incremental value – bringing change in small bursts over time.
  • Scrum is simply a framework for working in an Agile capacity. The term is borrowed from the game of rugby, emphasising the importance of teams working together to score a try!

A useful analogy is the difference between a diet and a recipe. If Agile is the diet, then scrum might be a recipe you follow to help achieve the goals of the diet.

The Beginner’s Guide to Scrum and Agile Project Management (

We want to fix student problems through better content design. We can do that by:

  • identifying their priorities
  • working in a fully transparent manner
  • self-organising and delivering regular improvements
  • ensuring we can adapt to change
  • regularly reflecting on how we can be more effective

Being able to loop work back into the product backlog for revaluation every iteration makes Scrum very powerful.

How we’re working – Scrum fundamentals

Scrum provides a means to do all that and more. It provides a simple structure of roles, meetings and rules which allow us to work in a collaborative space – with each other, and with the organisation itself.

Guided by business priorities and user research the Scrum framework lets us pool and organise all work into a product backlog. This is basically a big list of all the things that need to be done.

This is routinely updated and prioritised by Neil, our interim product owner – the person responsible for sorting the product backlog based on those priorities. However, in the longer-term, we’ll be:

  • working with several product owners from other steering groups representing different corners of the organisation (UG, WP & Visiting / PGT and OL PGT / PGR)
  • regularly carrying out user research, letting us stay close to our readership

This means we’ll be able to maintain an ongoing and accurate picture of work priorities over time. The product backlog reflects business and user need as they evolve.

In a sprint planning session, the team examine those priorities and decide which tasks should be brought into the sprint to work on next.

An overview of the prospective student team Scrum cycle

Scrum provides a simple structure of roles, meetings and rules which allow us to work in a collaborative space – with each other, and with the organisation itself.

Sprints are fixed-length periods of work, typically a fortnight to a month long.

A key feature of the Scrum framework is that teams are self-organising, responsible for creating and adapting their processes within the framework themselves.

If the team choose tasks for a sprint then they commit to carrying out that work in the specific time period. The sprint space is also the area for collaboration. Increasingly, we’ll be working with colleagues from service areas and students throughout the university. Throughout the sprint the team share progress, every day, via a short time-boxed daily stand-up.

At the end of the sprint, the team carefully consider the successes and problems associated with the recent sprint delivery, in a sprint review. At this point, the whole team also work with the product owner to decide what work is ‘complete’ and what should, in fact, be delivered.

What does that all mean? Ultimately, we can push real change on an ongoing basis, from sprint to sprint, and always based on our priorities.

Scrum is also about active learning

The beauty of Scrum comes in its cyclical nature. Work that isn’t ready to be delivered can be tweaked and reintroduced into the next sprint. And as completed elements of priority work are released we can monitor first-hand how it’s all doing.

If something isn’t working as anticipated, or needs to change – or if new evidence, insight or business priorities come to hand – we can re-calibrate and adapt.

Being able to loop work back into the product backlog for revaluation every iteration makes Scrum very powerful.

At the end of every sprint, the team can also reflect on how well the process of delivery is actually faring, in a sprint retrospective.

So the repeating, cyclical nature of the framework isn’t just about the product itself. It also works to encourage collaboration, fine tuning our ways of working on an ongoing basis.

These regular and informed short cycles of activity will allow us to improve areas of website provision for prospective students over time. Supporting our evidence-based decisions, investing more in ideas as we learn.

Active learning is a first-class citizen of our product backlog.  

Find out what we delivered in our last sprint!

2 replies to “Creating positive change, one step at a time…”

Leave a reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Report this page

To report inappropriate content on this page, please use the form below. Upon receiving your report, we will be in touch as per the Take Down Policy of the service.

Please note that personal data collected through this form is used and stored for the purposes of processing this report and communication with you.

If you are unable to report a concern about content via this form please contact the Service Owner.

Please enter an email address you wish to be contacted on. Please describe the unacceptable content in sufficient detail to allow us to locate it, and why you consider it to be unacceptable.
By submitting this report, you accept that it is accurate and that fraudulent or nuisance complaints may result in action by the University.