Developing content about teaching in 2021-22: the start of a process, not the end
The unpredictability of the Covid-19 pandemic makes it hard to predict what teaching will look like in September. But we can still try to provide content that’s useful for students and helps us prioritise improvements.
Will my teaching be online or in person when classes start in September? It’s a question students and applicants are understandably asking more and more as the new academic year approaches.
Some near certainties amid the uncertainty
While it’s hard to predict what life will look like in September, we can be more certain that:
- questions about teaching in 2021 will increase in coming weeks and months
- if we say nothing on our website the only way for students to get any information on this is by asking staff at events or through our enquiry management service
- if we say what we can about our planning for next year, including being honest about the unknowns, this gives us a chance of answering at least some student questions
- if we can learn how well or poorly that content is meeting needs we can improve it
This is the approach we’re taking to developing some content about Teaching and Learning in 2021-22 with colleagues in Marketing.
Focusing on needs
We started with some draft text. I reworked it to focus on addressing (as best as we can right now with the limited information we have) the most common questions students are asking.
Getting straight to the point gives us a chance of not only better meeting user needs but meeting business needs too. Because if we can deliver content that’s useful to students it means:
- colleagues have somewhere to direct students to for our latest information on this topic, saving them time spent trying to find out where (or if) this information exists
- we can potentially ease the pressure on our enquiry teams if we can answer questions to the point students feel they don’t need to get in touch with us directly
But the text is only part of the content. We don’t just want to hit publish and hope for the best. We want to know and measure if we’re meeting needs or not. That means we can prioritise improvements.
How we’ll learn what’s working (or not)
To assess how users are interacting with this content, we’ve included three separate calls to action.
After visiting our page on Teaching and Learning in 2021-22 users can:
- click through to a page about how we’re delivering degrees in semester two of 2020-21
- talk to current students via Unibuddy
- get in touch with any further enquiries via a specific route picked up the Enquiry Management Team
Why these calls to action? Here are our assumptions:
- linking to the semester two 2020-21 page gives readers an idea of how teaching, learning and other support is currently delivered (this is the best we can do until 2021-22 plans are finalised)
- click through to this content also helps us gauge demand for more detailed information on hybrid learning and 2021-22 teaching plans
- Unibuddy feedback and Enquiry Management data helps tell us which questions aren’t being answered by the content
- that evidence helps us see if there are easy ways we can revise content to help address users’ questions and cut email enquiries further
As well as data on interactions on these calls to action, over the next 10 days we’ll also monitor:
- page views and referral sources
- engagement with the content – does time on page and scroll depth data help us understand if students are actually reading what we say?
Our priority is to learn quickly how we are influencing student behaviour and provide insight to improve provision on an ongoing basis.
Advice for schools website managers
We know the current uncertainty makes it really hard for schools to provide information on how teaching will look in September (I’ve faced exactly this challenge on this project).
But if you can say anything useful about school level teaching for 2021-22 on your site, say it. If a prospective student is reading your school site, they are not looking for University-level generic statements. In fact they’ve probably already read them.
Focus on the school-level message, even if this is just to say that this is a challenging situation and you’re working on it.
Remember you’ll also need to provide a specific route for students who have read that content to get in touch with you if they have further questions. That way you can track the enquiry types and themes coming through and develop your own content accordingly.
My colleague Paula wrote a great blog last year on monitoring enquiries to inform content improvements, which I’d recommend reading.
If you’d like advice with your content strategy around this, or just how best to set up an EdWeb form and monitor enquiries get in touch.