Extending our use of existing degree finders
We have concluded that it’s not going to be feasible to release our new service for prospective students as planned next year, due to our dependency on the Web Publishing Platform which is not yet ready to roll out.
We have been working on the development of the first phase of the future state for prospective students since November 2022, and the plan had been for the undergraduate degree finder and associated website content to be replaced in March 2024 to support entry 2025. This was due to continue on to deliver for prospective postgraduate students from autumn 2024, again to support entry 2025.
Alignment with the Web Publishing Platform
As most people in the University’s web publishing community will be aware, the project to replace the EdWeb CMS is delayed, with migrations to the new Web Publishing Platform currently scheduled to recommence from autumn 2023.
Because we’re building on the Web Publishing Platform – an important step towards bringing web publishing technologies closer together – we have a dependency.
While we had been optimistic that we would be able to work in parallel with the development work happening in IS Website and Communications and remain on track, we’ve found over the past few months that capacity isn’t available to keep two critical projects in step.
There are areas of functionality in the Web Publishing Platform that we need for our new Degree Profiles that aren’t ready yet. Understandably, the Website and Communications team need to stay focused on their goals and deliver to their priorities so they ensure a new corporate content management system service is available for the hundreds of sites that depend upon EdWeb.
What this means for our timelines
We’re currently working this out.
What I can say for certain is that we won’t be launching a new service for prospective undergraduates during the coming academic year. I’m also fairly sure that the planned new service for prospective postgraduates won’t launch in 2024.
The most likely scenario is that the:
- new service for prospective undergraduates will launch in March 2025 with content for entry 2026. This means colleagues will continue to work with the existing service for one more cycle.
- new service for prospective postgraduates will launch in October 2025 with content for entry 2026. This means colleagues will work with the existing service for two more cycles.
We will formalise these timelines over the coming months as we refactor our plans and continue to liaise with Website and Communications. All this is of course subject to the rollout of the Web Publishing Platform maintaining its current schedule.
So, what now?
We remain busy, with work happening on several fronts:
- Software development
- Content and interface design
- User research, auditing and analytics
We have been exploring new ways of working until the end of this academic year, with our software developer Aaron and the developers supplied by our partner agency TPX Impact (you may have heard them by their previous name, Manifesto) planning to contribute work directly into the WPP project.
If this trial collaboration goes well, then we will be helping to accelerate the WPP project by contributing on areas of functionality while also improving the shared understanding across teams that will stand us in good stead for when the project picks up again in earnest in sprint 2024.
The areas that we’ve identified to support with are needed University-wide, but are also key dependencies for us to proceed.
Content and interface design
We are still testing aspects of the degree profile with students, using a range of prototyping methods. This continues to improve our understanding of what works for students and how our plans need to evolve.
Lauren and Pete gave presentations at last week’s Web Publishing Community event outlining areas they’ve been working on, and this will continue wherever we can avoid any technical dependency.
User research, auditing and analytics
We are also continuing our research work to inform our planning for prospective postgraduate students.
A discovery-phase user research project is underway looking at the needs and experiences of prospective research students, so we can better serve their needs with a central service while complementing the work done by colleagues at school and research group level.
In parallel, we are about to begin auditing central postgraduate provision across a range of key services and a sample of school and subject area websites.
Slides and video from the Web Publishers Community
Last week (Thursday 4 May), Lauren, Pete and I gave presentations to over 100 colleagues who attended the monthly Web Publishers Community session.
My slides covered our project progress and challenges (pretty much this blog post). Lauren talked about the evolving content model, how entry requirements details are changing, plans for search and collaborative co-design with schools. Pete explained how we fit usability testing regularly into our work during agile development sprints, some things we’ve learned along the way and our user research informing postgraduate plans.
More blogs are coming on these topics, but in the meantime, you can review the slides and watch a session recording.
As ever, I’m happy to field any questions or concerns from our student recruitment and web publishing communities. Feel free to get in touch with me.