Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

Presenting a future state for prospective student online provision

This week I presented to over 100 colleagues from across the University on our plans for the transformation of online provision for prospective students. This post summarises the key points, or you can review the slides and video of my presentation if you want the full detail.

Our plans for this project are subject to funding being confirmed during the current University planning round. We expect this to happen in June.

Video and slides

Title slide - Future online provision for prospective students by Neil Allison

Over 100 colleagues joined us online to hear about our plans.

If you are a member of University staff you can watch the presentation and view my slides.

Watch the presentation and follow up questions and answers session – 55 minutes (University login needed)

View the slide deck of the presentation (Microsoft Powerpoint download 6MB, University login needed)

Session running order:

  • Current state
  • Long-term vision
  • Long-term roadmap
  • What next?
  • Questions

The slide deck also contains an executive summary that I skipped over during the presentation session. I’ve used this summary as the basis for the rest of this post.

Key points from the presentation: “Future online provision for prospective students”

In a previous post I talked about the challenges we face with the existing set up, and the pressing need for change.

We are not replacing the Degree Finders. We are transforming them – read my previous blog from December 2021

I’ve also blogged previously about the design sprints we ran last year, and the prototype concepts that subsequently got tested as a result of this collaborative process.

Review of design sprints, and video walkthoughs of prototype concepts

Current state

We operate 2 custom-built content management systems, maintained by Information Services. These are separate from the corporate content management system, EdWeb, and integrated to appear as part of the University website to the visitor. The software is at end-of-life. While not considered a technical security or performance risk, no further enhancements are feasible.

The service to schools and to prospective students must be transformed if we are to begin to tackle the significant issues we face with our online provision.

Key issues with the current state:

  • Structured around a print mind-set
    • Unnecessary and out-of-date presentation
  • They’re not comprehensive
    • Extra websites are used to plug gaps bringing inefficiencies and CMA risks
  • Poor student experience
    • Website users encounter frustrating circular journeys
    • Too difficult to answer basic questions
    • High levels of unnecessary enquiries

Future state vision

Our digital service will be the attractive and trustworthy primary location for information which is prioritised and structured to align with prospective student goals and behaviour.

  • Inspiring and engaging high-quality students to apply to the University of Edinburgh
  • Providing all relevant information to empower an informed decision on whether the Edinburgh student experience fits with their needs and expectations
  • Enabling students to independently assess their eligibility to apply for a programme and whether it’s financially viable

The new service will enable a reduction and rationalisation of web content management practices:

  • Reductions in content management overhead; fewer sites and systems used
  • Improvements in content standards and accuracy
  • Greater clarity on responsibility and accountability
  • Reduced risk associated with CMA compliance

The new platform will be continuously improved by our team without additional funded software projects.

How we’ll get there

The first major release will be the 2025 Entry undergraduate content, publicly available March 2024.

Prior to the first release, we will carry out a trial by making a handful of programme pages publicly available (a beta release), working closely with the relevant schools. This will help us to identify and resolve any issues and optimise the experience before launching the full prospective undergraduate service.

More about public beta releases – guidance from the Australian Government Digital Transformation Agency

We will then move onto developing the online provision for prospective postgraduate, working with schools and building on the foundations of the undergraduate delivery. This will launch October 2024.

Once the provision for undergraduate and postgraduate is launched, we’ll begin integrating additional content and functionality that will help improve the experience for users and efficiency for the University.

Once live, the platform will need on-going maintenance, support and development to ensure security and resilience, continuous optimisation and to respond to internal and external drivers for change.

This work will be led by our team, in collaboration with Website and Communications (the team in Information Services who manage our corporate content management system – currently EdWeb) and the teams providing services to prospective students.

Project roadmap visually summarising text in page

High level indication of what will happen when from 2022 to 2025.

 

Year-by-year summary

2021/22

  • Confirm priorities, funding and recruitment
  • Communications and stakeholder liaison towards firmed up plans
  • User research and validation (undergraduate focus)
  • Content auditing, modelling and business analysis

2022/23

  • Design and development of the platform, ready for school engagement on undergraduate cycle
  • Launch of a beta version: demonstrating functionality with a small sample of programmes
  • User research and validation (postgraduate focus)

2023/24

  • Design and evolution of the platform to accommodate postgraduate content
  • Launch of the new presence for prospective undergraduates (March 2024)
  • Ongoing testing and validation with users, informing ongoing priorities

2024/25

  • Launch of the new presence for prospective postgraduates (October 2024)
  • Enhanced technical integrations to deliver new user experiences in key service areas (entry requirements, fees, scholarships)

Ongoing

  • Continuous testing and improvement, introducing further content and features

Questions?

If you’ve any questions that weren’t covered in the session, I’d love to hear from you.

Leave a comment or drop me an email.

Neil Allison’s staff profile and contact details

 

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