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Student Counselling Service – Discussing outcomes with the right people

Last week, we held a workshop for the Student Counselling Service, (SCS) as part of a suite of work we’ve been doing for Student Experience Services.

What was the issue?

The Counselling website have the same problem as almost every other site – too many pages and not enough time. Some of their processes have also changed since they last properly reviewed at their website.

What did we do?

We got together with SCS staff for the afternoon for what’s now a fairly frequent workshop for us – Neil’s ‘Get a grip of your website’ presentation, followed by some exercises to establish the key audiences and objectives of the site.

Get a grip of your website (and then keep hold)

Some of the objectives discussed at the workshop

This session was a bit shorter than normal, as the group was fairly small. Although we would normally work with a larger group of people, having a small group isn’t a problem as such – the key thing is that the people there are the right people. We were joined by Ronnie Millar, the head of unit, as well as two assistant directors who also work as counsellors and a student on placement.

This meant we had representation from people who:

  • manage direction and strategy
  • run administrative functions
  • carry out the core activities

In this case, some attendees combined two of these functions, but where you’ve got all of those roles represented, the workshop outcomes are much more robust than if one of those groups is missing.

Is anyone missing?

Importantly, we weren’t missing any key people or a website editor who doesn’t have time to read and interpret reports that come out of the session.

I’ve run workshops with around 15 people that have ultimately been useless because a key figure wasn’t interested so ended up steering the process in a very different direction. For example, a senior figure who ‘doesn’t see the point’ and so ignores the process and its outcomes, or someone responsible for website edits, who creates content haphazardly because they haven’t had a chance to really understand the site aims from the start. Participating in the event itself is so much of what is key here.

“We really valued the opportunity to have a think about what we are about. It was helpful to go back to basics.

Student Counselling Service

Sometimes it’s useful to have a service user represented, too. Because of the nature of the Counselling Service, this wasn’t appropriate – but having the placement student there did allow a bit of extra insight into this side of things.

Outcomes not outputs

A lot of the discussion centred on the idea of outcomes v outputs, which is an important part of web strategy: Our aim should not be to create websites. Our aim should be to use those websites to enable the objectives of the unit.

In the case of SCS, this includes things like:

  • “Ensuring students who need help can access it in the easiest possible way”
    • not “maintaining a digital registration form”
  • “Making all staff aware of what help is available to their students.”
    • Not “creating a page aimed at staff.”

Next steps

Now we’ve done the workshop, we’ll be writing up the notes so we can ratify the website objectives, and so go on to make improvements to the site in an informed way.

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