Web content editor and trainer within the University of St Andrews digital communications team. Jenny joined the team in 2015, and she provides content support for the University web pages as well as training for staff in digital communications topics. She has an educational background in literature, writing, editing and publishing from the Universities of Texas, Edinburgh and Stirling.

2018 digital prospectus launch

The 2018 digital prospectus went live on Friday 1 September 2018.

All undergraduate and postgraduate taught programme pages are ready for prospective students interested in studying during the 2018-2019 academic year to view. A few exceptions to this include programmes which will begin later this year or January 2018 (and are therefore still part of the 2017-2018 academic year). Once the application deadline for these courses has passed, we will update them to the 2018 entry pages. Continue reading “2018 digital prospectus launch”

2018 undergraduate digital prospectus

On 29 May 2017, the digital communications team sent out content for the 2018 undergraduate course webpages to all Schools for review. Schools have until 7 July 2017 to return any amendments before the pages go live.

We sent the content in Word documents (noting any changes from the 2017 course pages) and have asked Schools to use Track Changes to make any amendments or add comments and queries. We also made sure to update the pages as much as possible based on the 2018 print prospectus, with the aim being to reduce the amount of duplicating editing work required by Schools.

Previously, I wrote about our plan for creating the 2018 undergraduate course pages. We have completed steps 1-5 on this plan by:

  1. compiling a list of the programmes running in 2018
  2. creating acceptance criteria for each course page
  3. creating Word documents of all the 2018 pages
  4. meeting with Schools which still need to approve course content
  5. sending all Word documents to Schools.

For step 4, we have already met with the School of Medicine who are currently editing and providing additional content for the undergraduate Medicine course pages. We are also currently in the process of building draft pages for the Computer Science and Physics pages; once these are created, we will arrange meetings with the Schools of Computer Science and Physics and Astronomy to demonstrate these pages, make any amendments as required, and get sign-off for 2018.

One of the most notable differences between the 2017 and 2018 pages is the addition of new information based on the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) guide to providing information to prospectus undergraduate students. We have marked where this new information appears on the Word documents for each course page. New information includes:

  • course start and end dates
  • language requirements
  • a link to more information about alternative entry routes
  • timetable information
  • how many additional subjects students can take
  • the University’s flexible modular degree system
  • independent learning
  • teachers, tutors and staff
  • academic support available
  • disabilities support available
  • grade scale system
  • feedback on assessments.

Now that the undergraduate course pages have been sent out to Schools for amendments, we will begin building the pages in the new version of our content management system, T4v8. As Schools return their edits, we will make the necessary changes to the course pages.

After the 7 July deadline, we will conduct a final check on all of the pages to fix any typos, broken links or other errors. We aim to launch all of the undergraduate 2018 course pages by the end of July, at which time we will archive the 2017 pages.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the team at digitalcommunications@st-andrews.ac.uk.

The plan for 2018-entry undergraduate course pages

With the 2017-entry undergraduate course webpages only just completed, the thought of creating 2018-entry pages may make you cringe, bare your teeth, or just run away in horror. But don’t worry! The content team has developed a solid plan for creating and publishing the 2018 pages which aims to minimise the amount of work required from content coordinators. Continue reading “The plan for 2018-entry undergraduate course pages”

Digital visa launch

The digital communications team has officially launched a programme of training sessions known as the digital visa. The digital visa will provide essential training in digital communications topics to anyone who works on the University’s website or with the digital communications team.

The visa enables staff to feel competent and confident working on digital communications projects, and provides new skills in a range of digital areas.

Participants who sign up and complete the five compulsory training sessions from the digital visa will become trusted digital advocates, and will be one of the first points of contact between their department and the digital communications team.

We’ve been working on building the digital visa for a while (see our original plan for the visa). Now, we have finalised the following five compulsory sessions:

  • Digital communications at St Andrews
    Introduces you to the digital communications team at St Andrews and the support we provide for staff at the University.
  • Digital pattern library 
    Allows you to correctly use patterns from the digital pattern library (DPL) in a content management system.
  • Social media: the basics
    Allows you to confidently develop a basic social media strategy.
  • Google Analytics
    Trains each participant to measure the performance of their website and understand their users’ behaviour by creating a dashboard in Google Analytics.
  • Writing for the web
    Allows you to identify and implement user needs in web writing and design.

These sessions can be taken in any order, and they will run regularly throughout the year. To sign up for the digital visa programme, please email Jennifer Hamrick (me), digital trainer, at jh280@st-andrews.ac.uk. Those signed up will receive emails alerting them to when the next training session will run.

You can also sign up for any of these courses individually via PDMS. If you later decide to enroll on the digital visa programme, the courses you’ve already taken will be counted towards your visa.

We are currently working on developing optional courses that participants can take as part of the programme. These may include:

  • Advanced writing for the web
  • WordPress for content contributors
  • WordPress for administrators
  • Social media for research dissemination
  • Build your own website
  • User personas and journeys
  • Screen casting
  • Usability testing
  • CSS and code languages
  • Digital rights and legalities.

If you would like to training provided within your department, please contact Jennifer Hamrick about setting up specialised courses for your group.

We are also opening some of the courses to PhD students, where relevant.

If you have any questions, please email Jennifer Hamrick, digital trainer, at jh280@st-andrews.ac.uk

Iterative improvements to the digital prospectus

Shortly before the digital prospectus went live, the content team in digital communications sat down and came up with a list of development, design and content improvements we would like to make to the pages in the future.

We prioritised this list and organised it by timeframe (before launch, after launch, and after migration to T4v8).

Before launch

Some of the improvements were completed before launch, such as standardising the way we write addresses on all pages, or rewriting module caveats to make information clearer.

One of the bigger pieces we completed before launch was to provide keyword matching for undergraduate course pages in order to improve our course search tool. However, our keyword matching could still be improved! We created a keyword spreadsheet and sent this out to all Schools to provide us with any keywords they felt should be attached to a particular programme. We are able to add both positive keywords (words associated with a course) and negative keywords (words we don’t want associated with a course ­– for instance, ‘physics’ with ‘Metaphysics’).

Keyword matching example in course search tool
Keyword matching in course search tool

We have already been able to use tracking analytics on the course search tool to see what users have been searching for. For example, we have had a few instances of searches for ‘midwifery’ so far! This data will be very useful in determining how we should market particular courses, or whether a new programme might need to be created to meet a gap in the market.

If you would like to add keywords to a programme, please email digitalcommunications@st-andrews.ac.uk.

After launch

Some improvements require time from our development team, who are currently busy working on the digital pattern library project. When they are finished with their project, we hope that some of these improvements can be made, including moving the year of entry to the same line as the degree title.

Other improvements we can make now include hard-coding more content, or breaking hard codes where we have found we need more flexibility, such as the ‘Student life’ section on the undergraduate course pages.

After migration to T4v8

For many of the improvements, we are waiting until we migrate to the new version of our content management system, T4v8. Once we have migrated, we will work on a number of design improvements, such as creating a new design for the ‘research centres’ section on subject pages which will make it easier to read and require less scrolling.

Continuing engagement

We are also aware of the need to continue engaging with stakeholders outside of our team in order to create new pages, such as the Gateway programme pages.

We are happy to hear from colleagues who have constructive criticism or other ideas for how we can improve the digital prospectus. To do so, please email itservicedesk@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Web writing basics: frontloading

Frontloading is a writing technique in which the most important, “big-picture” information is provided first, followed by additional details. This post covers how to successfully frontload content to make it easier for online users to understand and scan your writing. Continue reading “Web writing basics: frontloading”