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May 05 2021
May 05

Selecting a CMS for a university can be a challenging decision. There are so many needs and nuances to consider - costs of implementation and maintenance, a wide range of technical ability among site administrators, developers, and content editors, a variety of end-users looking for different information...and the list goes on and on. While your answer likely isn’t as easy as, “let’s just do what everyone else is doing,” better understanding why other universities made the choice they did can shed light on your decision-making process. 

Drupal is far and above the most used CMS in higher education - 26% of all .edu domain sites are in Drupal, including 71 of the top 100 universities. 

So why are universities like MIT, Georgia Tech, Butler, Stanford, Harvard and the rest of the Ivy League universities choosing Drupal? 

Simply put, Drupal makes good business sense, especially with the added benefits of Drupal 9. At Mediacurrent, we believe your website is your greatest digital asset and can be leveraged to accomplish organizational-wide goals. Drupal makes that possible. Here’s how:  

Communicate With All Students - Prospective, Current, and Alumni 

If you want to reach your full recruiting and fundraising potential, you need to communicate with your entire audience. There are a variety of Drupal features that ease the stress of common communication challenges. 

Language

Not only are their multiple languages spoken within the U.S., but our country hosts over a million international students. Drupal makes creating a multilingual digital experience simpler. Native language handling is built directly into Drupal 8 and 9 core APIs, giving you over 100 languages to choose from. With that functionality, it is easier than ever to engage with prospective students across the globe in a meaningful way.

Accessibility

The CDC estimates that 20% of U.S. adults identify as having a disability. These disabilities often hinder people’s ability to interact with the average website. Drupal is an inclusive community and has committed to ensuring that all features of Drupal conform with w3C and WCAG 2.0. Pair Drupal’s built-in accessibility tools with a strong higher-education-focused accessibility strategy and your potential audience could grow by 20%. The Siteimprove Drupal module can help you keep a close and proactive eye on your overall web accessibility. 

Technology

 According to the College Explorer Market Research Study, the average college student owns 5.6 devices and spends 137+ hours on them! This may seem like common sense now, but if you want to engage with students, you need to account for a variety of screen sizes. Thankfully, Drupal 8 was designed with a mobile-first mentality and includes out-of-the-box responsive functionality.  And that mobile mindset continues with Drupal 9. Features like editorial workflows, Layout Builder, and media management can support content delivery that is optimized for mobile access.  

Personalization

 Universities face added complexity when it comes to digital strategy due to the broad audiences they appeal to. With so many unique people coming to the same pages, content strategy, conversion path mapping, and optimization, and defining strong calls to action can be a struggle. By incorporating personalization into your content strategy, whether that is personalized based on user authentication or by integrating tools like Acquia Personalization or Salesforce Marketing Cloud, you can speak to the masses but make them feel like you’re speaking specifically to them. 

Reduce Overhead Costs + Increase Operational Efficiencies with Drupal

Drupal can have a dramatic impact on reducing overhead costs and increasing operational efficiency. Universities have a big need for multiple websites: departments, colleges, libraries, and student organizations all want their own website. The direct cost of supporting this many sites along with resourcing the training and support is expensive and encourages unnecessary technology sprawl. As an open source technology (no licensing fees!) along with the multisite feature, creating sites for these different groups is exponentially easier, more cost-effective, and ensures brand consistency. 

You can also increase efficiency, ensure content consistency and improve the user experience by creating a “source of truth”.

Write content once and publish it anywhere it’s relevant.

Having to update content such as a curriculum or an academic calendar on multiple pages is inefficient and unnecessary. Write once, publish everywhere, save time. 

Improve Brand Equity + Amplify Digital Strategy

As a university, your brand is a powerful asset. You spend significant energy and resources on building loyalty to bolster several organizational goals from recruiting efforts, engaging current students on campus, and fundraising among alumni.

With your website being the hub of your marketing strategy, it is critical for your CMS of choice to play nice with your marketing efforts.

Drupal is very SEO-friendly out of the box. There are also advanced configuration options available to support a more sophisticated SEO strategy. You can amplify your digital strategy by integrating your marketing tools and communication platforms directly with Drupal. And the 26% percent of other .edu sites using Drupal make integrating your university-specific tools to your website easier. 

Reduce Risk

I’d be remiss without mentioning open source security and GDPR compliance. As a university, you hold sensitive information about the students who have attended your school and they are trusting you to keep that secure.

The Drupal community is passionate about security and has an industry leading global security team to ensure your site is protected.

Additionally, as the landscape of privacy rights changes around the world, it’s in your best interest to stay on top of it and reduce the risk of being penalized for data collection practices. 

Speed up Your Time to Launch 

RainU logo

Drupal has a lot to offer to universities from the moment of install. We created RainU CMS to bring that out-of-box experience to the next level with a tailored approach. RainU is Drupal-based development platform that helps colleges and universities accelerate the web development process. 

Have questions about how Drupal and RainU can benefit your university? Let us know. We’d be happy to chat. 

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on July 18, 2018, and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Feb 11 2021
Feb 11

In our recent webinar, we set out to help higher ed marketing teams rethink their digital focus for the year ahead. 

We tapped a group of experts with years of experience helping some of the best-known colleges and universities deliver engaging digital experiences to discuss key web strategy takeaways. Members of the expert panel included:

  • Muzel Chen - Senior Digital Strategist, Mediacurrent 
  • Diane Kulseth - Senior SEO Consultant, Siteimprove 
  • Steve Persch - Technical Product Marketing Manager, Pantheon

If you missed our webinar or want to watch it again, check out the full recording: 

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The live audience came ready with their most pressing questions on topics from personalization and SEO best practices to harnessing analytics and breaking down the communication barriers between Marketing and Admission departments. Below is a summary of what was discussed on the webinar. 

Personalization 

Is personalization dead?

Diane Kulseth: I've seen some higher education institutions using personalization effectively by auto-populating forms. That can be really helpful to keep things seamless for the experience for the student. At the same time, we're talking to a generation that's getting more and more skeptical of the internet. 

There's a misconception that adopting new technology will automatically save you time. Technology, like personalization, can save you a lot of time but it will also take time to implement correctly.

Steve Persch: Technology buying decisions are often made on the assumption that by buying a tool, you will get to spend less time doing a certain task. I think a similar motivation leads a lot of people to buy personalization. They think getting a more powerful measuring tool will fix their problem, but it actually gives you more to measure and requires more of your time.

Muzel Chen: There’s also the issue of how do we use personalization effectively? Students want to get information right away and personalization can reduce these obstacles in navigation and process.

Personalization can mean many things, but in the context of higher ed, we can personalize content for an audience based on their common demographics and behaviors. But it also depends on your medium: are you trying to personalize in social media? Website? Email? Text message? Audiences have different expectations from each marketing channel, which is predicated by the amount of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) they have disclosed to those channels. 

Depending on the context and level of personalization, they can range from convenient to creepy, and striking that right balance can be tricky. But when it works, visitors experience a higher level of engagement because of the convenience and they feel the institution cares about them.

SEO Best Practices for Subsites and Domains 

When thinking about a redesign, I know websites should have ONE main goal, but how do you handle a few different audiences without creating microsites? For example, prospective vs. current students?

Muzel Chen: Some of these issues are mitigated by dedicating an area in your architecture for those specific audiences. But there are situations where it feels the content is servicing all audiences or only one exclusively. These situations typically result in microsites which can be difficult to manage. 

An easy way to address those needs is to start with an audience-neutral page, have the audience self-identify, and place those audience-specific pages at a deeper level. For example, common pages where this occurs are: campus living, parking permits, and health services. These top-level pages will have content that speaks to all audiences and grows in detail as the visitor goes deeper into your site. The details can then begin to diverge by audience type. 

Do you see any trend of separate sites vs. subsites for academic departments (or other smaller units) within a university or college?

Muzel Chen: Over the last decade, it's been very common for higher ed to have subdomains (separate sites) for each individual department or school. But, these sites grow out of hand and become difficult to manage especially when there's not any established governance for tracking content updates across all of the subdomains. 

More institutions are starting to transition to the subfolder (or subsite) practice. It’s easier to see the big picture of all your sites and manage them all within their content management system. 

How can one build a culture of importance for SEO across a decentralized organization (i.e., schools, departments, and offices, like Admissions, all run their own websites)?

Diane Kulseth: I think the biggest part is tying it back to what it all means. Whether it's donor relations, increased revenue for the university, or admissions, tie it back to their goals. That's first and foremost and all of that helps the website and it helps your students. It helps your donors. It helps your prospective parents of students to be able to better navigate the website. 

SEO is great for SEO's sake and building great traffic, but it's also really helpful for all your other marketing initiatives to make sure that people are able to get where they want to go on a seamless web experience that loads properly and is easy to navigate with strong information architecture. 

Marketing Strategy and Analytics 

What are some of the challenges you've seen higher ed leaders face when implementing marketing technology?

Muzel Chen: Reporting. I often see data collection tools being misconfigured. Or collecting lots of data without really defining its purpose. Everybody wants to get access to analytics data, and once that's provided, they use it once and never touch it again. Suddenly, you have 100 users and nobody is providing insights. Without data, all planning comes down to guesswork.

Steve Persch: You almost need Google Analytics for your Google Analytics to track who's using it.

Which analytics data seems to be the most valuable to higher ed? I realize this is likely very organization or campaign dependent, but anything generally useful that may not be obvious?

Diane Kulseth: First and foremost, you want to have your reports on RFIs or requests for information and your applications, and then connect that to enrolled students within your CRM or admissions platform. 

Beyond that, once you start digging deeper, it's really important to start looking at insights like when people are coming to this page from an advertising campaign, are they actually engaging with the page for a substantial amount of time? Are they going elsewhere? How are they responding to your marketing messages? Can you get even more granular and start looking at the demographics behind them? Are these men, women, what are their age ranges? What other insights can you glean from your different tools? I think all of that can be really helpful, but again, start with your basics: RFIs, enrollments, and applications.

Overcoming Department Silos 

Do you have any tips for how Admissions and Marketing can work together?

Steve Persch: Shifting to an iterative or agile mindset for your website is especially difficult when so much of a university operates on a semester or year-long calendar. There's an expectation that you need the web plan for the next year or 10. Saying we're going to do small experiments and get feedback week by week is challenging to accomplish in the higher ed ecosystem. However, I think that you need to find a way to do it with strong cross-departmental relationships across those silos. 

Muzel Chen: We talked about analytics access as one of the technology challenges, but as far as a people challenge, what I see most often is communication. A lot of departments are still siloed — especially marketing and admissions.

A good starting point here is setting up a meeting cadence where you can share common challenges to solve and opportunities to pursue. For example, an ideal project is to link marketing and admissions data, which tracks the visitor as they leave the main site and enters the application process. Marketing could validate their campaigns by reviewing the application data, whereas admissions could personalize the student experience by using marketing’s data. 

Optimize Your Higher Ed Site 

Explore how RainU CMS can help your school launch on Drupal in 30 days or less with a Pantheon-powered hosting solution. Together with Siteimprove, Mediacurrent’s digital strategists can help you optimize your website for SEO, accessibility, and overall performance. 

Jan 27 2021
Jan 27

RainU logo

On the heels of our recent Drupal 9 release of Rain CMS, we are excited to officially announce the beta release of our Rain University platform, RainU. RainU CMS is a Drupal-based development platform made just for higher education. Colleges and universities can now launch new sites faster with full, flexible control over content.

The RainU CMS Theme

RainU for Drupal homepage with hero image shows a group of students in graduation caps

New RainU CMS theme homepage

The RainU theme is based on the main Rain base theme but adds additional features that are relevant for university websites. The navigation and content have been staged to help content authors get started quickly. Some of the new features added to RainU are the event and quote carousels, as well as more components for highlighting content.

Building pages

RainU CMS content field for frequently asked questions

Rain CMS admin content edit page

RainU content authoring

Paragraph browser dialog

With Rain University, we give content authors the freedom and flexibility to build robust pages using a library of pre-stocked components (called “paragraphs” in Drupal). The Rain Admin UX offers many improvements over the stock Drupal admin which makes the overall experience more intuitive for editors.

Find out more

Currently, Mediacurrent’s Rain University CMS is available to new and existing clients. Our team of strategists, designers and developers can work with your organization to migrate your website from a legacy CMS onto an enterprise, open source platform.

For more information on the benefits of Rain University CMS and to schedule a free demo, please visit the RainU page or chat with us right now (see bottom right corner of the page). We would be happy to talk more about your project or schedule a demonstration.

Jan 26 2021
Jan 26

As we look ahead to the end of the future academic year and what the future looks like, we see uncertainty clouding what is a typical admissions season for teams in higher education. 

Recently, we asked our partners in higher education to share their digital challenges. We heard that admissions personnel, as well as marketing teams at the college and university level, are feeling the pressure. They need to make sure the expectations of stakeholders are met or exceeded despite the unpredictable path ahead. 

Even though teams may face challenges ahead, one thing is certain: rethinking digital strategy to set your path forward will set your team up for success and your institution apart from others. 

The website is the heart of your digital strategy, and both should be built to adapt. That’s why many higher education institutions choose Drupal for their organization’s CMS. 

Below are five areas to focus your digital strategy, with some of our favorite tips and tools to improve campaigns moving forward.

Reevaluate Your Content Strategy

Universities used to enjoy a steady flow of students enrolling in programs. However, the future is now uncertain because of the COVID-19 pandemic leading many students to forego education or to choose online courses over taking classes in a traditional, physical environment. 

The uncertainty affected not just marketing teams at universities, but students as well. When the McKinsey higher education survey was conducted in April 2020, 37% of responding students were confident that things would return to normal by the end of summer. However, the 2020-2021 school year has thus far reflected much of what the previous school year 

Findings from our own client survey showed that uncertainty in the 2020 recruitment season led to several shifts in strategy to further help the user journey in the decision making process of choosing programs such as the following: 

  • Virtual tours rather than in-person tours
  • Live video conferences rather than in-person sessions
  • Website content to supplement brochures and physical marketing materials

Changes in academia lead to a shift in messaging, so teams need to evaluate if their content strategy is still working or if more needs to be done to cater to today’s student and their new priorities. 

Some ways in which evaluating content strategy can be done include: 

Persona research

 Although you may have a general idea of who your target audience is, more thorough research that includes user surveys can help create a better understanding of who your content should speak to. For instance, you may learn from user surveys that students and parents are uncertain about returning to in-person learning because they want to know more about what is being done to keep people safe in the classroom. With this information in mind, you might develop more content about COVID-19 cleaning protocols to give them peace of mind.

Content audit

Is your content resulting in growth, and does it cater to your users? If you are not getting the most out of it, an audit can help address gaps and find opportunities. 

Dashboard creation

Making sense of data is an important responsibility of a university’s marketing team. User-friendly dashboards can simplify the process of reviewing data and making decisions based on findings. Working with a digital strategy team with experience in higher education to improve your approach can yield results that allow your content to better serve student needs.

Give Your Marketing Team The Tools to Succeed

Giving the university marketing team agency in creating content quickly and efficiently is a top priority of many agencies that work directly with these teams. However, finding a CMS that provides the flexibility they want and a user-friendly editorial experience they need can be a challenge.  

RainU CMS can improve the editorial experience for content editors looking for a solution that allows for easier workflows that match with your existing design standards. With the ability to launch sites in 30 days or less, Rain helps both content editors and developers create flexible websites fast.

If your site is on Drupal, creating a decoupled solution with Gatsby may be just what you need. The business case for decoupled Drupal with Gatsby can help you determine if the cost and benefits are right for your university. Our developers are well adept at providing guidance in setting up GatsbyJS.

Using Drupal with Gatsby is a great way to get an enterprise-quality CMS for free, paired with a great modern development experience and all the benefits of the JAMstack, like performance, scalability, and security.

Gatsbyjs.org

Make Smarter Use of Resources  

Unprecedented changes in higher education likely result in unexpected changes to budgets and priorities. Streamline the routine maintenance of your Drupal site to shift more budget toward new features. Here’s how Mediacurrent’s development solutions like Automated Updates and Multisite+ can help:

With Automated Updates, you can save hours of manual development work. Our automation services initiate pull requests, create JIRA issues, and stage updates within Pantheon’s multidev environment. Your team of project managers and developers can focus on productive work rather than administrative tasks when using Automated Updates for your project. 

Need to create multiple sites? Spin up new instances with Multisite+! With a shared codebase, your sites can go from concept to creation quickly and efficiently, and each has its own database, configuration, files, and base domain or URL to help with organizing your content. 

We have a wide variety of development services to meet your university marketing needs. 

Enhance Web Accessibility 

Universities cater to individuals of all abilities, so it’s important to make sure the digital experience is accessible to all. Using a tool like Siteimprove can help university marketing teams better understand how their site’s accessibility matches up to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards. 

SiteImprove dashboard with circular progress charts for QA, accessibility, SEO

SiteImprove's automated reports provide an easy way to measure and document progress toward accessibility goals

Failing to keep on top of website accessibility could lead universities to face warnings from the Department of Education as well as lawsuits. Mitigation measures such as using Siteimprove or working with a skilled accessibility team to audit and remediate your site allows your team to take steps that minimize the possibility of lawsuits as a result of your site’s digital experience. 

Launch New Campaigns Faster 

Colleges and departments within universities often need to launch campaigns quickly, and depending on the technology involved, expediency is integral. Teams must have a workable solution to accomplish the goals of an individual college or department.

Marketing teams can take advantage of RainU CMS to launch to market in 30 days or less. 

RainU CMS for Drupal homepage

Gain more control over your site with RainU CMS such as:  

  • Robust Security - Mitigate attacks from hackers - RainU CMS has several built-in security hardening features to help.
  • Flexible Content Feature-Packed - Build pages with a flexible, easy to use interface in RainU CMS for rapid development.
  • Component-Based Theme - Like with other Drupal sites, RainU CMS has reusable components and a built-in style guide which reduces design time.

Demo RainU CMS 

Ready to take your higher ed site and marketing campaigns to the next level? Explore how RainU CMS can get you there and check out the demo below. 

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Jan 25 2021
Jan 25

Newly engineered opportunities have opened the doors for Higher Education institutions to pioneer student, researcher, and funding recruitment. From deeper data applications to mass-scale live debates, the Higher Education sector is going through a digital transformation, with varying rates and approaches.

New data and accessibility regulations, as well as pressure on student recruitment from COVID-19, have required Higher Education institutions to accelerate these 'digital transformation roadmaps'.

Entire organisations have had to react and re-evaluate everything across technology implementation, face-to-face education, student recruitment, and community satisfaction.

The forces of change are drawing in at an unprecedented rate. But are universities equipped to make the quality, long-term adjustments needed?

Senior stakeholders from the University of West London, Manchester Metropolitan University, and Oxford Saïd Business School sat down with Paul Johnson, our Drupal and HE Specialist at CTI Digital to discuss their digital challenges and opportunities during a panel at DrupalCon Europe. We received a unique perspective on various UK organisations' challenges with differing cohorts, scale and complexity, age and legacy systems.

Watch the full panel here, and use the time stamps below to navigate:

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00:00 - Introduction with:

  • Chair and top left: Paul Johnson, HE Specialist at CTI Digital
  • Bottom left: Adrian Ellison, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor & Chief Information Officer at the University of West London.
  • Top right: Nick Holland, Head of Digital at Manchester Metropolitan University.
  • Bottom right: Iain Harper, Head Of Digital Marketing, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

05:29 - Why The University of West London chose to upgrade and continue using Drupal.

09:50 - How Manchester Metropolitan University built the business case to move to Drupal.

13:29 - Oxford Saïd Business School's experience of using Drupal 8 for multiple years.

19:30 - Managing "HiPPO" (Highest Paid Person's Opinion) and different stakeholders' opinions.

22:20 - Data-driven decision making to changes of an existing platform at Oxford.

24:58 - Managing governance for an entire platform change at MMU.

26:58 - Managing change to projects and their teams over multi-year projects.

33:54 - Lockdown and adapting working with staff and students remotely.

37:04 - Content governance and consistency.

38:54 - Designing and building a website for diverse audiences.

41:22 - What features or capabilities for Drupal should Drupal develop for HE's future?

If you're looking for a digital partner to support your digital transformation. We're the team you're looking for. Our full-service team can take your through discovery and user research to plan and define the underlining requirements that meet your business goals. Our content strategy and development team will then be available to make your digital roadmap become a reality—all under one roof, with years of precedented success.

Get in Touch

Jan 07 2021
Jan 07

student in cap and gown attending a virtual college graduation ceremony

Customer Stories on The Pivot to Digital 

In a year like no other, Mediacurrent’s higher education partners were challenged to shift strategies. We recently welcomed a customer panel of seven marketing strategists to share their stories at our company retreat. With voices ranging from two Ivy League universities to an online college, the panel reflected on how the pivot to virtual tours was an ambitious undertaking. So too was the need to rethink student communications and reassess the metrics that matter most.

The following is a transcript of a virtual roundtable by Michael Silverman of Mediacurrent with a panel of seven digital leaders in higher education. It was conducted in December 2020 at the Mediacurrent company retreat. Some of the questions have been edited for brevity and clarity.

How has your recruitment strategy changed with COVID-19? What works now for student enrollment marketing?

For this digital director at a private catholic university, COVID-19 drove his team to imagine creative alternatives for events and approach their marketing funnel in a new way: 

There's been the need to be more creative to reach our target audience. We had to find different ways to engage prospective students. One thing we did was to host a socially distanced drive-in event where prospective students came to the college and watched all about our college. We’ve also moved to more virtual events (I can tell you because I entered over 300 events on our Drupal site!) for new and returning students. We look for different ways to connect with them, to make sure that they stay engaged with the university.

We had a habit of focusing on top of the funnel brand awareness and it was harder to get prospects into the funnel. So we had to make a more concerted effort to reach the students that were already in the funnel, getting them to apply and then put their deposit down. We were working with a smaller pipeline and we had to be more efficient in speaking to it. 

According to this director-level digital strategist for a major state university in the northeast, highlighting the value of a local education was a successful tactic:

When we were being able to get people onto the campus, 70% of people who came to visit ended up applying. Because we were missing out on that, moving to virtual visits, we had to change our messaging quite a bit. 

We found that people were more likely to want to stay at home or stay local. Because our biggest audiences are in-state, and we have 19 campuses across the state, that's been a big point for our message. We really focus on the campus and that local education rather than that “big brand” messaging. 

On a campus of 2,000 students in the Great Plains region, this marketing expert saw how small group tours are more personalized than before:

After shutting our campus down for the spring and summer, we were able to get back to a model that allows for individual family tours. That personal touch has helped us a lot. In October, we hosted more individual tours than any group tour of previous years. Our admissions counselors really take pride in fostering relationships with prospective students through personal interactions like texting, calling, or writing letters.

Aside from campus visits, what were some other leading indicators for applications? 

Prospective students had a high need for information about how the school was reacting to the pandemic. This state university (the same referenced above) saw the opportunity for retargeting campaigns:  

We’ve started to focus more on people coming to the admissions website and just reading through some of our COVID information. Our focus groups found that given the uncertainty, people wanted us to be able to proactively communicate what was going on and what we were planning to do with student enrollment moving forward. So we drove a lot of people to that information. If we saw that people were reading that and clicking over to one of our conversion actions, we would set up retargeting campaigns towards them and get them further down. This was a new strategy because we had never really used any of our PR materials within our enrollment advertising. 

We had never really done retargeting before for trying to get people to accept their offer of admission. We've started to build up some scores in our Slate CRM for the probability of enrollment. We've been able to figure out the people that are most likely to enroll and are able to retarget them at the beginning of the funnel with lookalike audiences and Facebook. Then we’re also retargeting accepted students who are still in the funnel. 

Where do you see the biggest change in measurable goals for your organization due to the changes brought on by COVID-19?

This CMO of an online college for holistic health was able to boost enrollment even as the competition for distance education was skyrocketing:  

We didn't see an enrollment drop-off at all. In fact, we've seen an increase in enrollment. Back in February, I pulled all of our pay-per-click marketing. I had a feeling that if this hit, every single on-campus entity would need to go online and we wouldn’t be able to compete. That strategy saved us. 

We stopped focusing on trying to attract people to enroll. We knew that everyone else was trying to attract them as a consumer. We started doing educational wellness webinars to help people to grow their skills, inviting them to engage with us on an entirely different platform. 

Has your institution been forced to cut costs or reallocate resources? If so, how has that affected your group?

This web strategist for a small university in the midwest weighed in that she faces uncertainties in the upcoming admissions cycle. Looking ahead, her department budget will be geared toward third-party community platforms:

We’re a small school and we were able to pivot pretty well...until now. Our students come because they get to co-op the entire time they're here as a part of the degree requirement. So we're now starting to see it going into this admissions cycle, but we're being very creative because obviously, you're not having your large scale visit events on campus.

For my role, which is running the main site, there probably will be some dollars pulled from me in order to focus on some third-party platforms that are focused on building a community with potential students. Not necessarily budget cuts, but I’ve seen the shifting of money to focus on some of these ongoing virtual things that will continue. 

Without the in-house IT resources to launch a new website, this project director at an Ivy League school relied on Mediacurrent for support:

We hired Mediacurrent prior to the onset of the pandemic to create an online platform that would be useful in the event of a future financial crisis. Two months later, we found ourselves potentially in the midst of that financial crisis.

Our IT department needed to focus on making it so that our students could all attend class online from all over the world. All of a sudden I was in the middle of a Drupal website project, and frankly, I'd never heard of Drupal before this. 

What are the biggest pain points from day to day related to the technology and management of your website?

The crisis forced us to go digital in many ways. It's incredibly important for our websites to stay accessible. Mediacurrent has done a good job of understanding what matters to our stakeholders and helping us navigate accessibility. That’s a huge priority.

This is where working at a school that has a lot of name recognition can bite you. We may not have had to do as much outreach or aggressive marketing as some other schools. So we were extremely behind the curve when we changed to virtual info sessions. We were able to get our information sessions up and running in a way that's decentralized so I didn't have to manage all of that. We could train other staff to get them up and running and host them on their own, which we do through Slate. 

Having virtual information sessions and other digital channels is something that definitely will continue going forward because it allows us to get our message to a broader audience. We're able to share what the school community is like, and what our financial aid can offer.

Marketers from a state school and a small private school both shared how Drupal empowered them to quickly adapt the digital experience: 

On our current site, the back end user experience is really difficult. We have no flexibility to change things when our strategy changes. It's a mess. So what we're building now in Drupal 8, we are very, very excited about. We've been working very closely with the team at Mediacurrent to improve the user experience for our authors and also being able to adapt to changes quickly. 

This year is nothing but pivot. I’m constantly making changes to the website. On our previous Drupal 7 site, I had a hard time adding blocks of content. Now, with Drupal 8 and Layout Builder, I’ve got everything that I need in my tool kit. I can go in on the pages to move around what I need to move around. I’m able to change the content up on a dime. 

What has been your experience working with Mediacurrent? 

All of our panelists agreed that finding the resources to launch new digital campaigns was a steep challenge. This Ivy League marketer summed it up best:

Staff in higher ed are stretched very, very thin. And at this moment, I'm finding that it's harder for us to be forward-looking. The availability and transparency with the Mediacurrent team have been wonderful. We’ve had many Mediacurrent developers working on our team over the past couple of years and as well as user experience and project managers. They’ve not only helped to find ways to improve our site and make the experience better for prospective students and current students but also to keep up with the necessary bugs and Drupal security features. 

The panelists also thanked the Mediacurrent team for being a reliable partner in uncertain times:

It was an enormous blessing not to worry about the development of our platform given everything else that was going for our school in response to the pandemic. I had complete trust in the Mediacurrent team and you didn't let us down.

I’ve needed things more quickly to adapt our strategy this year. As a digital agency partner, Mediacurrent did that. It’s made the difference between sinking and swimming.

What areas of your digital strategy do you see remaining post-pandemic?

An Ivy League project director reflected on how lessons learned from virtual learning may carry over to the classroom:

The particular program that I'm involved in is a specialized master's program targeted specifically overseas. In addition to all of the other travel-related concerns associated with the pandemic, there are also visa issues, et cetera. By necessity, we've been in this mode of, rather than bringing students to campus to sort of convince them to ultimately enroll, needing to do that in a virtual way. As with the classroom experience, we're hoping ultimately to get back to a non-virtual experience. But there are pieces of the virtual experience that we would think about trying to preserve, even in a nonvirtual world. 

We're anxious to get back into the classroom but there are pieces of the online experience that we've enjoyed and have started to think about how we can bring some of those elements into a physical classroom. Something as simple as the ability to interact with students via the chat function in Zoom. How do you think about taking that functionality and applying it in a physical classroom? And I don't know that we have any great answers yet. But it's very much something that we're thinking about.

This private catholic college sees a data-driven website in its future: 

Partly because of COVID, my marketing department was moved into admissions. It's been great because we've had access to more data, so it's allowed us to be more targeted and granular in our advertising. Now I know down to zip codes where my most likely students are to come from. 

So it's been a real benefit in a time where we've had to be more efficient with what we're doing, what we're spending, what we're advertising. And it's kind of also the direction for where I want to go with the website. And that's making sure that all of my analytics, all of my CRM pieces, everything is hooked into Drupal and doing what it needs to do so that we can be efficient even after COVID.

Now What? Rethink Your Digital Focus 

Whether the goal is to boost enrollment, improve student retention, inspire, educate, or engage learners, your website plays a critical role. See how other institutions adapting their digital experience in our upcoming webinar. Join experts from Mediacurrent, Siteimprove, and Pantheon who have helped some of the best-known colleges and universities deliver engaging digital experiences. We hope to see you there! 

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