Intelligence
Lessons from North Park: Engaging Faculty in Academic Web Content

Intelligence

Lessons from North Park: Engaging Faculty in Academic Web Content

Jul 09, 2013By Kylie Stanley

In 2012, North Park University’s (NPU) web team set out to restructure, redesign, and rewrite its academic web pages. While many pages on Northpark.edu are “marketing critical,” NPU considered the academic pages their mission, their product, and their core reason for being — therefore, the top priority.

NPU rolled out the overhauled academic pages in Spring 2013 to praise both on and off campus. When all was said and done, NPU’s team wrote, edited, organized, and/or framed:

  • 65 undergraduate majors, minors, concentrations, and pre‐professional programs.
  • 8 majors for adult bachelor’s degree‐completion programs.
  • 34 graduate/post‐graduate level programs.
  • 25 academic departments/schools with web presences.
  • 625 new pages of content.
  • 144 faculty profiles.

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I sat down with Web Content Manager Megan Gilmore in late June to ask what many were wondering, “How the heck did y’all do it?” I expected to write about their content strategy, and they certainly put a great deal of thought into that area. However, what emerged in my conversation with Megan was one about relationship‐building with faculty.

Here are the top five things Megan told me about engaging with faculty members as part of the redesign:

1) Work within the existing system. NPU worked with department chairs to distribute and complete faculty profiles for all full‐time faculty members. Additionally, NPU’s web team is working with HR to make profile questionnaires a standard piece of new‐hire and ongoing faculty paperwork.

2) Assign web team staff to meet with faculty for interviews and follow‐ups, not administrators. Megan felt that she, as a staff member and not an administrator, was able to have open, honest, and fun conversations with faculty about their web presence.

3) Dedicate one individual or one team to each academic section. Megan oversaw the content production of the entire site, but she assigned specific sections of the site to various writers. It was important to her that each section be “owned” by a specific writer so it shared a similar tone and voice.

4) Approach the redesign as a way to repair relationships and get faculty members talking. Throughout the discovery and intake process, the NPU team took care to make sure everyone felt as if their voices were heard. In the end, this created some excitement around the redesign and the NPU web team now notices a willingness to share content that didn’t exist previously.

5) Start work with faculty early! Everyone says it, but it’s never too early to get rolling when you’re working with busy faculty members. Remember, too, that many faculty members may be on sabbatical or researching off campus. You need to account for those who many be disengaged from day‐to‐day campus life, as well as those who are just slow responders. Megan said that her team finished on time only by “sheer force of will.”