SXSW 2009: The Web in Higher Ed, What’s Different?

Sunday, March 15th, 2009 3:30 PM
Presenter names unknown

Every year he comes to conferences, and every year there is this little packet of Higher Web and there isn’t enough people who are in a larger group. We’re here to talk about issues we have and ways we teach. Schools are being cut 20-30% and although student enrollment is getting higher it doesn’t mean all of that money will be net. In 2012 your budget in lower-ed will be based on how many students you have.

Two of three faculty members say that their lesson plans shouldn’t be on line (or they do not want to maintain it). And two of three students wish their faculty members put their lessons online. This is interesting because we can see that technology is in the youth, and not in the teachers.

Women are underrepresented in all web jobs except for that in Higher Ed. It would be interesting to know why that is, but there is nothing specific.

Brown University just redesigned their home page, which decreased their bounce rate.

Everyone hated the admissions website, but everyone loved the student senate website. The question becomes, who was the person who created this website? It was the person who had the most amount of phraise as working with students. The admissions website person posted a 2000 word phrase information on how to apply to the program. Small teams can do great things, but you find large groups can do much more. Getting something simple like a twitter account, or a facebook acount and look at these things takes very little effort. Most universities, however, dont think what happens with man-power if we do get into social media. It may become overwhelming and require a lot of work long-term.

Always be present. If you are willing to put yourself out there in the shoes of students, be willing to be there and say you can help. And that same policy should probably be true for any kind of organization.

Questions and Answers

The University of Texas had a website, but there was nothing interesting on the homepage. A redesign was put into place, and if you can understand your roles and have the right people with the right skills set them you can acomplish things. It can be fun, as long as you have those people.

In the UK higher education was free. But as times has changed you now have to pay. In other parts of the world we’re not alone with budgets, and they’re suffering the same types of financial situations. Perhaps we should have a conference just for technology educator institutions?

Sometimes the Web Team sits in IT, and sometimes it sits in Marketing. When people rose their hands to these questions, it seemed pretty 50/50.

Sometimes the Web Team is split into two where one part is the front end, and the other part is the back end. Fewer people said they did this than those who are all in one.

University of Florida has been looking into facebook. They wanted to know if people have had any success with facebook. Someone said they’ve used it just as an open form, gather potential information, and hold a poll to see what students are interested in. It allowed them to have an open connection and allow them to have great feedback.

Walden University is an internet based university. They use facebook to recruit students and do their online lecture series. Facebook is how they communicate with their students. This reduces their snail mail and pulls everything to be online.

DePaul University in Chicago had alumni constnatly requesting email, but through facebook requests it showed them that they truly wanted it. This user feedback allowed their alumns to communicate and respond to them.

“Facebook Gate” was mentioned, but it was never explained what it was. But when using this increased applications to the university because it allowed students to talk to each other.

In facebook there are pages and there are groups. Pages are better because they’re more broad and allow you to drill down and target the audience administrators can contact: alumni, age, location, etc.

University of Washington has a long debate because they’re running out of funding. It has been a long debate for years now if they should move over to gmail/ymail to see if they should keep holding onto an internal server.

ASU did a big piolit with google aps.

Boston College turned all their services off and forward everything through google.

In turns of web standards and web usability how many have organizations that feel these are important? About 33% of people raised their hand to the question. Someone mentioned that “Accessibility is the law.” In Texas they have a clause where multimedia online does not need to follow the same standards as federal 503 compliance. If you have Accessability commities you should be using them.

Someone asked how many schools have tools that validate across their entire website which will allow them to check for missing alt tags, form validation, etc. Only three people (less than 1%) raised their hand. IBM Rational Policy Tester and World Space were recommended.

One university said they are showcasing projects. A “Social Media Working Group” is what they called it. This is a way so they can all get together and share projects/ideas. This will then let people know what is going on, what is new, and not to reinvent the wheel.

Creating a blog, having a twitter account, having half-day conferences, and becoming community driven has helped one university promote new tools and ideas they are working on. This allows different departments to be fully involved with the surrounding community. If the webteam constantly tells clients “no” for whatever reason you need to instead sit down with the clients, talk to them about why they cannot have it. These means can also be done by using the blog, twitter, etc. ideas. If you’re discouriging the departments from coming to you, then you can do more harm than anything. Universities love commities, doing things at a one-on-one basis seems a little more personal. Otherwise if you do something in a committy then you’re going to have those “alpha-males” that constantly take the attention. One-on-one is the best way to get what everyone wants to know: “Individual State Hold Meetings.”

The question was asked, “Are there things about your job that you feel good about? Do you wish you had a better job? Do you love the university?” Someone responded, “Our problems are more technological, and not personal.”

University Web Developers:

Posted in Geeky, SXSW 2009.

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