Why Path Portal
Wanting more online interactions
Over the last three years, Wilson College has been a Path (formerly Campus) partner and advocated for a better way to manage content. Working together with Wilson College’s Director of Educational Technology, James D’Annibale, resulted in Pages, a static page feature within Path that allows institutions to organize, filter easily and maintain content that students and faculty need to access regularly.
It was just really hard to navigate everything and figure out where stuff was. When I was a new employee trying to dig through everything, I found my way through the website, but the web advisor portal that we had, I didn’t even try. If I needed something that was in there, I’d ask somebody else to find it for me because I couldn’t do it.
– James D’Annibale, Director of Educational Technology
Wilson College first came to Path because they had a website that housed some of their information and a web advisor portal that housed the other half. When James D’Annibale saw the applications, he knew they needed a better solution.
Wilson College was looking to combine the information on the website and the portal into a single resource. They also wanted a social community where students and faculty could connect over shared interests, majors, or other topics.
“We wanted more online interactions. We really liked the social media type of feel of Path, but we needed to figure out a way to combine the interactive capability with serving up information that we had in the previous iterations of the website and the portal.”
Because Wilson College first partnered with Path (then Campus) three years ago, we had yet to build some of the technology they needed. Wilson College’s requirements were:
From those requirements (and additional requests from other partners) came Pages.
Making the Switch
Getting buy-in from faculty
Wilson College runs very leanly when it comes to faculty and staff. Many of the supporting offices like communications and enterprise applications have a team of one person. This is great for people who enjoy doing many different things but presents an issue if one person is responsible for supporting the broader organization.
This was the case when Wilson College had a website and web advisor portal. The single communications person was responsible for updating anything on the website.
You had to put in a ticket with communications, and because they only had one person working on it and that person split time between the internal website and the external website, it would take a long time for edits to get made.
– James D’Annibale, Director of Educational Technology
Because Path was committed to working with Wilson College on the Pages functionality, getting buy-in from the rest of the institution was easy.
“I think everybody was just so happy to have something easy to use and that looked nice that we didn’t need to worry about buy-in much.”
That didn’t mean every person across all departments was excited about the change. James was very clear in communications that departments had to cooperate with moving assets over to the new system or the information would be deleted. James also limits the freedom people have when it comes to the pages they do own.
“We’re able to give the departments control over their pages, but they’re not able to add pages. If they want to add a page or delete a page, they have to go through me. In the old system, when they first started it, people could add pages whenever they wanted. There were pages everywhere. That’s why they locked it down in the old system so that people couldn’t edit anymore. This time, we opened permissions with some limits in place.”
Advice to future customers
01 Take an Inventory
Wilson College’s old website and portal had become very unruly because people were allowed to create pages as often as they liked and didn’t go back and correct stale information. They knew they needed a complete list of content from their old tools because once they switched off the platforms, the content couldn’t be accessed and restored.
“We did a total inventory of both the old website and the old portal. We made a spreadsheet so we could identify duplicates. People from various departments met as a small team to take a first crack at what the end list of pages should look like. Then we went to each department, the financial aid office, for example, and said, ‘Hey, here’s what we have today. Here’s where we’d like to go. What do you think?’”
02 Establish and Communicate Design Standards
One of James’ regrets is that they didn’t have the bandwidth to establish design standards before rolling out the portal. “If we could do it all over again, I would include communications more. They have since come up with design standards and communicated them out to everybody.”
03 Create Templates
If you have defined design standards, Path customers can use templates with standard headers, fonts, colors, and subheaders. Once those are made, it’s easy to clone them as departments request new pages so they don’t have to create the page from scratch.
04 Think of Categories From a Student’s Perspective
People in an administrative capacity get used to terms and acronyms that students may never hear. James recommends that you think of your categories as though you were a first-year student and come up with logical terminology from their perspective.
“We originally had ‘physical plant’ as a category, and students don’t know what that means. Because most requests from students are related to cleanup or something wrong with their dorm room, we just called it housekeeping. And it worked. They’d stayed in hotels and knew what housekeeping meant.”
Consider your audience before using categories that follow the naming convention your institution defaults to today.
05 Ask for Guidance
“As you’re building things out, if you’re a new customer and you’re doing the implementation, just lean Path because they know what they’re doing. I’m pretty sure they all come from higher ed, they know what you’re talking about, they know the struggles that you have, they know the different types of populations that you’re dealing with, so just lean on them.”