Five initiatives to improve AU's web solutions
A new start page for students, improved search functionality and more digital tools for file and knowledge sharing. These are some of the initiatives which are going to improve the user experience at AU websites.
Since April 2015, a steering committee and four working groups have worked to map the challenges and possibilities facing AU’s internal and external communication. This has led to several suggestions for AU web improvements.
The steering committee has discussed the suggestions from the working groups. The extent of the proposed changes means that implementation will happen in phases. The steering committee has selected five key initiatives for implementation in phase 1. The senior management team has discussed and supports this prioritisation.
The five initiatives are: A new start page for students, improved search functionality, more digital tools for file sharing, knowledge sharing and for creating project rooms, a new structure for AU’s external website, and more flexible websites for staff.
Personalised start page for students
A new personalised start page will be created to ensure improved access for students to important student information. This new start page offers the students access to and an overview of the digital study environment and the systems involved such as Blackboard, Students’ portals, STADS, mit.au.dk (Self-service), digital exam, Office 365, email etc. In future, it will also be possible to use the start page to access information about e.g. timetables and course registration.
The working group has mapped the students’ primary digital requirements through e.g. focus group interviews with students and based the solution on this work. The study shows that the students find the current system landscape fragmented and sender focused.
Improved search functionality
One of the areas of AU’s websites which the users are most dissatisfied with is the search functionality. The problems are caused partly by the amount of content on AU’s websites and the content quality, and partly by the selected search engine.
In order to solve the problem, AU is planning to get a new search engine which can generate exact and relevant results and combine data from the different information sources which AU uses.
Part of the solution is also to offer the users more options for making individual adjustments to the way search results are displayed through filtering and sorting, and to present search results in a more well-structured way.
More digital tools for file and knowledge sharing
Through workshops for academic and administrative staff, the staff web working group has mapped the staff’s most important requirements and looked into ways to meet these requirements digitally. It was also the working group’s task to find out whether there is a need for a password protected intranet at AU.
The working group has assessed that an AU-wide intranet is not the desired solution considering the needs of the staff. This is partly because there is an imminent risk that an intranet will be outpaced by new technology which produces user-friendly software at a rapid pace, software (e.g. Dropbox) which can take care of many of the intranet tasks in a cheap and efficient way.
Instead of an AU-wide intranet, the staff’s needs will be met by a selection of digital tools. First, AU must find services for file and knowledge sharing and creation of project rooms which can support the cooperation between colleagues internally at AU and with external partners.
New external website design
AU’s external website has been criticised for being sender focused and with a structure which makes it difficult for external stakeholders to find relevant information.
As a result, the website’s design and structure will be adjusted based on the information which the users usually look for at AU’s website. At the same time, the Danish and the English front page will be redesigned to reflect user needs. The English front page will no longer be an English version of the Danish front page which will make it possible to target the English front page at an international audience.
Flexible profile pages for staff
Mapping the challenges of AU’s external website showed that there are specific issues in connection with the staff’s personal profile pages which are perceived as being inadequate and inflexible. Currently, the profiles are generated automatically in PURE and it is, for example, not possible to pull data about teaching activities into your profile or meet individual requests for integration of videos and presentations.
In order to meet the researchers’ needs for a more flexible set-up for presenting academic profiles and activities, an exploration of possible solutions is now being initiated.
What happens next?
The detailed project planning and the work to find funding will now start. The implementation phase, which is expected to last a number of years, will start in the course of the next months.
The work connected to the implementation of the other suggestions from the working groups will continue, as the working groups still have many relevant suggestions for improvement which cannot all be implemented at once. For the time being, the steering committee will continue its work and will follow the implementation of the working groups’ suggestions closely to ensure timely progress and the right anchoring.
Background information about the project
The problem analysis showed communication challenges at AU – internally as well as externally.
In April 2015, the senior management team appointed a steering committee with four subsidiary working groups which were to prepare suggestions for improvement’s to the university’s communication in the course of 2015.
A member of academic staff and a member of technical/administrative staff share the chairmanship and management of each working group. The faculties have appointed members to the working groups.
The working groups have focused on the following topics:
- Web for students
- Web for staff
- External website
- Communication practices
All four working groups have completed their work, and the steering committee is now prioritising and planning the implementation of the many suggestions.
The senior management team has recently discussed the steering committee’s prioritisation of the suggestions for improving AU’s web solutions and expect to process the proposal for a new communication practice at the end of March.
- Report concerning web for students (pdf in Danish)
- Report concerning web for staff (pdf in Danish)
- Report concerning external website (pdf in Danish)