Choice Part 4: eProspectus

Courses HomepageSo on to the first of our web applications! Unsurprisingly, quite a large (and important) part of our audience is people interested in studying at Edge Hill and the courses we offer so it’s important that the website makes it easy for visitors to find the information they need. To meet this requirement, a lot of work has been done on the “Study” area of the site. It’s fair to say that we’ve almost completely overhauled every aspect from content to design and navigation.

I’m not going to take the credit for this – there’s other people who’ve poured over every paragraph, photo and link to get it as good as possible – but I will talk about (and take the credit for ;-)) some of the systems we’ve developed. Just like the paper prospectus, sitting at the back of all the beautifully designed copy and images is the course listings. It might not be sexy, but it’s an important part of the process students go through before they apply to Edge Hill.

We’ve had an online course database for a number of years but the Big Brief has given us the opportunity to redevelop it from scatch and look at how people find the courses they’re interested in, the best ways to present information and some less interesting things on the backend that will make managing the information easier.

XCRIOver the last few years there has been much discussion and development in the HE community of ways of expressing and sharing course related information. Initial developments were maybe a little ambitious, encompassing DCDs and module information. More recently work has been done on a more focussed project – XCRI CAP – which is looking at the course marketing side of the equation and seems to be much more managable.

With a growing buzz surrounding XCRI CAP we decided late last summer that it was the way to go when implementing our new eProspectus and just before Christmas we applied for and won JISC funding for a mini project to integrate CAP 1.1 with our systems.

Course information is now completely served from a database. The database structure is based on the information we require to produce XCRI feeds (which will be coming very soon!) so we store details not just of what courses we offer, but different presentations (for example 2008 or 2009 entry, where entry requirements might be different). With course information available in the database, we’re able to embed lists of courses into the relevant areas across the site so updating the eProspectus updates all the pages that use it.

Courses tag cloudThe new back end has allowed us to add some new features to help visitors find what they’re looking for. As well as the A to Z list, you can now get lists of keywords or tags. Tagging is a useful way of navigating around information and we’re using it in a number of ways both internally and externally. We’ll talk about tags in the future because it’s an important part of working with the web.

My CoursesThe My Courses feature is still in development. Currently it allows you to add a number of courses to a “shopping basket and then compare some key details about them. In the future, we’ll be using this to provide a personalised downloadable prospectus and allow you to save the information for future reference. For applicants this is one of the first points where they start to engage with Edge Hill online.

The search engine deserves an entire post of its own but from the eProspectus side, search results are fully integrated with the entire site search yet contain information relevant to courses rather than simply a summary extract.

Once you’ve found the course you’re interested in the course details page is broken down into hopefully manageable chunks. Different years of entry have separate summaries; module information which not everyone will be interested is shifted to a separate tab.

So that’s it for our first newly redeveloped application. If you’ve got any comments or questions, please leave a comment.