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How the University of Edinburgh uses GatherContent to maintain content in their degree finder

How the University of Edinburgh uses GatherContent to maintain content in their degree finder

How the University of Edinburgh uses GatherContent to maintain content in their degree finder

How the University of Edinburgh uses GatherContent to maintain content in their degree finder

Becky Taylor

Product Marketing Manager, GatherContent

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Large organisations like universities need well-oiled, content operations to help make sure their content is up to date and supports both organisational goals and user needs.

The University of Edinburgh saw success using GatherContent to support content operations for their Undergrad Degree Finder for the 2021 academic year last year and are now using it for the 2022 project.

We spoke to Cameron Edwards, Senior Content Designer at the University, to learn more about the impact of using a content operations platform to support this cyclical, annual project.

The need for a content operations platform

Developing content for the Undergrad Degree Finder is a complex operation that requires collaboration with a broad set of stakeholders across the university.

The Prospective Student Web Content team (PSWC) work within Communications and Marketing - managing content for approximately 400 programmes, as well as the 'subject-level' overviews of the programmes.

The relationship between the central PSWC team and some 20+ School editors from across the University is key.

In turn, those School editors are communicating with hundreds of academics and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) per School for input and review.

Activities are underpinned by a very, very large IT estate, with bespoke CMS systems and separate Postgraduate and Undergraduate systems for managing degree programmes.

Managing this work every year with traditional tools made the process vulnerable to chaos. Reflecting on how things were before introducing GatherContent, a Content Operations Platform, Cameron says:

“[Before GatherContent], trying to communicate and produce content meant everyone was playing word doc tennis, with stakeholders collaborating in a haphazard and sporadic way - so there was a really obvious need for a ContentOps solution.”

Features to boost productivity and collaboration

Cameron talked to us about the features of GatherContent that have helped transform the experience of collating and creating this content each year.

Templates that structure requirements

The PSWC team have been able to create a structured environment to create content, utilising carefully defined content templates. As opposed to a blank sheet in Google Docs or Word, content templates break content requirements into specific blocks that structure the content. This makes it easy to repeat content structure across many content items and keep consistency across different schools.

The Undergrad Programme Template in GatherContent showing field types and guidelines.

Undergraduate Programme Template created in GatherContent showing field types and guidelines.

By bringing structure to content development, this has helped degree finder content to be produced much more quickly:

“The velocity for the project was about X2. After the initial setup, we finished the entire content update itself in around three weeks, with final edits shared amongst five content designers.”

Prescriptive field guidelines

In the programme content templates, the University has made good use of the guidelines fields, giving really clear instructions to people.

Field-level guidelines in GatherContent to instruct contributors on what content is required.

Field-level guidelines instruct contributors on what content is required

This makes it easier for School editors across the University to work to common, agreed guidelines - helping shape more consistent content, and minimising back-and-forth with the PSWC team itself. It also guides contributors who are perhaps not familiar with the process of publishing content or are not from a web publishing background.

Workflow mirroring the content operation process

The University developed a clear process of stages that need to happen sequentially to publish content for the Degree Finder system:

  • marketing colleagues or lead editors from the Schools share degree programmes with School academics and Subject Matter Experts
  • they then edit these changes and resolve any programme specific copy or concerns
  • when finished, they then pass this copy to the PSWC content designers, who optimise the copy - in line with reader requirements, business goals etc. - and publish it

This process is mirrored in GatherContent using content workflow - a set of statuses that can be applied to each content item to communicate what stage content is at, and what needs to happen next.

Content workflow within a programme content item in GatherContent, showing all of the workflow stages and their status such as 'import from degree finder' being complete.

Content workflow within a programme content item in GatherContent

While the PSWC team are essentially using the same workflow as last year for their 2022 project, they've also applied a very small but significant change.

In the 2021 project, they found that editors for joint programmes attributed to the same programme - often from two or three different schools - meant there was no easy way for specific Schools editors to know when the others had 'finished'.

So they simply tweaked the workflow to ensure that School editors had the means to check if  ‘everyone else has left the room’ - with responsibility for completing the workflow stage falling to the last editor standing.

Shareable links make it easy to engage low-touch stakeholders

At the SME review stage of the University's process, specific instructions in the workflow instruct the School marketing reps to send a shareable link to the SMEs for their review.

Example workflow in GatherContent with specific instructions to use Shareable Links to engage Subject Matter Experts.

Workflow with specific instructions to use Shareable Links to engage SMEs

Shareable links allow the School marketing leads to distribute content for review in a read-only format (a customisable option) where the SMEs can provide feedback via in-line comments - with minimal friction and complete version control.

“Shareable links have allowed us to gather more SME feedback in a controlled manner than we had when using Google Docs”

Greater engagement with SMEs helps maintain content quality and consistency.

Plans for the future and ongoing use

Using GatherContent for the Undergraduate Degree Finder has brought some obvious advances for the PSWC team:

  • Drastic time savings
  • Improved communication and collaboration
  • Improved content quality

There are also now other teams adopting the platform. For example, the School of Political Science is using GatherContent in re-imagining their School website. The seamless experience with the degree finder project went a long way to underpinning confidence in the system.

The PSWC team continue to use GatherContent for future academic degree finder projects - and GatherContent will also help with future plans to improve content processes and quality. As Cameron says:

“'I’m trying to establish much more direct relationships between content designers and School editors. I'm very hopeful that GatherContent is going to be even more effective through the next cycle.”

Find out how GatherContent can help your institution

GatherContent works with lots of universities to help them improve their content operations. Check out our other case studies, or head over to our higher education page to find out how it can help your institution.

There is also further information on the University of Edinburgh’s Prospective Student Web Content Team blog about their journey with GatherContent for the Undergraduate Degree Finder. Cameron has written this article on the Degree Finder refresh sprint review.

Large organisations like universities need well-oiled, content operations to help make sure their content is up to date and supports both organisational goals and user needs.

The University of Edinburgh saw success using GatherContent to support content operations for their Undergrad Degree Finder for the 2021 academic year last year and are now using it for the 2022 project.

We spoke to Cameron Edwards, Senior Content Designer at the University, to learn more about the impact of using a content operations platform to support this cyclical, annual project.

The need for a content operations platform

Developing content for the Undergrad Degree Finder is a complex operation that requires collaboration with a broad set of stakeholders across the university.

The Prospective Student Web Content team (PSWC) work within Communications and Marketing - managing content for approximately 400 programmes, as well as the 'subject-level' overviews of the programmes.

The relationship between the central PSWC team and some 20+ School editors from across the University is key.

In turn, those School editors are communicating with hundreds of academics and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) per School for input and review.

Activities are underpinned by a very, very large IT estate, with bespoke CMS systems and separate Postgraduate and Undergraduate systems for managing degree programmes.

Managing this work every year with traditional tools made the process vulnerable to chaos. Reflecting on how things were before introducing GatherContent, a Content Operations Platform, Cameron says:

“[Before GatherContent], trying to communicate and produce content meant everyone was playing word doc tennis, with stakeholders collaborating in a haphazard and sporadic way - so there was a really obvious need for a ContentOps solution.”

Features to boost productivity and collaboration

Cameron talked to us about the features of GatherContent that have helped transform the experience of collating and creating this content each year.

Templates that structure requirements

The PSWC team have been able to create a structured environment to create content, utilising carefully defined content templates. As opposed to a blank sheet in Google Docs or Word, content templates break content requirements into specific blocks that structure the content. This makes it easy to repeat content structure across many content items and keep consistency across different schools.

The Undergrad Programme Template in GatherContent showing field types and guidelines.

Undergraduate Programme Template created in GatherContent showing field types and guidelines.

By bringing structure to content development, this has helped degree finder content to be produced much more quickly:

“The velocity for the project was about X2. After the initial setup, we finished the entire content update itself in around three weeks, with final edits shared amongst five content designers.”

Prescriptive field guidelines

In the programme content templates, the University has made good use of the guidelines fields, giving really clear instructions to people.

Field-level guidelines in GatherContent to instruct contributors on what content is required.

Field-level guidelines instruct contributors on what content is required

This makes it easier for School editors across the University to work to common, agreed guidelines - helping shape more consistent content, and minimising back-and-forth with the PSWC team itself. It also guides contributors who are perhaps not familiar with the process of publishing content or are not from a web publishing background.

Workflow mirroring the content operation process

The University developed a clear process of stages that need to happen sequentially to publish content for the Degree Finder system:

  • marketing colleagues or lead editors from the Schools share degree programmes with School academics and Subject Matter Experts
  • they then edit these changes and resolve any programme specific copy or concerns
  • when finished, they then pass this copy to the PSWC content designers, who optimise the copy - in line with reader requirements, business goals etc. - and publish it

This process is mirrored in GatherContent using content workflow - a set of statuses that can be applied to each content item to communicate what stage content is at, and what needs to happen next.

Content workflow within a programme content item in GatherContent, showing all of the workflow stages and their status such as 'import from degree finder' being complete.

Content workflow within a programme content item in GatherContent

While the PSWC team are essentially using the same workflow as last year for their 2022 project, they've also applied a very small but significant change.

In the 2021 project, they found that editors for joint programmes attributed to the same programme - often from two or three different schools - meant there was no easy way for specific Schools editors to know when the others had 'finished'.

So they simply tweaked the workflow to ensure that School editors had the means to check if  ‘everyone else has left the room’ - with responsibility for completing the workflow stage falling to the last editor standing.

Shareable links make it easy to engage low-touch stakeholders

At the SME review stage of the University's process, specific instructions in the workflow instruct the School marketing reps to send a shareable link to the SMEs for their review.

Example workflow in GatherContent with specific instructions to use Shareable Links to engage Subject Matter Experts.

Workflow with specific instructions to use Shareable Links to engage SMEs

Shareable links allow the School marketing leads to distribute content for review in a read-only format (a customisable option) where the SMEs can provide feedback via in-line comments - with minimal friction and complete version control.

“Shareable links have allowed us to gather more SME feedback in a controlled manner than we had when using Google Docs”

Greater engagement with SMEs helps maintain content quality and consistency.

Plans for the future and ongoing use

Using GatherContent for the Undergraduate Degree Finder has brought some obvious advances for the PSWC team:

  • Drastic time savings
  • Improved communication and collaboration
  • Improved content quality

There are also now other teams adopting the platform. For example, the School of Political Science is using GatherContent in re-imagining their School website. The seamless experience with the degree finder project went a long way to underpinning confidence in the system.

The PSWC team continue to use GatherContent for future academic degree finder projects - and GatherContent will also help with future plans to improve content processes and quality. As Cameron says:

“'I’m trying to establish much more direct relationships between content designers and School editors. I'm very hopeful that GatherContent is going to be even more effective through the next cycle.”

Find out how GatherContent can help your institution

GatherContent works with lots of universities to help them improve their content operations. Check out our other case studies, or head over to our higher education page to find out how it can help your institution.

There is also further information on the University of Edinburgh’s Prospective Student Web Content Team blog about their journey with GatherContent for the Undergraduate Degree Finder. Cameron has written this article on the Degree Finder refresh sprint review.

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About the author

Becky Taylor

Becky is a Product Marketing Manager at GatherContent. She has 10+ years working in marketing executing affiliate, content, display, mobile, search and social campaigns for high profile clients across various sectors including Travel, Entertainment and Oil & Energy.

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