How to effectively manage course content creation in higher ed

How to effectively manage course content creation in higher ed

5 minute read

How to effectively manage course content creation in higher ed

5 minute read

How to effectively manage course content creation in higher ed

Paige Toomes

Copywriter and Digital Marketer

There’s no doubt COVID-19 has had a significant impact on universities and colleges all over the world. Many higher ed content teams are now finding themselves faced with an increase in the need for content and the pace in which it needs to be published. That's on top of their content operations, or business-as-usual content. We recently conducted a survey on the impact COVID-19 has had on higher education content teams and summarised the key insights into a blog post, but the key findings were:

  • 58% of respondents said that their university content was now more business-critical due to the pandemic. This is content as a whole, rather than a specific type such as course descriptions or website content
  • 39% said that there are now more people involved in content creation
  • 43% said that they now need to deliver content quicker
  • 63% said their university has been spurred into digital transformation

We’ve also hosted webinars on challenges and opportunities in the age of COVID-19, along with higher ed marketing and enrolment, the impact of the coronavirus on students preparing for university in 2020, and clarity in higher education: every written word represents your brand, which focuses on using plain language in non-marketing content, that is easy for students, faculty, or the public to understand.

Course content is high-stakes content. And with more content being provided online from higher ed organisations, course content needs to be planned and managed efficiently and effectively. With new ways of teaching and learning, the format and structure of courses is changing, along with the way feedback is given and how academics communicate with students, and students with each other.

With no or limited face-to-face contact, there has to be the utmost confidence that your course content is clear and accurate. Initial prerequisites, course and module descriptions for applicants are more important than ever for marketing purposes and to meet recruitment goals, and so is the actual core course content.

Students are consumers, and accessibility is important

There are different laws that universities and colleges need to be aware of and working towards being compliant with. We’ve written about these in this article on keeping content compliant in higher education. Students and prospective students want to get what they are paying for, and universities need to be working hard to accommodate. Content needs to be high quality and consistent if you’re going to attract and engage students.

You need to be thinking about design and accessibility in particular for your website content, with new laws on accessibility in the UK have also come into play recently, meaning that websites, content and apps all need to adhere to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Universities need to make sure web pages are responsive, accessible and laid out so people can easily skim, scan or skip to the part they want - and increasingly, making content available on mobile.

Course descriptions need to be compelling and in-depth enough that they cover all key areas of the course, prerequisites, goals, teaching and learning outcomes and so on, but also simple, easy to skim and scan and in plain, easy to understand language. You also want content to be fairly uniform across departments and faculties.

There’s also video links to think about. Lectures will either need to be pre-recorded, or live-streamed and again, types of content and the way content is created is shifting. Many universities are now thinking about live chat, podcasts and webinars too, and you’ll also need to think about accessibility such as subtitles and audio descriptions.

So how do you manage content output during times of change?

In the age of digital transformation, COVID-19 and changes to student and prospective student needs, content creation comes down to three things:

  1. people
  2. processes
  3. technology

Universities and colleges need to have a content strategy and content management best practices, along with the right tools to cope.

There are a lot of people involved in creating and delivering course content. So how do you project manage large volumes of course content, across a large organisation, with multiple stakeholders and content contributors? We’ll cover some key things to think about when creating content, putting together a content strategy and content management plan:

A clear workflow

How many times has content been derailed and overrun on budgets due to getting stuck in feedback loops, struggling to get hold of the person who needs to sign off the work, and often, the wrong people looking and signing off work? Then it becomes a rush job and scramble to get last minute edits over the line. To ensure content is high quality and delivered on time, with no fuss and easy collaboration, you need a clear, well-communicated workflow that is visible and understandable to everyone involved in the content creation process.

Ideally, you want your workflow to be embedded in your content creation tool (like GatherContent) so it can be seen by everyone, used for reference, and roles and responsibilities can be assigned and aligned to avoid confusion and bottlenecks. Check out our webinar on creating an efficient workflow for keeping university content creation on track. Join us and learn about the stages needed for an efficient workflow and a step by step process to define a custom workflow for your institution.

Defined roles and responsibilities

To keep content creation productive and flowing, you need to have clear roles and responsibilities, and tasks within projects. Stakeholders need to all be on the same page, and ideally, content creation is centralised. There are lots of people involved in production of course content including, marketing, digital, academics, subject matter experts, senior leadership and more. And often, departments are silos and communication is sparse and disorganised.

The pitfalls of poorly aligned stakeholders can have huge knock-on effects on content creation and delivery. Teams and departments need to be aligned to create consistent course content that best represents your university.

Structured content templates

The use of templates is crucial for course content management and planning, when you’re managing large volumes of content across different departments. This is particularly true for course description where there are clear sections and parts of information you need to include and adhere to quality conventions and standards, such as prerequisites, learning objectives and outcomes, module descriptions, reading lists etc. Course content should reflect your brand and academic programs, and uphold your university as a trusted and respected institution.

Course content will of course change and update frequently each year, and is changing as a necessary response to COVID-19 and the pressure to digitally transform. So you also want to be able to easily organise, find and update content based on your templates and project categories, and create review cycles.  GatherContent has a Content Hub that allows you to organise and find content easily.

A useful and usable style guide

All higher ed organisations should have a style guide. But, don’t just have it in a static PDF. Your style guide will change and morph over time and that’s okay. Check out our article deconstructing the University of Dundee’s style guide. And this article on how Mailchimp onboarded their team to a new brand voice. Although every university will have their own voice, tone and messaging, writing in plain language is becoming increasingly important, and you have to take into consideration writing online - we have some great articles to help when writing for the web.

Many universities have put their full content style guides up online, so there’s nothing to stop you from having a peek and gaining inspiration. Check out this brilliant visual one from the University of Leeds, and this one from the University of Bath. Many have also chosen to publicly display their course content style guides specifically online, too. Stanford University has given some guidance on writing course descriptions, as well as University College London. With GatherContent, you can embed rules from your style guide into your editing environment, which makes it much easier to keep content consistent and provides an easy reference for writers.

Course content has never been more important, or high-stakes, for universities

Good content management and strategy looks at people, processes and technology holistically. GatherContent helps organisations with this. See how it can help your higher ed institution with the planning, production and management of content by visiting our higher education industry page. Or find out how it can help with your productivity, quality, and compliance.

There’s no doubt COVID-19 has had a significant impact on universities and colleges all over the world. Many higher ed content teams are now finding themselves faced with an increase in the need for content and the pace in which it needs to be published. That's on top of their content operations, or business-as-usual content. We recently conducted a survey on the impact COVID-19 has had on higher education content teams and summarised the key insights into a blog post, but the key findings were:

  • 58% of respondents said that their university content was now more business-critical due to the pandemic. This is content as a whole, rather than a specific type such as course descriptions or website content
  • 39% said that there are now more people involved in content creation
  • 43% said that they now need to deliver content quicker
  • 63% said their university has been spurred into digital transformation

We’ve also hosted webinars on challenges and opportunities in the age of COVID-19, along with higher ed marketing and enrolment, the impact of the coronavirus on students preparing for university in 2020, and clarity in higher education: every written word represents your brand, which focuses on using plain language in non-marketing content, that is easy for students, faculty, or the public to understand.

Course content is high-stakes content. And with more content being provided online from higher ed organisations, course content needs to be planned and managed efficiently and effectively. With new ways of teaching and learning, the format and structure of courses is changing, along with the way feedback is given and how academics communicate with students, and students with each other.

With no or limited face-to-face contact, there has to be the utmost confidence that your course content is clear and accurate. Initial prerequisites, course and module descriptions for applicants are more important than ever for marketing purposes and to meet recruitment goals, and so is the actual core course content.

Students are consumers, and accessibility is important

There are different laws that universities and colleges need to be aware of and working towards being compliant with. We’ve written about these in this article on keeping content compliant in higher education. Students and prospective students want to get what they are paying for, and universities need to be working hard to accommodate. Content needs to be high quality and consistent if you’re going to attract and engage students.

You need to be thinking about design and accessibility in particular for your website content, with new laws on accessibility in the UK have also come into play recently, meaning that websites, content and apps all need to adhere to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Universities need to make sure web pages are responsive, accessible and laid out so people can easily skim, scan or skip to the part they want - and increasingly, making content available on mobile.

Course descriptions need to be compelling and in-depth enough that they cover all key areas of the course, prerequisites, goals, teaching and learning outcomes and so on, but also simple, easy to skim and scan and in plain, easy to understand language. You also want content to be fairly uniform across departments and faculties.

There’s also video links to think about. Lectures will either need to be pre-recorded, or live-streamed and again, types of content and the way content is created is shifting. Many universities are now thinking about live chat, podcasts and webinars too, and you’ll also need to think about accessibility such as subtitles and audio descriptions.

So how do you manage content output during times of change?

In the age of digital transformation, COVID-19 and changes to student and prospective student needs, content creation comes down to three things:

  1. people
  2. processes
  3. technology

Universities and colleges need to have a content strategy and content management best practices, along with the right tools to cope.

There are a lot of people involved in creating and delivering course content. So how do you project manage large volumes of course content, across a large organisation, with multiple stakeholders and content contributors? We’ll cover some key things to think about when creating content, putting together a content strategy and content management plan:

A clear workflow

How many times has content been derailed and overrun on budgets due to getting stuck in feedback loops, struggling to get hold of the person who needs to sign off the work, and often, the wrong people looking and signing off work? Then it becomes a rush job and scramble to get last minute edits over the line. To ensure content is high quality and delivered on time, with no fuss and easy collaboration, you need a clear, well-communicated workflow that is visible and understandable to everyone involved in the content creation process.

Ideally, you want your workflow to be embedded in your content creation tool (like GatherContent) so it can be seen by everyone, used for reference, and roles and responsibilities can be assigned and aligned to avoid confusion and bottlenecks. Check out our webinar on creating an efficient workflow for keeping university content creation on track. Join us and learn about the stages needed for an efficient workflow and a step by step process to define a custom workflow for your institution.

Defined roles and responsibilities

To keep content creation productive and flowing, you need to have clear roles and responsibilities, and tasks within projects. Stakeholders need to all be on the same page, and ideally, content creation is centralised. There are lots of people involved in production of course content including, marketing, digital, academics, subject matter experts, senior leadership and more. And often, departments are silos and communication is sparse and disorganised.

The pitfalls of poorly aligned stakeholders can have huge knock-on effects on content creation and delivery. Teams and departments need to be aligned to create consistent course content that best represents your university.

Structured content templates

The use of templates is crucial for course content management and planning, when you’re managing large volumes of content across different departments. This is particularly true for course description where there are clear sections and parts of information you need to include and adhere to quality conventions and standards, such as prerequisites, learning objectives and outcomes, module descriptions, reading lists etc. Course content should reflect your brand and academic programs, and uphold your university as a trusted and respected institution.

Course content will of course change and update frequently each year, and is changing as a necessary response to COVID-19 and the pressure to digitally transform. So you also want to be able to easily organise, find and update content based on your templates and project categories, and create review cycles.  GatherContent has a Content Hub that allows you to organise and find content easily.

A useful and usable style guide

All higher ed organisations should have a style guide. But, don’t just have it in a static PDF. Your style guide will change and morph over time and that’s okay. Check out our article deconstructing the University of Dundee’s style guide. And this article on how Mailchimp onboarded their team to a new brand voice. Although every university will have their own voice, tone and messaging, writing in plain language is becoming increasingly important, and you have to take into consideration writing online - we have some great articles to help when writing for the web.

Many universities have put their full content style guides up online, so there’s nothing to stop you from having a peek and gaining inspiration. Check out this brilliant visual one from the University of Leeds, and this one from the University of Bath. Many have also chosen to publicly display their course content style guides specifically online, too. Stanford University has given some guidance on writing course descriptions, as well as University College London. With GatherContent, you can embed rules from your style guide into your editing environment, which makes it much easier to keep content consistent and provides an easy reference for writers.

Course content has never been more important, or high-stakes, for universities

Good content management and strategy looks at people, processes and technology holistically. GatherContent helps organisations with this. See how it can help your higher ed institution with the planning, production and management of content by visiting our higher education industry page. Or find out how it can help with your productivity, quality, and compliance.

Webinar

How to create an efficient workflow for keeping university website content creation on track

Tips and advice to help you create a workflow for successful collaboration to deliver content on time. Plus examples of how to visualise workflows.

July 21, 2020

4:00 pm

Register now

Webinar

How to create an efficient workflow for keeping university website content creation on track

Tips and advice to help you create a workflow for successful collaboration to deliver content on time. Plus examples of how to visualise workflows.

July 21, 2020

4:00 pm

Watch now
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About the author

Paige Toomes

Paige is an English Literature and Media graduate from Newcastle University, and over the last three years has built up a career in SEO-driven copywriting for tech companies. She has written for Microsoft, Symantec and LinkedIn, as well as other SaaS companies and IT consulting firms. With an audience-focused approach to content, Paige handles the lifecycle from creation through to measurement, supporting businesses with their content operations.

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