What content are universities publishing in response to COVID-19?

What content are universities publishing in response to COVID-19?

5 minute read

What content are universities publishing in response to COVID-19?

5 minute read

What content are universities publishing in response to COVID-19?

Robert Mills

Head of Content, GatherContent

Creating content is challenging even with an established workflow, agreed structure, content style guidelines and clear roles for those involved. Add a sense of urgency and a necessity to be factually correct, and it becomes even more high stakes.

Universities have been creating content in response to the coronavirus. They've had to ensure accuracy in their content whilst delivering that content quickly. The challenge is then ensuring information is up to date and reaches their different audiences effectively.

We've taken a look at the content different universities have created. This will hopefully help others with their own content delivery, at a time when business as usual requirements take a back seat. There's also links to some handy resources we spotted to help universities have confidence in their own content about the coronavirus, at a time when requirements are changing on a daily basis and circumstances are far from what everyone is used to.

The types of content universities are creating

We looked at the websites from 30 universities in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. The content types have included:

  • Webpages, microsites and hubs
  • News tickers, alerts and emergency banners
  • FAQs
  • Statements, updates and advice bulletins
  • Glossaries
  • Guides and resources
  • Checklists
  • Media and posters
  • Forms for those concerned about their health
  • Travel info and local hospital details
  • Social media posts, updates and ongoing responses

Some of this content has also been created for different audiences such as students, staff, and parents. That immediately doubles or triples the content under already pressurised and reactive circumstances.

Here are examples of the above. It's a little showcase of how some universities have responded.

NYU - A hub for information and resources

NYU have produced an entire hub of content related to the virus. There is a banner with the most important and recent information regarding classes.

A screenshot of the NYU website for the COVID19 content updates

They have also structured the content in a way to help users get to the information that's relevant to them quickly. There are filters for students, faculty, and employees. They've also categorised content by:

  • Health info
  • Status of operations
  • Classes and academics
  • Campus activities and spaces
  • Travel information
  • Messages to the community
  • General FAQs and support

There are helplines for students and parents and links to additional resources. They've also included dates on all published content so users can easily see how up to date the announcements are.

Cornell - FAQs

Cornell, like many other universities have a specific page. This includes the latest updates, FAQs, and links to additional resources.

A screenshot from the Cornell University website showing their FAQ page about the coronavirus.

When a new FAQ is added to the page, they include a 'new' label and when an FAQ has been updated they add an 'updated' label. They've also grouped the FAQs into several categories:

  • About the virus
  • Symptoms and preventative measures
  • Move to virtual instruction
  • Travel restrictions
  • Visitors to campus and event policies
  • Athletics and recreational sports
  • Workplace guidelines
  • Counselling and support services

Within the answers they also provide links to further information and resources.

University of Bristol - A student hub and additional resources

The University of Bristol have launched a hub similar to NYU. They too provide chronological updates, resources and many of the other content types we listed.

A screenshot of the coronavirus website content on the University of Bristol website. Images shows updates and different content types such as resource links and downloadable posters.

They have a specific call to action if any students are worried about friends and family overseas, encourage students to show respect to one another, and link to a downloadable health advice poster.

University of Auckland - Support form

On the homepage for the University of Auckland, they have three distinct categories for content: Notices, forms, and support.

A screenshot from the University of Auckland website showing the three calls to action they have for their coronavirus content.

Notices include all updates and bulletins, support has information on travel, self-isolation, and FAQs for study plans. The form they have included is bilingual and for anyone who has been affected by the coronavirus in any way.

A screenshot of a bilingual form on the University of Auckland website for student's to complete if they have been affected by the coronavirus.

This is a step beyond general information for all, and means they will then respond directly to students in whatever way is deemed most appropriate for their concern.

University at Buffalo - Video content

The University of Buffalo have many of the same content types, but have also created a short video which explains what the virus is, talks about the risk, the symptoms and provides information on what students can do.

A screenshot of the coronavirus informational video produced by the University at Buffalo.

Reacting to content needs under pressure

When a crisis needs responding to, that can make usual circumstances quite unusual. Suddenly there is one priority for all stakeholders. This means both people and time have to be made available.

It might seem a bit magical when it comes together relatively quickly with questions posed like; why can't it always be this way? But things are different when an organisation can rally around a shared goal and priority with an all hands on deck mentality needed.

There needs to be a level of operational efficiency and infrastructure in place to allow a confident and fast response in what gets published. A defined workflow, known content style and clear roles are necessary for every day content operations, but prove their value even more when the unexpected is a catalyst for new priorities.

Handy resources to create high-stakes content with confidence

There have been some great resources shared to help institutions deliver content with confidence to their existing and prospective students, staff, parents and wider audiences:

There is also plenty of advice online for how to write and talk about the coronavirus. BuzzFeed style guide tweeted:

  • Always use the article "the," i.e., 'the coronavirus'
  • The coronavirus causes the disease COVID-19
  • One can be "infected by the coronavirus," but they "have COVID-19."
  • Refer to the virus's spread as "the coronavirus outbreak."

Consistency in language can help people understand more quickly what is being communicated. Clear language is even more vital when conveying information that may be consumed during moments of anxiety, panic, or confusion. Hopefully these examples and additional resources will help if your team is having to respond quickly to an ever-changing situation. Being able to publish clear, accurate content with confidence has neve been more necessary that times like these.

Creating content is challenging even with an established workflow, agreed structure, content style guidelines and clear roles for those involved. Add a sense of urgency and a necessity to be factually correct, and it becomes even more high stakes.

Universities have been creating content in response to the coronavirus. They've had to ensure accuracy in their content whilst delivering that content quickly. The challenge is then ensuring information is up to date and reaches their different audiences effectively.

We've taken a look at the content different universities have created. This will hopefully help others with their own content delivery, at a time when business as usual requirements take a back seat. There's also links to some handy resources we spotted to help universities have confidence in their own content about the coronavirus, at a time when requirements are changing on a daily basis and circumstances are far from what everyone is used to.

The types of content universities are creating

We looked at the websites from 30 universities in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. The content types have included:

  • Webpages, microsites and hubs
  • News tickers, alerts and emergency banners
  • FAQs
  • Statements, updates and advice bulletins
  • Glossaries
  • Guides and resources
  • Checklists
  • Media and posters
  • Forms for those concerned about their health
  • Travel info and local hospital details
  • Social media posts, updates and ongoing responses

Some of this content has also been created for different audiences such as students, staff, and parents. That immediately doubles or triples the content under already pressurised and reactive circumstances.

Here are examples of the above. It's a little showcase of how some universities have responded.

NYU - A hub for information and resources

NYU have produced an entire hub of content related to the virus. There is a banner with the most important and recent information regarding classes.

A screenshot of the NYU website for the COVID19 content updates

They have also structured the content in a way to help users get to the information that's relevant to them quickly. There are filters for students, faculty, and employees. They've also categorised content by:

  • Health info
  • Status of operations
  • Classes and academics
  • Campus activities and spaces
  • Travel information
  • Messages to the community
  • General FAQs and support

There are helplines for students and parents and links to additional resources. They've also included dates on all published content so users can easily see how up to date the announcements are.

Cornell - FAQs

Cornell, like many other universities have a specific page. This includes the latest updates, FAQs, and links to additional resources.

A screenshot from the Cornell University website showing their FAQ page about the coronavirus.

When a new FAQ is added to the page, they include a 'new' label and when an FAQ has been updated they add an 'updated' label. They've also grouped the FAQs into several categories:

  • About the virus
  • Symptoms and preventative measures
  • Move to virtual instruction
  • Travel restrictions
  • Visitors to campus and event policies
  • Athletics and recreational sports
  • Workplace guidelines
  • Counselling and support services

Within the answers they also provide links to further information and resources.

University of Bristol - A student hub and additional resources

The University of Bristol have launched a hub similar to NYU. They too provide chronological updates, resources and many of the other content types we listed.

A screenshot of the coronavirus website content on the University of Bristol website. Images shows updates and different content types such as resource links and downloadable posters.

They have a specific call to action if any students are worried about friends and family overseas, encourage students to show respect to one another, and link to a downloadable health advice poster.

University of Auckland - Support form

On the homepage for the University of Auckland, they have three distinct categories for content: Notices, forms, and support.

A screenshot from the University of Auckland website showing the three calls to action they have for their coronavirus content.

Notices include all updates and bulletins, support has information on travel, self-isolation, and FAQs for study plans. The form they have included is bilingual and for anyone who has been affected by the coronavirus in any way.

A screenshot of a bilingual form on the University of Auckland website for student's to complete if they have been affected by the coronavirus.

This is a step beyond general information for all, and means they will then respond directly to students in whatever way is deemed most appropriate for their concern.

University at Buffalo - Video content

The University of Buffalo have many of the same content types, but have also created a short video which explains what the virus is, talks about the risk, the symptoms and provides information on what students can do.

A screenshot of the coronavirus informational video produced by the University at Buffalo.

Reacting to content needs under pressure

When a crisis needs responding to, that can make usual circumstances quite unusual. Suddenly there is one priority for all stakeholders. This means both people and time have to be made available.

It might seem a bit magical when it comes together relatively quickly with questions posed like; why can't it always be this way? But things are different when an organisation can rally around a shared goal and priority with an all hands on deck mentality needed.

There needs to be a level of operational efficiency and infrastructure in place to allow a confident and fast response in what gets published. A defined workflow, known content style and clear roles are necessary for every day content operations, but prove their value even more when the unexpected is a catalyst for new priorities.

Handy resources to create high-stakes content with confidence

There have been some great resources shared to help institutions deliver content with confidence to their existing and prospective students, staff, parents and wider audiences:

There is also plenty of advice online for how to write and talk about the coronavirus. BuzzFeed style guide tweeted:

  • Always use the article "the," i.e., 'the coronavirus'
  • The coronavirus causes the disease COVID-19
  • One can be "infected by the coronavirus," but they "have COVID-19."
  • Refer to the virus's spread as "the coronavirus outbreak."

Consistency in language can help people understand more quickly what is being communicated. Clear language is even more vital when conveying information that may be consumed during moments of anxiety, panic, or confusion. Hopefully these examples and additional resources will help if your team is having to respond quickly to an ever-changing situation. Being able to publish clear, accurate content with confidence has neve been more necessary that times like these.

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About the author

Robert Mills

Rob is Head of Content at GatherContent. He is a journalism graduate and has previously worked as Studio Manager and Head of Content for a design agency and as an Audience Research Executive for the BBC. He’s a published author and regular contributor to industry publications including Net Magazine, Smashing Magazine, 24 Ways,WebTuts+, UX Matters , UX Booth and Content Marketing Institute. On occasion Rob speaks about content strategy and ContentOps at leading industry events.

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