Student Redevelopment Group - Oxford Brookes University’s Website
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
The Student Redevelopment Group moved away from talking about the campus redevelopment to talk about Oxford Brookes’ website. In February, the Oxford Brookes website had a face lift. The new site now responds and changes according to what device you are using, thus improving the users’ experience.
The Web and Social Media team were interested to find out how the Student Redevelopment Group thought the website should develop in the future.
So the objective of March’s Student Redevelopment Group was to discover how they used the website before they came to Oxford Brookes and how they use it now that they’re here.
Prior to coming to Oxford Brookes
The first interaction students had with the website were to look at the course they were interested in and to sign up to an open day. Students found the website useful, they found the ‘find a course box’ an integral part of their user experience.
They then used the website to look at other important factors that would inform their decision. Other key factors included the sporting and leisure facilities and the halls of residences. One student highlighted she looked for video walk arounds on YouTube, but couldn’t find them.
Search engines and ranking lists were used to help them create a shortlist of Universities to consider - Guardian, Times and UCAS were all mentioned as places where searches took place.
At least one student didn’t use the web to inform their decision. The student relied solely on printed media sources. All attending students had a prospectus whilst they were making their decisions. Students really liked the ‘happy’ lifestyle led photos that were in the Oxford Brookes University prospectus.
Once they had decided on Oxford Brookes, students found the ‘setting up of your halls’ and ‘information for new students’ useful places to visit. Plus a couple of the students kept going back to the website to look at imagery, it helped increase their excitement about coming to Oxford and Oxford Brookes University.
Students’ user experience on Oxford Brookes website
Students don’t spend that much time on the website. They use it functionally rather than for general browsing. It is often the case the longer they’re at University, the less they need or use the website. The key reason it is used less and less by students is that it has limited new information, so there is no reason to come back. Students however do want to use the website more and want it to become more of a resource for university life at Oxford Brookes. They are keen for the website to become more than a place where they log into email, do staff searches and find out about things like printing costs.
Students felt the website did an excellent job of selling Oxford Brookes to prospective students. The group understood the need for it to do this. They were, however, keen for it to become more of a resource for existing students. It was highlighted that a website that provided an excellent user experience for the student population would also be a great tool to sell the University to prospective students.
Good examples of websites that students go back to are Twitter and Facebook. The main reason students go back to these sites is that the information/news is always being updated and changing so there is a good reason to go back to the site on regular occasions.
It was suggested the kind of dynamic content that would encourage students to become regular users of Oxford Brookes’ website could be a rolling events listing, current university news and a student-led blog.
Students highlighted that at present there is no one place that all Oxford Brookes University events are promoted. They suggested that it would be good if the website had a more prominent events listing. The listing should include all events from across the University and possibly relevant events that are happening in Oxford and the locality. As well as having Oxford Brookes and Students’ Union events, it should also include all public department events. Students who studied across disciplines said they were lucky as they got news of two different sets of public lectures. The group also noted that students’ interests span over subjects, for example someone studying business could also be interested in a public lecture on the arts.
Most students use the website to carry out a particular function and do not dwell on the site. It was suggested that the best sites are those that people want to stay on. Key is to have a good flow of information that students can choose whether they find it useful. Current students want a flow of news, it was noted that not every news story had to be relevant to all students. News about current University research and what alumni are doing are all of great interest to current students. Cyclical news can also be relevant, so news stories about coursework hand ins, exams and the general day-to-day of the University could also be of interest. Effectively by painting the picture of student life at Oxford Brookes, students will be able to relate to the website.
It was suggested that a student blog ‘newspaper’ style section could be a good way to engage with students. It was asked whether students thought it should be done through the SU or the University website, most students thought it would be better through the University. A blog could be an easy way to engage with students and could be a valuable tool for making the website more relevant to current students, especially if it was run by students. Online student video interviews could form part of the blog. The group suggested video would be a good way to engage with students.
Asked whether the group thought the University may struggle to get a team of bloggers, the Student Redevelopment Group said it may be a challenge. It was suggested the key factor to ensure the blog’s success would be to create a network of student opinion leaders.
· Possibly by creating a new society to lead on the project.
· Approaching existing societies and using their passion.
· Department champions to celebrate the successes of their subject.
· Go out into the field with student interviewers to create videos.
A central hub and virtual wall
Having a central hub or hubs could be the easiest way for students to find out about everything that is going on. It was suggested in a previous meeting that the University invest in a virtual wall where students and staff could put information electronically in a central place (possibly main reception). This could also be linked to a page on the website. This joined up approach, with the rich content described and the focus on a central source of information could make it an invaluable resource for developing student life at Oxford Brookes.