What we do
We are a results-oriented, quantitatively driven shop relying on analytics and usability to drive engagement with students, staff and faculty.
University Digital Strategy (UDS) is a joint initiative between the Office of the Vice-President (University Relations) and the Office of the Vice-Provost (Information Technology).
To become one of the best examples of a post-secondary digital learning environment. Enabled by capabilities in web, mobile, social networks and IT systems, create the best, leading-edge digital infrastructure for teaching and learning at any Canadian university.
Pillars of Digital Strategy
To reach the the strategic goals of the university, University Digital Strategy is engaging in the following areas:
- Web Strategy
- Digital Learning Environment Strategy
- Mobile Strategy
- Social Media Strategy
- Online Advertising Strategy
- Digital Analytics Strategy
For more information on these areas, check out the online document, Advancing the Digital Learning Environment: The University of Alberta Web Strategy. This is for internal audiences only and is accessed using your CCID.
Additionally, Digital Strategy has established guidelines for Sitecore 3 design and assists with tracking strategies associated with digital campaigns.
Community of Practice
University Digital Strategy sees the power of innovation through crowd-sourcing and peer-to-peer (P2P) knowledge sharing. As part of this strategy, the team initiated a kickoff in the summer of 2012 of the University of Alberta's Community of Practice.
Initially for technical development, but expanding later to design and social media strategy, the plan is to create face-to-face and online collaboration for faculty, staff and students regardless of position or title at the University of Alberta.
What is it?
The community of practice is a newly forming group of web strategists, communicators and developers who will share ideas and projects amongst each other. The group will discuss the current and future work they are taking part in across the web, mobile and social media. The group meets every six weeks at the same time as the old Sitecore user group. This Community of Practice meeting has replaced that meeting, and expanded to include more than just Sitecore users.
Why was it started?
By leveraging knowledge and information across the University of Alberta, faculties and departments can learn from each other and build on past campaign successes and the technological infrastructure. This could include a sharing of ideas and past projects. It could also include developers across the University of Alberta sharing code once they are Sitecore certified.
How's it working?
The group will have a small team help choose some online tools to begin discussions around the group's web, mobile and social media ideas and projects. Meetings will continue every six weeks. Check back for more updates as the Community of Practice continues to evolve.
University Digital Strategy assists centres and institutes, faculty and administrative sites across the U of A ecosystem that are majority owned by the university. This includes:
- Management of an active portfolio of hundreds of digital projects.
- The implementation of the first Digital Analytics team in 2011 at a Canadian university.
- Continued consultation and strategy based on quantitative and results-driven analysis.
Here's just a few of the projects that Digital Strategy has been a part of over the last couple years:
MOOC Production, Measurement and Marketing (Ongoing)
UAlberta has access to enormous paleontology resources and a world-class paleontology team led by Dr. Phillip Currie, the world’s foremost dinosaur researcher. Dinosaurs appeal to young and old, male and female, and cross international boundaries. Using a topic that was different than a traditional MOOC Dino 101 was launched in September of 2013 with more than 30,000 eventually signing up for the course in the first two sessions from around the world.
Using formative feedback and in-video quizzes, interactive learning objects and high quality filming and editing, the course achieved world-wide appeal from thousands of people. Early results of an online survey showed high engagement from many who had no previous relationship with UAlberta and would recommend others take courses from UAlberta in the future. More results are still to come.
URL and Domain Strategy (Ongoing)
UAlberta.ca is one of the most powerful web domains in the country due to the amount of traffic and links it receives on a daily basis. Digital Strategy is taking a lead role in identifying opportunities to increase visibility for groups on campus through a forward-thinking URL strategy focused on the user and the faculty, department or organizational group's web goals.
Ultimately this will result in continued optimization of the Information Architecture of UAlberta.ca. In addition to the inventory, audit and optimization of the main domain and its directories, Digital Strategy assists in vanity url strategies for offline use and measuring various types of traffic, including search and other marketing related efforts.
Campaign Measurement and Tracking Strategies
The University of Alberta tells amazing stories, hosts world-renowned events and conferences as well as many long-standing traditional marketing efforts to attract students, researchers and faculty members from across Canada and the world. By tying in user and business goals and having proper campaign tagging and measurement in place, marketers and communicators can quickly and easily identify the success of ads or communication pieces.
The University Digital Strategy digital analytics team has worked with numerous clients to up their game when it comes to tracking email, online ads and social media. In 2013 they engaged extensively with the following clients as well as many others:
Campaign Tracking Template | Contact us at 2-9549 for details.
Web Style Guide
With the move to responsive design, there was a need to standardize some of the ways clients lay out and manage their web content. Inline styles and or content that was previously able to be done and look good on desktop now had many other variables with the responsive design framework.
The University Digital Strategy design team created a style guide for all clients at the university to be able reference and leverage when implementing and updating their responsive section of the site. This includes base styles, photo sizes, layouts and other elements across the faculty and department sites to assist content creators and designers in their builds.
Web Style Guide
Responsive Design (Ongoing)
Instead of creating one-off apps or separate mobile sites, faculties will be able to update their content in one place (Sitecore) and let users have a quality experience no matter what phone, tablet or computer they are using.
The university is leveraging the power of responsive design to share the same content across all mediums (mobile phone, tablets and desktops). So far a handful of sites, including the institutional top-level pages have launched. Planning is being done to move others and optimize the experience for users in the coming months and years.
A large university with multiple campuses poses a challenge for new students and staff. By providing context through visual illustrations and connecting the physical spaces online, it breaks down the fear of a big place and instill a more human experience to what could be an unfriendly mass of buildings for visitors.
Integration with Google Maps took place in time for fall semester of 2011. Previously, .pdf versions of maps were referenced making it difficult for students, staff and faculty to find buildings and services across all five UAlberta campuses. Further enhancements based on surveys and usability feedback
in the fall of 2012 brought improvements to assist the UAlberta community, as well as its visitors, including interior mapping. View the UAlberta maps page
Campaign Landing Pages (Ongoing)
Measuring the results and engagement of specific campaigns, the university is better able to analyze the impact on tickets sales, sign ups as well as the key drivers of student and staff recruitment and giving to the U of A.
In the late summer of 2012, the team assisted in content and design for the Festival of Ideas 2012 landing page. Tracking ticket and event sales, the team made recommendations on future design and the events that are garnering the most attention. Other notable projects included Advancing Alberta, Summer Camp listings and Convocation 2012. We continue to support and will push the envelope in 2013.
Institutional Promotions Request Form
Site migrations (Ongoing)
Transferring the university to an enterprise content management system (Sitecore) will allow the team to assess engagement patterns for the more than 30 million visitors the University of Alberta website receives each year.
The Digital Strategy team has helped migrate more than 300 sites without the need for a costly integrator from an outside agency to facilitate the move. This has helped standardize both the header and framework for design, to help users find what they are looking for, and staff update content on the same platform. This step will also ensure a smooth transition to responsive design, which will pull content from Sitecore. Our Digital Strategy unit won Best Education Site in Canada for UAlberta.ca in 2011 and achieved this win with no implementation partner.
Engagement and strategy around social media is crucial to brand awareness and loyalty both inside and outside the University of Alberta. Using metrics and tactics to reach engagement goals, the team has consulted with numerous faculties and worked on institutional campaigns that continue into 2013.
In the summer of 2012, one of the goals for Spring Convocation included increasing social media referrals to 5 per cent of overall traffic compared to 2011, which was 1.69 per cent. Through a social media contest, landing page strategies and consultation with various units across campus, the referral rate reached 6.27 per cent - a more than 500 per cent increase year over year. Continued dashboard reports and analysis will be done in the future for other campaigns.
Research and analytics have shown users are engaging with video, audio and images at higher rates for both consumption of content and conversion. Traditional long-form text and essay writing must be formatted with appropriate chunking, related links and multimedia to reach readers.
Using video to tell professor's, researcher's, student's and staff's real stories, we showcased dozens of UAlberta's best. This included Tetsuto Miyashita, a graduate student in paleontology at the U of A, and the University of Alberta's accomplishment of taking back the world dodgeball record in February 2011, among many others.