Going Digital Isn’t Just About Publications Anymore
Written by Joy Beachy
There was an article recently posted to the University Business website that deserves the attention of every department within a higher education setting. Whether that’s admissions, research, alumni relations, accounting, the athletic or the English department, each can benefit from this perspective on how digital content is completely changing how people interact with universities. Considering digital has moved completely beyond wondering whether students’ textbooks and alumni magazine should switch from desk to desktop reading. Rather, it’s about understanding how to bundle content in a digital format to achieve the kind of action, branding, and innovation you could never achieve in print.
Take, for instance, new students on their first day of attending your university. You need to make sure they have everything they need to succeed: a map, calendar of events, campus policy, safety information, and so on. Immediately, challenges come to mind: how do you make sure every student gets the information? How do you prevent the student from losing the information as he and she unpacks boxes of papers, bedsheets, lamps and textbooks? How can you save money on the cost of printing all of these materials – by offering less?
The article gives the example of how Duke tackled the issue. Duke preloaded iPods with freshman-oriented information, a welcome message from the president, their academic calendar, and even the Duke fight songs, and then furnished each incoming student with an iPod. Students could also use their iPods to download content like course information, recorded lectures, some lessons, and audio books from a Duke website. Even if your school does not want to give every student an iPod, having a hub like a microsite or app with this information makes it easier for students to always have access to critical information. (Providing them with an actual device would seriously increase the excitement about it, however.)
While digital is often seen as a tool of convenience, it’s also a strong spokesperson for your university or college’s brand. Sure, going digital with your materials will help your university seem more modern and cutting edge, but it can also play into your existing brand personality. Consider the University of Notre Dame, which is famous for its education, but also for its athletic enthusiasm. They use rich tablet apps to keep fans (students and non-students) excited about their athletic teams by using an app that enables them to explore and share information before, during and after the big game.
If your university places higher emphasis on the research, then digital is a natural fit. As highlighted in the article, Case Western Reserve created a digital publication called, Respiratory Recovery, which covers the research of neurologist Dr. Jerry Silver. To enhance the experience, they added highly interactive elements to their app. Specifically, to demonstrate the effects of a high cervical injury, readers can manipulate a three-dimensional spinal cord diagram by rotating it with a swipe of their fingers. They also added an audio clip of Dr. Silver providing additional information about the research and diagram.
Recruitment is also a popular use for digital. Rather than relying on students’ being able to tour your campus as they’re researching their top choices for universities, a well designed viewbook or interactive brochure can help the prospective students get a sense of the area without having to commit to traveling to your location. Utilizing interactive maps, large slideshows, and audio clips of students on the campus can help guide a prospective student towards choosing your school over another.
Digital can be used across any department to drive interaction with the college. Whether you need to drive applications, funds, or interaction with on-campus events, proactively packaging your content so it’s accessible and exciting keeps your information in front of your target audience’s eyes. With digital, you can make almost anything come to life, whether that’s a campus tour, research material, billing documents, and even “real life” tools for recent grads, like retirement and budget calculators. Do more for those who know and love your school. Offer them easy, exciting and helpful digital tools.