The face of online-learning is changing. Gone are the days of niggling, sarcastic jokes about online degrees as we face an increasingly mobile, tech-savvy, and education-hungry world. And really, it only makes sense given the increasing cost of education and the reality that many degree seekers today must fit their learning in-between an ever-packed schedule of family care, personal business, and demanding jobs. So it's with great excitement that we announce our contribution to that changing tide in the form of Norwich University's new online programs website: Norwich University Online.
Almost as a direct answer to the changed state of online learning that's happened over the last 5 or so years, Norwich University sought to re-brand their College of Graduate and Continuing Studies, creating a new website as both the face and avenue into the platform for that change. OHO was engaged in a year-long comprehensive interactive marketing strategy partnership, seeking both to concept a newly-architected website and shepherd completely new web content for the new site.
Two Audiences, One Site
The folks at Norwich knew they needed a great website to serve as the face of the 193-year-old university's graduate, Bachelor's completion, and continuing studies program, but it was equally important that the new website speak to a distinctly diverse audience segment. Given Norwich's legacy as the country's oldest private military college, a vast number of the continuing students Norwich wished to reach held some relation to the military (including military personnel seeking officer rank, homecoming soldiers wanting to continue their Bachelor's or pursue private sector jobs, etc.).
But just as important was the university's audience of education seekers with no military ties. From retired "life-long learners" to full-time employed graduate students, the audience mix for Norwich University's online offerings stemmed from all walks of life, meaning the new College of Graduate and Continuing Studies website and its redone market positioning needed a smart, strategy-driven approach or risked audience alienation (and potentially a crippling drop in enrollment).
Informed Design Means Informed Decision-Making
While our traditional strategic approach works well for many of our clients who have their branding and marketing strategy nailed down, it became clear that this newly-branded program needed a deeper dive to drive the engagement. As such, OHO conducted everything from stakeholder interviews to audience research studies seeking a deeper knowledge of the average continuing student's motivating factors. Given this, OHO was able to work with Norwich's communications team to determine both the go-to-market strategy for Norwich University Online as well as the messaging that would support it.
OHO also coordinated surveys and audits, both to provide demographic and psychographic snapshots of the existing Norwich market and identify new and missed markets into which Norwich could consider expanding. With these comprehensive research findings, OHO was able to plan not only a well-built and beautifully-designed new site, but one that was essentially market tested long before it hit the web.
Web Service Goes Full-Service
With a host of research findings to aid in planning, the team at OHO conducted a full-service web engagement with the communications team at Norwich, including everything from information architecture and prototyping to visual design to web development using SaaS methodology on the Drupal 7 content management system (CMS). The site was even given a responsive design treatment, meaning it features a user interface that's optimized to be experienced on desktop computers, tablets, and mobile devices. Regardless of how users access the new Norwich Online, whether at home or on the go, they are guaranteed a beautiful, highly usable, and uncompromising user experience.
On top of all that, OHO also produced over 20 short-form videos for use throughout the Norwich Online site to aid in their brand positioning. These videos, featuring various interviews with Norwich faculty, staff, alumni, and graduating students, speak to the participants' experiences of pursuing a continuing degree at Norwich and the impact of a Norwich education on their careers. Intended as "feel pieces," these videos add to the library of content used by Norwich in furthering their message, engaging their audiences in new ways, and growing online program enrollment.
Interactive Elements, Engaged Users
Alongside the more traditional elements found throughout the website, users looking for a unique way of experiencing Norwich's distinctive online offerings can enjoy features like "A Week in the Life." Essentially an interactive calendar, users can click on a variety of sample student profiles and learn about what it's like to be a Norwich Online student day-to-day. The feature was custom designed and developed by OHO both to serve as a unique form of engagement on the site and to help prospective students answer that age-old question of "what is it like to go here?"
Higher Education Looks Forward
With education hanging in a perpetual state of flux, it's always inspiring to learn of a school or program's willingness to be different and try new things. Norwich did just that, putting faith in an education model that not only meets the needs of their network of busy and niche-focused students but represents a broader acceptance of our cultural shift to the online space. The new Norwich University Online, backed by enterprise-class services like hosting by OHO partner Acquia and integration with EmbanetCompass to support Norwich's online enrollment recruiting efforts, means Norwich has a new website that doesn't just meet their needs, but will continue to do so as their online programs and community expand.
For more information about Norwich University, the College of Graduate and Continuing Studies, and to see OHO's work for yourself, visit online.norwich.edu.