Universities everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. For most, tassels have been flipped, mortarboards flung in the air, and the academic year has come to a close.
Summer is a quieter time on campus, which provides the opportunity to play a bit of catch-up on tasks and projects that eluded us during the school year. So, with a better digital presence in mind, how can you take advantage of this time to shine brighter come the fall?
Do a Content Audit
With the breakneck pace of the semester on pause, the summer allows us to get to know our content more intimately. Indeed, many folks in higher ed save content audits as a summertime activity.
In addition to taking a closer look at the properties you manage (be they web, social, email, or otherwise), take the opportunity to encourage and help other departments in auditing their content (and understanding the value of using their time that way).
Pursue Professional Development
Watch webinars! Read books! Catch up on the past nine months of blog posts! If you have downtime, use it productively by staying on top of your craft. Pool resources with other departments so more people can share in the knowledge. Does your campus have a Lynda.com subscription? If so, use it.
Dig Into Your Analytics
There’s are few ways to use the summer to make the most out of your digital analytics.
- Identify or revisit your goals. If you’re not measuring against goals, you’re not really measuring. Make sure you have developed success metrics that align your digital activity with organizational goals. If you already have goals in place, revisit them to ensure they are still relevant.
- Learn how to get the most out of your platform. Avinash Kaushik has written a couple of fundamental books on analytics in general, and if you’re using Google Analytics, the Google Analytics Academy is invaluable.
- Create reports. With those goals in place, create customized reports for your own reference, to share with stakeholders, or to provide to site owners. While platforms like Google Analytics make it really easy to set up a regular email with report data attached, it’s important that the recipient of that report understands the context. Knowing how to understand what the numbers mean, the trends over time, and how to apply that information is the difference between a report being meaningful or pointless.
Update Your Documentation
When was the last time you updated your web style guide? Are all of your branding guidelines up to date? What about your social media best practices? Take some time to ensure that all of your documentation is accurate, current, and accessible.
Review Your Workflows and Processes
You may have spent the whole academic year coordinating homepage stories with your news office a certain way, or using a certain workflow to approve content, or using a certain process to align social media coverage with your admissions office. But was it the best approach?
Use this opportunity to hold a post mortem of sorts, revisiting your workflows and processes and exploring how to make them more effective and efficient in the future.
Organize a Training Session
When was the last time content editors across campus received content management system or event calendar training? Or heck, what about training on web writing or social media best practices? Use some of your own downtime to identify the training needs on campus, develop a session, and invite relevant parties to attend.
Take it a step further and build out a schedule for ongoing refreshers (once a semester, quarterly, whenever makes sense), to make training part of your digital culture and not just an isolated event.
Get to Know People on Campus
Summer downtime presents a great opportunity for long lunches and iced coffee runs, so why not bring a friend?
Getting to know the sports information director, the international studies advisor, the chair of the history department, or the reference librarian will not only enlighten you to events, concerns, and priorities in other units across campus, but in turn they will learn more about your events, concerns, and priorities. That kind of relationship-building and information-sharing can only yield positive dividends down the road.
Form a Content Community
In the same vein, with people’s schedules a bit more flexible, start organizing a content user group in order to connect people across campus to best practices, institutional policies and processes, and most importantly, each other.
Bring a box of donuts, get people from different units in the same room, and share some knowledge. Hopefully, it will prove valuable and folks will keep up the habit through the upcoming academic year. The adage holds true: All of us are smarter than one of us.
Do User Testing
The bulk of students may be gone, but there are likely some still crawling around. They’re taking summer classes, working in conference services or student leadership initiatives, conducting summer research projects, or serving as summer RAs.
Take advantage of their (slightly) less crazy schedules to buy some pizzas and get some feedback. Run some usability testing on that oft-debated homepage link, or convene a quick focus group to gauge attitudes toward university social media.
If you have summer orientation sessions for incoming freshmen, work with your orientation office to see if there is an opportunity to conduct quick tests, surveys, or focus groups with new students.
Take a Break!
Higher ed web professionals are some of the hardest workers we know. So take a well-deserved break! It’s amazing how a change of pace, a change in locale, or even (brace yourself) a little offline downtime can influence the way we do our work. Get out of town, enjoy some much-needed R&R, and come back ready to rock.
What are you up to this summer? Tweet us at @ohointeractive and let us know.