Need to Know
- The University’s enrolment stagnated during accelerated growth in their market.
- Usability issues and administrative challenges prevented it from showcasing its course offering.
- Three websites, built on different CMS, led to issues that taxed SCS’ IT resources.
The University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies (SCS) offers an extensive roster of over 700 courses, 40 program areas, and more than 100 certificates across various fields.
While the demand for continuing education and professional development grew, the enrolment numbers for the SCS stagnated. Several online usability issues and administrative challenges appeared to prevent the University from excelling at showcasing its impressive course offering.
The School of Continuing Studies (SCS) legacy digital environment was composed of a trio of websites with a custom middleware solution that housed real-time course data. This middleware prevented SCS content from crawling and indexing by search engines - an activity needed to boost rankings in SEO to help students discover SCS program offerings. The first point of contact for most potential students is the SCS main website, which serves student engagement, registration information, and communication. Two other websites supported SCS activities: an English Language Program sister website and a Comparative Education Service minisite, both of which supported the unique needs of the international student or new Canadian. All three sites were built on different content management systems, leading to various issues that taxed SCS’ IT resources.
Northern completed an extensive user analysis to inform the new site architecture, visual design, and site search experience.
The site content and existing functionality integrated the three legacy properties spanning various CMSes, including WordPress, into one Drupal content management system. The English Language Program sister site is now a subsite of the new SCS parent site. It exists alongside the updated Comparative Education Service subsite, significantly reducing the burden of tech support and site care.
These new sites automate even more elements of the engagement process to produce a user-friendly, more informative experience leading to a higher volume of conversions. Added site personalization informs SCS of market and consumer behaviour, so it can scale and adjust, as needed, to market needs.
Correcting the SEO issue took the most time and effort. Because of SCS’ dependency on and desire to keep its custom middleware solution, the new site hinges on a complex blend of Drupal 8 and AngularJS. This configuration makes headless course search possible and allows search engines to crawl, and index previously blocked from their view.
- Course calendar
- Class schedule
- User profiles
- Destiny One (non-credit registration)
- External RSS
- Twitter blocks
- Facebook and Linked In campaign trackers
- Course data exposed to external services (APIs)
- Staff directory
- Campus org chart
- Staff profile pages
- Channels news and events
- Solr-powered search
- Headless user experience
- An academic wish list for students and prospects to keep track of the courses and sessions they want to attend without registration on the site, optimized to be shareable via social media
- A blended search pulls data from three different pools of content, structured to help visitors find the information they need
- Destiny integration for real-time display of section availability on course pages and in the wish list
Northern completed the project within nine months, and this solution significantly improved SCS’ bottom line. Fast, both in page load and site search times, it is easy to navigate, responsive and accessible; it integrates with several IT systems, is secure, and provides a single platform and intelligent workflow for site administrators.
Most of all, SCS kept its existing custom middleware solution without compromising its SEO. With course content and key data indexed by search engine crawlers, SEO has vastly improved, rank has skyrocketed, and enrolment numbers are rising.