Roanoke College

Capturing the hearts and minds of prospective new students is something Roanoke College strives for. It takes an innovative approach to its public web experience by also bringing the inside world of the college to the outside, giving prospective students a look into what college life at Roanoke is really like.

Roanoke College is an independent, co-educational, 4-year liberal arts college located in Salem, Virginia. The college has been an Ingeniux customer for a long time, starting with Ingeniux CMS 4.3 (it is now on Ingeniux CMS v9).

In its recent redesign of its web experience, Roanoke decided to split its website into a marketing website and an Intranet (Inside Roanoke). When issues arose with its development partner, Ingeniux stepped in to help the college get its new web experience implemented.

Roanoke’s new marketing website is designed to engage and inform prospective and new students. It provides a wealth of photos, videos, and marketing content. 

Inside Roanoke is for current students, faculty, and staff. Technically, it's an Intranet, but it's publicly available from the main website. According to Michael Santoroski, Director of Web and Software Development Services at Roanoke College, Inside Roanoke is an important part of the college's marketing. He said that prospective students want to know what it's like to be a student. Inside Roanoke gives them that view into college life. Parents also find Inside Roanoke a quick way to find the information they need to support their children attending the college (e.g. Find out how to buy textbooks or learn the right type of sheets to purchase for residence). Santoroski said that there is a lot of content for an internal audience that is also germane to an external audience.

"Higher education has so many outside constituencies that building a website that is walled off isn't possible."

There is a lot of cross linking between the marketing website and Inside Roanoke. For example, on the marketing site, a section on Biology provides information about becoming a Biology major. But it also offers links to Inside Roanoke that link to the Biology department where a prospective student can see what the department is doing on a day to day basis, including things like what events are scheduled for students, what classes they need for Junior year and more.

An author can write a story about biology and have that story show on the marketing website and the internal site. The same is true for calendar events, news and feature stories.

Ingeniux CMS enables this cross sharing of content in several ways. First, both websites are hosted on the same server and have the same Administration site. Second, Ingeniux provides a robust taxonomy feature that supports a structured content model, enabling Roanoke content authors to create and categorize content in a way that allows its reuse across both websites. Santoroski said that they leverage Ingeniux taxonomy for everything, including videos, stories, calendar events. 

Content Creation Everyone Can Do 

Content creation is very important for Roanoke College, with video being a key way to engage with prospective students and current students and Santoroski said that any time they can do a video they will. It enables them to replicate what it's going to be like, attending the college, and it helps get past the marketing speak. They also encourage user generated videos, often holding contests for the best video. He said it's much more authentic and they get a much better response.

Every department within the college has its own content authors to manage the content on Inside Roanoke, including HR, Mail Services, and Building and Grounds. Ingeniux provides a visual page building tool called Page Builder which many authors use. Santoroski trains users on Ingeniux, and he said Page Builder's ease of use is great for teaching new people. However, there are others who like getting into the HTML, and he likes that Ingeniux provides the flexibility to manage content and design the way you want.

Another thing that stood out for Santoroski with the redesign on the latest version of Ingeniux was the move from XLST to .Net. He said it was a huge improvement, making it faster and easier to do things. He said the way templates are handled also improved and overall the CMS is much more user-friendly for everyone, including nontechnical people.

"One of the problems with a lot of CMSs is that they do a couple of things, but then you hit a point where you just can't go any further, and there's really nothing like that in Ingeniux."

While most content is open to everyone, content creators do have the option of marking a piece of content password protected (although Santoroski said it's rarely used).

Integration of external applications was also key during the development of Inside Roanoke. Applications such as the Dining Menu and the Announcement System were integrated, and their content pulled into the web experience.

An Open Approch to Student Engagement

Although Roanoke College has a long-term relationship with Ingeniux, in the last website redesign they did look at other options, they just didn't find anything better. Santoroski said they have done two full website redesigns on top of Ingeniux now and that is the ultimate test of a good CMS.

Santoroski said he has spent a lot of time thinking and talking about being more open. Roanoke College wants to reduce the barriers to getting content out to the prospective students that need it to make a decision, and to current students who want to know things as simple as what's on the menu today, to more complex things like what classes they need and when exams are planned.

It's not an approach that every higher education institution is taking; everyone is finding their own path. For Santoroski though, Roanoke College feels they are more ahead by setting up a high-quality CMS and letting people create and manage their content. 

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Higher Education

Roanoke College

Roanoke College captures the hearts and minds of prospective students and other constituents with Inside Roanoke, an external "intranet" that provides a clear view of what life at Roanoke is like.

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Higher Education

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