“The search and browse features are just phenomenal ... The site is fast, the navigation is natural and all the most important information is readily accessible.”
James Allen, Business Systems and Improvement Manager, Hunter TAFE
Staff at New South Wales vocational training institute, Hunter TAFE, wanted to make their public web site a more powerful marketing tool. To achieve this, they needed a consistent brand feel across the site, better search functionality and more intuitive navigation. They also wanted to ensure that information on up to 500 courses remained fresh.
In a high-speed deployment Australia’s leading integrator of risk-tolerant IT solutions, Computer Systems Australia, helped build a new web site, using Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 for Internet Sites Enterprise as the content management system. It includes a sophisticated search engine that enables staff to hone search results, and simple page-building tools that enable faculty staff to design, edit and upload branded content themselves. Enquiries and feedback are captured and routed though web site integration with Dynamics CRM.
Today, Hunter TAFE has an attractive, intuitive web site, full of compelling and up-to-date content that quickly guides students to essential information on hundreds of training courses. Staff can now upload stylish, rich-media content quickly and easily, helping to keep the site fresh, focused and compelling.
| The new site needed to deliver compelling and relevant course information in a friendly way.|
Business Systems and Improvement Manager,
Hunter TAFE is the largest regional vocational education and training provider in Australia, enrolling just over 62,000 students in more than 450 programs. Training delivery occurs on the job, online or at one of the 15 campuses across the Hunter and Central Coast regions of NSW.
Prior to 2011, the Institute developed a web site to help market courses to the public. It included updates on training opportunities, career advice, access to student services and sponsored advertising, and enrolment information. Over time, however, the site became too large, hosting so much non-course-related information it could not fulfil its core function effectively.
“The site hosted a vast amount of material, which faculty staff found difficult to update, and which was therefore often out of date or irrelevant,” says James Allen, Business Systems and Improvement Manager, Hunter TAFE. “The site search engine often didn’t return the most relevant material and site navigation didn’t promote browsing. Besides deterring applicants, the fact the site was cumbersome meant our call centre had to handle lots of enquiries.”
In mid-2011, Hunter TAFE decided to build an all-new web site, focused on providing prospective students with the course information they wanted as quickly as possible.
“The new site needed to deliver compelling and relevant course information in a friendly way,” says Allen. “We also wanted to make site updates easier, so staff across all campuses could quickly create new pages and make updates themselves, without it being a huge burden or having to rely on IT support.”
In addition, Hunter TAFE wanted the ability to target information and adverts to particular parts of the site. For example, if a particular new course became available, Hunter TAFE wanted to be able to place that information where it was most likely to generate interest.
“Our core objective was to promote Hunter TAFE more effectively, inspiring people to improve their skills and increase application conversions. And we wanted the new web site by November 1st, so it could handle 2012 enrolments.”
Hunter TAFE engaged a specialist web design company to create a set of web site brand guidelines and the site framework. In mid-August 2011, the Institute issued a tender to approved contractors to build the site, including the web content management system that would hold all site content.
“Our bid was based on a version of SharePoint designed specifically to manage web content,” says Sean van Zyl, SharePoint Practice Manager, Computer Systems Australia (CSA). “It’s called Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 for Internet Sites Enterprise, and it’s designed to help organisations create and maintain sophisticated, content-rich web sites.
“The most powerful feature is a built-in enterprise-level search engine. It doesn’t require much customisation, and because it indexes document content, not just the file name, it dramatically improves the quality of search results.
“It also has an out-of-the-box search-refining tool, so site owners can ensure that the content most likely to satisfy a particular query term is always returned top of the results list.”
| The search and browse features are just phenomenal.|
Business Systems and Improvement Manager,
According to van Zyl, improved usability in SharePoint Server 2010 for Internet Sites (FIS) Enterprise is also a key attraction. A ribbon at the top of the screen provides all the tools to create and edit web pages. With its close resemblance to ribbons in Microsoft Office applications, non-technical staff find it easy to learn how to create and upload new web pages themselves. SharePoint Server 2010 FIS Enterprise also contains approvals workflows, so that new content can be automatically routed to nominated individuals for review before publication.
“The other key factor for Hunter TAFE was extensibility,” says van Zyl. “With SharePoint Server 2010 FIS Enterprise, we can easily draw content from external sources onto the web site. This was crucial for the Institute, because they wanted to be able to keep part of the site up to date with material created by the parent TAFE NSW organisation.”
CSA won the contract. Starting work on September 1st, they deployed all available web engineers and used the firm’s unique P3 methodology to ensure project resilience and complete the web site build on time. The fast-paced construction period included regular client conferences to ensure the look, feel and navigation exactly corresponded to the Institute’s design.
“We deployed the web site on load-balanced Windows Server 2008 R2 servers to ensure the site remained fast during peak traffic times, and used Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 for the back-end database,” says van Zyl. “We also created a link to the Institute’s Microsoft Dynamics customer relationship management platform, so that enquiries made in the web site were forwarded directly to the relevant administrative staff and automatically recorded in the TAFE CRM system.”
Last, CSA used the brand guidelines created by the web design agency to create a set of web page templates. This enables faculty staff to quickly and easily format new pages or content so they conform to the Institute’s brand, ensuring a consistent look and feel across the new web site.
The new Hunter TAFE site went live just two days after the November 1st deadline, and with only minor enhancements, managed the 2012 enrolment cycle without a hitch.
By using SharePoint Server 2010 FIS Enterprise for their web content management platform, Hunter TAFE have been able to rapidly build a new web site with a consistent look that crisply guides prospective students towards the courses that interest them. The site is easy to maintain and carries targeted promotions, ensuring it stays fresh and attracts new students.
Implementing enterprise-quality search
By incorporating a sophisticated search engine function on its web site, Hunter TAFE enables prospective students to quickly find the most relevant course information. In addition, easily configurable drop-down menus mean the site is far easier to browse, so visitors can intuitively explore a wide variety of options.
“The search and browse features are just phenomenal,” says Allen. “Besides the more powerful search engine, SharePoint Server 2010 FIS Enterprise makes it much easier for non-technical staff to insert meta-data onto course documents, ensuring that the most relevant documents are always returned from specific query searches.
“The site is also more open to casual browsing. We have a lot of students who don’t precisely know what they are looking for. Now, course advisors can sit with them and guide them through what we have to offer at each of our campuses. The site is fast, the navigation is natural, and all the most important information is readily accessible.”
Devolving content creation and site maintenance
The new web site is also easier to maintain. With a little guidance, administrative staff across the Institute have learned how to quickly create and upload their own web content.
As a result, individual staff and course owners are taking the initiative with their own marketing. They create more dynamic content for their sections of the web site and refresh it more frequently.
“The SharePoint ribbon is so easy to use that many staff are now editing and uploading images onto their web pages,” says Allen. “This self-service capability extends to rich media. CSA made some web parts for us, which means that as long as staff ensure that a video is made to a standard specification, then staff can easily insert it into a web page.”
Targeting promotions more effectively
The ability to integrate external sites or temporary content into the web site has dramatically increased its promotional power.
“The most exciting innovation is dynamic advertising,” says Allen. “We used to have lots of spaces on web pages reserved for static ads, but they had to be individually managed. Now we can carefully target when and where these adverts appear.
“For example, if a catering course suddenly has vacancies, staff can tag that ad to all web pages that contain hospitality course information, and set it to appear for a specified period of time. This is a fantastic new capability: it helps us integrate our vocational courses with our industry partners, targeting opportunities to the right students at the right time.”
Microsoft product that was featured
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 for Internet Sites Enterprise is an easy-to-use web content management platform that gives staff the ability to design, edit and upload new web site pages and site content. With a programmable search engine, ad-serving and template web page features, the platform brings dynamic, enterprise-quality web site capabilities to medium-sized companies and organisations.
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