Wider Horizons

Website homepageLethbridge College’s desire to interact with the community it serves hasn’t changed since it was founded more than five decades ago. But the technology available to achieve that goal would be unrecognizable to those who opened its doors in 1957.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have dramatically altered the entire concept of social interaction, and the changes just keep on coming.

To keep pace, Lethbridge College re-launched its website this summer to maximize the visitor experience and meet the needs of current and prospective students while tapping into the social networking world on which many have come to depend. The college’s web realignment process began in the fall of 2008 following requests from senior leadership for a new look and concept.

“What has brought the project forward is the ongoing recognition that the web is a primary source for getting information,” says Mike McCready, manager of Web Services. Research, he says, indicated students are more influenced by the web than other forms of media such as brochures and other print material.

“About 80 per cent of our applicants use institutional websites to determine what school they’re going to go to,” says McCready.

Steven Dyck, executive director of Advancement, says the new site is vital to the college’s survival in a technologically advanced world.

“We have gained a very strong reputation internationally and we are continuing to make strategic investments that allow us to do more,” adds Dyck. “If harnessed correctly, the web allows us to expand our reach and to continue to position the college to grow.”

“This is an absolutely critical investment in our long-term sustainability and ability to attract the best and the brightest from around the world. From the web architecture to the rich media, the site had to be an experience rather than a chore.” Incorporating advice from a trio of consultants (web design,

live videos and advertising and marketing) into the concepts developed by the college’s Web Services team, the new site is geared mainly toward prospective students, focusing on increased accessibility, and maximizing accessibility to information on college life, including tuition.

“One of the features of the new website is a cost estimator,” says McCready. “Out of all the research we did, we found the primary piece of information that students want to know is how much school is going to cost them.”

Another feature is an improved search experience. Students can filter searches based on the specific information they’re looking for, whether it be course information, news releases, programs and even blog posts from actual students.

“We tried to position the site in a way that students will look for the information they want, not what we think they want,” says McCready. “We always wanted it to be student based.”

He also notes, since nearly every educational institution has an online presence, it’s vital to be authentic and stand out.

“We wanted to get away from the traditional marketing messages and provide a genuine glimpse of what student life is like at the college.”

Dyck agrees. It is, he says, all about making a positive and lasting impression.

“We want to engage students’ minds, emotions and intellect,” he says. “We know they have a multitude of choices on where they can go to build or advance their career. We want Lethbridge College to be their first choice.” To achieve this, the site has made use of social networking byhaving an active presence on Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter.

“One of the key pieces of using social media tools is really about the outreach and having the opportunity to engage students where they’re comfortable,” says McCready. “On Facebook, there are 400 million active users, so it becomes ‘are we going to try and engage them on our website, or where they spend most of their time?’”

McCready says the main goal of the site is to provide information and invite students to take the next step, whether it’s to book a campus tour or simply inquire about the college.

“We also want to make sure our online activities, whether through the website or Facebook, help raise the brand and spread the brand message.”

Wider Horizons
Christina Boese (Communication Arts 2008)
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