Whiti

Strategic partnership gives more choice for students

Whitireia offers students a range of practical qualifications from its home base in Wellington. They have a strategic partnership with fellow tertiary education provider WelTec, with a joint
leadership team and a common council overseeing the two separate institutions.

 

In 2018 Whitireia and WelTec launched a joint initiative called Te Auaha. This purpose-built campus provides both of their creative programmes with a central hub to cater for courses
with specific needs like performing arts, journalism, and beauty.

Whitireia, WelTec and Te Auaha all have separate websites that provide detailed course information and enrolment processes for current and prospective students.

Whitireia and WelTec’s strategic partnership aims to give both entities and their students more
value through shared resources and knowledge collaboration. However, they were both operating
separately online with some outdated content management systems (CMSs), poor UX and
disparate websites and subsites.

Whitireia and WelTec staff had to manually update course information in several places and Whitireia students had no access to online enrolment.

The education providers’ leadership team recognised the need for an update and refresh
of the websites and CMSs, with the goal of streamlining processes and making the platforms
more user friendly, for both staff and students.

Project Advisor, Phil Guerin, says that it was recognised by the management and the joint
council of the organisations that they needed a more integrated approach and a modern web
platform to support common marketing goals across the strategic partnership.

They were aware that they needed to refresh marketing communications, especially in the digital space, and that to do so, they would need a platform with the flexibility to enable some of the choices they were likely to make in the future.

A powerful platform backed by an expert team

“It was decided that there should be a common platform across WelTec and Whitireia because of the strategic partnership, and that we needed to move from the old system, which was difficult to support, had security issues, and made it difficult to add videos and other content,” says Phil. “We needed something that supported a wide range of web plugins, and Silverstripe CMS fit the bill.”

Silverstripe Cloud allows one stack to hold multiple sites and subsites for an organisation, making it the ideal solution for the multi-organisational partnership.

“The Silverstripe CMS is a very powerful platform,” says Phil. “Its modern framework, ample local support, and high level of interoperability with other tools we wanted to use, gave us the confidence that SilverStripe would give Whitireia and WelTec the flexibility they needed.” 

The vision of the subsite project was broken up into three main stages. The initial stage involved Silverstripe delivering end-to-end solutions for Whitireia and Te Auaha, including discovery, design, and implementation. 

The second stage was to move WelTec’s oldest website to the platform, which went live just before Christmas 2017. The final stage involves integrating a newer WelTec site, due to be completed in 2018.

The education providers utilised Silverstripe’s design talent, solution architects, workshop facilitators, programme supporters, developers, and delivery team to ensure the multi-faceted projects were completed successfully. 

The enrolment forms on the separate websites were required to interface to several instances of student management systems. “As part of this project we’ve instigated online enrolment for the first time for Whitireia and Te Auaha,” says Phil. “We had to make sure that when students fill out the form it is handled correctly by those systems. There’s an awful lot of business process complexity behind it.”

Silverstripe collaborated with the institutions to implement an automated enrolment process through bespoke form frontend, leveraging the Silverstripe Cloud services of queued jobs, logging, SFTP, and environment configuration. 

Similar templates were used to bring cohesion across the Whitireia and Te Auaha platforms, with Silverstripe’s designers still maintaining the individuality of the branding for each subsite.

"The Silverstripe team have demonstrated that they are skilled at what they do in solution architecture, design, and software development,” says Phil. “Having all those skills in one place means that when you raise a problem there’s not just one, but two or three potential solutions to it. They also have the experience to point out the pros and cons of each of those options. They’re capable, intelligent, hard-working people, and they’ve got a sense of humour, which you usually need in a complex project like this."

Digital transformation gives institutes more value

The new platform gives the ability to showcase their partnership, while still expressing their individual brand identities. The fluidity of the CMS also empowers the team to update imagery, videos, course information and other content, which keeps the websites looking fresh and relevant.

“One key benefit is that it allows cross-publishing information,” says Phil. “You can publish it once and it goes to all three of those sites.”

Another outcome is that the flexibility of the CMS enables it to be potentially managed by a common digital team across the strategic partnership. For example, instead of having web administrators and content managers in each of Whitireia, Te Auaha, and WelTec, there can be one team that manages across all three platforms.  “It gives Whitireia and WelTec the opportunity to provide better back up and support each other more easily,” says Phil.

With one content management system, one platform, and common page templates, managing all three sites is easy. “It also potentially saves money, but it’s more about being able to get better value,” says Phil. “For instance, if you have to replicate the same skills for all three websites and organisations, you can probably only afford one person for each one. Whereas you could have a digital assets specialist; then another person who specialises in text content; and another person who specialises in web design; if they operate across all three. That’s the key benefit that arises. You can get a more in-depth range of skills.”

These outcomes have helped the partnership to future-proof and streamline their online experience for staff and students.“The purpose of the project was to develop an improved user experience that allows users to easily navigate through our websites and be able to satisfy their needs as easily as possible. We have certainly achieved a significant improvement in that area compared to the old websites.”