Digital Student Services
Content Manager Anne MacDonald on the tasks of the Campus & Content Management staff unit at Bergische Universität
How do I apply? Where do I find my direct contacts? How do I enroll? How much is the semester fee? How do I get my semester ticket? Questions upon questions are asked by prospective students who are looking for their way to a German university after graduating from high school.
Since November 2020, Bergische Universität has had a Campus & Content Management staff unit that looks after the needs of new and existing students. After all, in order to make the transition from analog to digital support, people are needed to maintain and continuously improve the online offering. Anne MacDonald is content manager in this staff unit and knows which information needs to reach its addressees quickly and in a targeted manner. To this end, she is in close contact with other service facilities at Bergische Universität, such as the Central Student Advisory Service (ZSB) and the Student Secretariat, in order to be able to implement any innovations quickly.
Campus & Content Management
The humanities graduate describes the responsibilities of her staff position as follows: "In Campus Management, the staff position is responsible for ensuring service functions, especially for applicants, students and faculty members, so that the core process of teaching and studying receives the best possible support. In the area of content management, websites are constantly revised and continuously adapted with regard to the topicality and modernity of the content. We create formats that best pick up the target groups of our external presentation."
MacDonald's task lies in the so-called 'Student Life Cycle', i.e. she takes care of the complete digital range of concerns of prospective and current students, starting with student recruitment up to the transition to alumni status (alumni/alumnae are the graduates of a university. Editor's note). "During this journey, prospective and current students encounter a variety of institutions at the university," she explains, "from the ZSB to the Student Secretariat and the Central Examination Office to the Careers Service and the Alumni Network. The central units have their own websites and also maintain them themselves. I have been responsible for direct website maintenance since 2023 for the so-called 'landing page`, which was introduced during the Corona period, for the 'Study` page and the website of the Student Service Center. I transferred the landing page to the TYPO 3 system to implement the university's corporate design here as well." In doing so, she always keeps an eye on the processes of all these sites and looks for efficient points of connection between the areas, which she highlights and maps. "I'm in constant exchange with my contacts at the respective institutions and together we think about how we can make the processes even smoother and more pleasant for prospective students and our students," she explains.
Talent scouting - an important element of student recruitment
Before MacDonald came to Bergische Universität, she worked on the talent scouting team at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, which acquired state funds for talent scouts in conjunction with Bergische Universität; the two universities' portfolios of courses complemented each other perfectly to act as a network: Düsseldorf with the fields of law and medicine and Wuppertal for teaching and engineering. As a result, there were already close ties with the Wuppertal talent scouts. In the Bergisches Städtedreieck, these scouts regularly visit the surrounding schools, present courses of study there, provide on-site advice, arrange visits to lectures if interested, or establish contacts with the subjects. In addition, they also help with the use of the university websites so that students can navigate the study orientation pages with the right "clicks".
HISinOne/StudiLöwe - A Digital Process Improves Processes
The staff unit's portfolio includes the term student management. "This relates to all processes that take place at the Student Secretariat," explains MacDonald, "i.e., in particular application, enrollment, admission, student data management, but also the recording of the semester fee, the provision of the semester ticket, as well as the granting of semesters off and ultimately exmatriculation, in the best case, after completion of the studies." Digitization plays a crucial role in the Campus & Content Management staff unit. The digital specialized procedure HISinOne/StudiLöwe is intended to improve processes in this regard. "This is used, for example, to implement online application management along with admissions management for NC-approved degree programs, including the connection of 'Hochschulstart in the dialog-oriented service procedure'. Processes or parts of processes that are still analog, such as the exmatriculation application or the application for leave of absence, are to be successively replaced by new digital functionalities in StudiLöwe." The advantages lie primarily in the application and enrollment processes, which will become paperless through the uploading of all relevant documents and the use of online applications. At the same time, he said, this will enable the university to meet the ministry's requirement that the e-student file be in place by the end of 2025. "It's also an opportunity to challenge existing processes and offer them in a new digital way when needed, making it much easier for everyone involved," MacDonald says, continuing, "Record keeping will be digitized and this will save resources. In addition, the digital availability of information and files offers new opportunities for work design for the benefit of employees." This includes, for example, functionalities such as systematic filing, creation of documents based on templates, processing of transactions, integration of upload forms and retention of data with stored deadlines."
What do attractive online services for students look like?
MacDonald's duties also include designing and maintaining the Student Service Center (SSC) website. That begs the question, what criteria make for an attractive website? "The SSC site in particular was a challenge, because four different organizational units of the university offer their advisory services there. Our structured design of the page offers clear information per user group and avoids, despite the abundance of information, an overload of the page." To that end, she always sought direct feedback from the target groups. MacDonald designed drafts that she showed to student assistants and asked for possible suggestions for improvement. "I then cross-referenced that feedback with what the department heads wanted, and that's how I ended up with the current result that everyone agrees with." Through other channels, such as the pages of the ZSB, the social media channels of the university or the website 'Studium`, all info formats that are of interest to students are also posted and distributed in close consultation. The use of other popular social media channels is still under consideration. "I haven't come across Twitch in this context yet," she reflects aloud, "on Instagram and on Facebook we are present, although the latter is used less. Tiktok is the medium of the target group at the moment, but is not currently used for data protection reasons.
User-friendly stories instead of facts and figures
The fact is, the target group of pupils and students often prefer to use audio and video formats to get information. That's where bare facts and figures are often counterproductive. "Right," MacDonald says off the top of her head, "people tend to prefer to be told information about an issue rather than read through bare facts and figures." Here at the university, she says, she especially misses the audio format. She would like to use it to show prospective students what people who learn, teach and work here do on a daily basis. "I'd like to start a podcast format in the near future, in which students and employees of the University of Wuppertal have their say and take the listeners with them into their everyday life here at the university."
Emphasizing the attractiveness of the Bergische Universität location
The decision of young people for a place of study is therefore not always based on facts alone, but also depends very much on how much the target group already feels they belong to the respective university beforehand. "It varies for each individual, of course, what becomes the ultimately decisive factor in either studying at Bergische Universität or applying as an employee*," says MacDonald, and then goes on to mention Wuppertal's advantages once again. "Wuppertal offers so much. The student flair is much more evident in this city than in some of the surrounding study locations. In addition, there is the wide selection of study program models and subjects, including the teaching option. The wonderful cordiality with which everyone meets each other here is palpable and the flat hierarchies mean that you can approach virtually every person you meet here. We have the various beautifully situated, green campuses with their very own identities such as diversity, sustainability and art, and this list can go on and on."
Anne MacDonald is a content manager in the Campus & Content Management staff unit at Bergische Universität.