These are notes from a talk by Mark Greenfield titled “The .edu Manifesto” during the HighEdWeb 2015. University of Buffalo


We’ve made a lot of progress, but still have more to do.

1. Why the web and digital matters to higher education

  • We take the web for granted.
  • University of Nebraska - 1.2 million visitors in a month (over 7M pageviews)
  • 149,512 - the hours spent on the university’s website in one month.
  • What would happen if your website disappeared tomorrow? Could your campus still function?
  • What will change?
    • The move from atoms to bits
      • Being Digital (book)
      • Everything that can become digital will become digital
      • The digital campus (teaching with technology)
      • What is the location of your campus? Not too long from now, the website will be the “location” of the campus.
    • Higher education is getting flattened
      • Tom Friedman’s book “The World is Flat”; technology can make some industries obsolete.
      • Higher education is not likely to be obsolete, but I could become unrecognizable.
      • Deferred maintenance: the campuses are crumbling.
      • Digital is an opportunity to do things much more efficiently to improve our business models
    • The coming of the iGeneration: Student expectations are going to grow exponentially.

2. What we are doing wrong

  • Tremendous progress, but still a long way to go.
  • Mark’s blog post “True of False: Most College Web Sites Are Bad”
  • Hubris: stick your head in the sand and don’t think anything bad could happen. We are not too big to fail
  • Unique organizational structures and politics: it is in your best interest to understand how these structures work.
  • Over reliance on consensus decision making: with technology changing at exponential rates, it takes too long and often results in compromise.
  • Smashing Magazine - “Why Design By Committee Should Die”
  • Decisions are made on power, rather than expertise. Perhaps more prevalent in Higher Ed than most other verticals.
  • Hick’s Law- The time it takes for a person to make a decision as a reult of the possible choices he or she has: increasing the number of choices will increase the decision making time exponentially.
  • Everytime you add an element to a webpage, every other element on the page is less importance.
  • The Web is Not a Project: a project has an ending.

3. How we can fix it.

  • Embrace your internal digital experts
  • Everyone should know what you don’t know
  • Replace consensus decision making with RACI Matrix
    • R: Responsible- for performing the work
    • A: Accountable- for the final decision making authority
    • C: Consulted- will provide information and feedback
    • I: Informed- who are kept informed
  • Work closer with each other. “Managing Chaos”
  • Embrace the Post Launch Paradigm: once your whatever goes live, that is when the real work begins.
  • Is it asking too much for an institution of higher learning not to have spelling errors? It is a business risk, studies show some people will ch
  • Is your website better today than it was yesterday?
  • Practice Good strategy, eliminate bad strategy “Good Strategy Bad Strategy”
  • Actionable steps to leverage strengths to meet challenges
  • Holistic edu web site: intersection of Academics, MarCom, and Services.
  • Focus on value and return on investment: as you think about the work you are doing, are you actually working to solve problems?
  • User experience should be a priority
  • The $300 Million Dollar Button
  • For many people, the process of visiting a college is still a challenge.

How good is good enough?

  • What keeps your college president up at night?
  • The View From the Top: the web can help address every one of these points.
  • “Time to start Thinking”: Higher education used to be a public good, to build an educated workforce. Today, the focus is all personal, for me to get a better job.

Working in Higher Education

  • Go to your graduation ceremonies!

– KS
Web Developer at Benedictine University near Chicago