About the OU Help Centre Content & UX Team

Who are we? 

We are an operational, agile and responsive student support service. The Content and UX team within Business and Online Student Support (BOSS) are a team of Content designers, UX designers, Web administrators and Project coordinators. We are UX professionals who specialise in student support.   

We have over a decade of experience working as a team to develop solutions to better meet student needs and expectations. We are responsible for the content, UX and day to day continual improvement of the online student Help Centre. We also provide a bridge between the ‘business’ and technical aspects, managing and prioritising development backlogs. Over the last eight years we have worked with Web Happens, an external web development company to create a bespoke service that is agile and adaptive to the ever changing OU.   

We work as part of the wider BOSS team to deliver a comprehensive 360 degree suite of multi-channel, brand and legislative compliant digital student support solutions. The specific focus is on student self-service content and proactive communications. Within Academic Services we work closely with colleagues in the SRSCs to reduce failure demand and encourage students to self-serve information and advice. This reduces contact time with advisers, which frees them up to deal with more complicated guidance aspects of student support.  

We have led on content and UX strategy within the unit and have run many workshops across the OU to spread the word about User Centred Design. Our long-term experience places us in a unique place to be able to detail requirements for a platform to enable ongoing continuous improvement and to deliver new digital student support initiatives. 

The team of ten, led by Guy Carberry, consists of Content Designers, UX Designers and Content & UX Coordinators.

What is the Help Centre? 

The Help Centre is a highly accessible, responsive and fast website. It is the premier hub of personalised online self-service student support and contact information. You’ll find it at https://help.open.ac.uk 

It contains the widest range of student support content at the Open University, catering to students looking for support with any aspect of study. 

It also presents students with personalised contact information – tutors, SSTs and other support team contact details across phone, email, webchat, forum and snail mail. 

It is a publishing platform that brings content to the fore. The design aesthetic is clean, crisp and uncluttered. Unlike many other websites it reduces visual noise, multiple columns of distracting interface in favour of a pure content view.  

For the techies, it is underpinned by some of the most cutting-edge web technologies in the OU. It pioneered the use of ‘headless CMS’ (Prismic), elastic search (Algolia) and is built on the Laravel PHP framework. The agile DevOps approach enables rapid deployment and release management. Security and performance are monitored by a suite of cloud based tools and automated testing alerts the team to issues that may require attention. 

What is content? 

In publishing, art, and communication, content is the information and experiences that are directed toward an end-user or audience. Content is “something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing or any of various arts”. Content can be delivered via many different media including the Internet, cinema, television, radio, smartphones, audio CDs, books, e-books, magazines, and live events, such as speeches, conferences, and stage performances. 

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_(media) 

In the context of the Help Centre, ‘Content’ refers to anything that appears on any webpage in the Help Centre website. Every page is content and every page has been designed by Content Designers in the team.  

Content is the words, pictures, photos, illustrations, diagrams, videos, audio recordings, animations, interactive activities, link lists, calls to action, tables, forms, buttons, words that appear on buttons and more. With the exception of the OU header and footer, everything you see on every page on the Help Centre has been designed and developed by the Help Centre Content & UX Team. 

Content is designed and developed by following our well established User Centred Design process of understanding user user needs and expectations. We have a range of content formats and media in our toolkit. Whatever the solution, we ensure measures are established to evaluate and improve.  

What is UX? 

User experience refers to the singular and accumulated experiences that occur for users as a consequence of them interacting with an object in a given context. 

Source: https://uxdesign.cc/we-have-lost-track-of-what-ux-actually-means-8d55259dacb0 

We design content in the Help Centre to provide students with a positive experience where they feel supported and understood by the OU. 

Everyone in the team works in UX and a User Centred Design (UCD) process underpins everything we do.  

UX and design for the Help Centre uses consistent principles and guidelines across all content and content development so that students and other users can: 

  • quickly find what they are looking for 
  • easily understand the information and advice when they find it 
  • know what they need to do next 
  • feel well supported 

All designers, developers and administrators working on the Help Centre live and breathe user centred design and are committed to continuously improve to address student needs, meet or manage their expectations and illicit a positive student experience. 

Our users (mostly students) are at the centre of our design process. We test and validate our understanding of student needs throughout a project lifecycle via one to one consultation with students asking students 

  • What do you want to know? 
  • Is the answer where you expected to find it? 
  • Is the answer presented in the way you expected it to be? 
  • Does the answer make sense? 
  • Are you clear what you need to do next? 
  • What would you do next? 
  • How did the experience make you feel? 

Once content has been published we use web analytic data and feedback to find out 

  • What are students searching for? 
  • Do they end up on pages that we think should provide an answer to their search query? 
  • How long did they spend on the page? 
  • What did they do next? 
  • Did they leave any feedback? Positive or negative? Any insight? 

We use these questions to help us continuously revise and improve our content. 

How do we manage our work? 

All work undertaken by the Help Centre Content & UX Team is underpinned by our User Centred Design (UCD) process.  

Every piece of work the team undertakes should pass through these stages. We adjust the scope of activity undertaken depending on the urgency. We have a proven set of tools to call on to enable success. 

Discovery phase 

At the outset of any project, “Discovery” clarifies and agrees the purpose and scope of the work.  

 The outputs of this process are: 

  • high-level content goals and strategic alignment  
  • well defined and validated student and enquirer needs for content design 
  • agreed project objectives and metrics to ensure continuous improvement once new/refreshed content is released into the support ecosystem 
  • structured collaboration of the project team from the outset of work 
  • a shared understanding of scope and how it will deliver value to both users and the business. 

The Discovery process has 2 stages: 

  1. Vision and high-level content strategy. Agreeing the project vision and high-level goal or problem to be fixed. How will the work align to University and unit strategy? Is there a specific group of students or enquirers being targeted? Does anyone in the project team have ideas already for key features of the “product”? What topline metrics would be used for evaluation? Is there a deadline to be aware of? The outputs of stage 1 then go into a validation process. 
  2. Validation. Establishing the feasibility and reliability of what was documented in the first stage of Discovery. The goal of the validation stage is to mitigate the risk of building a product nobody wants or needs or that the target group can’t find. What are the specific student/enquirer needs this work will address? Is an information review (data/research/analytics etc) required to understand the business problem or goal better? Can we gain more clarity on the features/solutions already proposed, will they address the needs and solve the problem or is something else required? How will we effectively monitor and measure the results?  

These stages will flex according to the project, for large scale development an information review may need to be conducted before clarity about the goals and objectives can be agreed. For some smaller projects or “quick” content changes, reviewing the high level strategic alignment may not be necessary and aligning to “continuous improvement” is sufficient for ensuring the work supports University priorities. 

Questions we seek answer during the discovery phase are  

  1. Where does the idea for the work originate (context)?  
  2. Is there a problem to solve? 
  3. What are we working towards by completing this work (goal/vision)? 
  4. How will the work deliver value to the OU/align to University priorities?  
  5. Have specific student/enquirer needs for the work been identified?  
  6. If so, have they been validated with data (feedback/research/analytics)? 
  7. What are the specific objectives or product features that will be delivered? 
  8. What metrics will evaluate their relative success against objectives and the project goal/vision? 

Design phase 

The design phase uses the outputs collected during the discovery phase to generate ideas for solutions to address the needs and expectations of the end user and organisation stakeholders. 

Here, our Content and UX designers will assess the range of possible pre-existing solutions for suitability. We have a number of content models and formats available in the Help Centre that might suit. For example – plain text, video, audio and diagrams.  

If none of the existing content models and formats are thought to provide the best solution, or it is considered that an innovative approach is needed, we will look to fresh options. For example, we have designed a new content model for stepped guided journeys / wizard to support the Exam results – next steps initiative. In another example we have conceptualised an extension to Recommended help to enable students to self-serve personalised recommendations for content in the APP focus areas: BAME, Carers, Care leavers and Access. In this situation we work closely with technical experts / web developers to understand the art of the possible within the scope of our current framework. 

Evaluation phase 

Brand new content solutions are evaluated throughout the design stage. We consult with our users (typically students) to understand if the proposed design will enable them to find the answer to their question, understand what they are being told via the chosen format, know what to do next as a result of viewing the content and finally – how do they feel? Is it what we had expected to happen? We use this data to inform the next iteration. We also work closely with colleagues and stakeholders across the OU to ensure that we are able to provide metrics to support strategic objectives and quality compliance. In the diagram above you will see the arrows indicating the cyclical nature between the distinct phases.   

Some of the methods we use to evaluate the success of a design are usability testing (find, understand, do, feel), collection and evaluation of user feedback via the Help Centre Healthiness application, focus groups, behavioral based web analytics (do students actually do what we expect them to do?), VOICE SR analysis, Web chat transcript analysis, SRSC call analysis, card sorting, tree testing, multivariate A/B testing. 

Implementation phase 

Often seen as the ‘final’ stage, this is actually often the catalyst for the team to initiate the evaluation and design stages. This can be because work has been brought to the team in an already well advanced ‘solution’ state via task and finish group or higher ranking senior management with a high priority and urgency. In this situation we may not be able to undertake much in the way of discovery, design or evaluation before getting into implementation. We treat this kind of work as ‘experimental’ and seek to at least obtain hypotheses that we might measure the success of the solution against. 

The implementation stage enforces a number of safeguards to ensure quality and compliance. This includes but is not limited to accessibility, style, policy, peer review, review dates, end of life date. 

New content implementation using existing models and formats is released to the Help Centre immediately or as a part of a scheduled release of numerous changes required on a specific date/time (e.g. a Registration Open). 

New content models and/or formats are coordinated by the BOSS systems support team where new technical code is introduced into the Help Centre ecosystem. 

A communication plan to students and staff is created at this stage and managed across the wide range of stakeholders in the OU.  

More detailed information about our team processes can be found on our Sharepoint website. 

How is our work prioritised? 

We have many requests and opportunities for work. Our work typically comes from 

  1. Annual business planning and strategic objectives. This work is used to help us roadmap work for the year ahead. The work is not often clear at this stage. In this case we schedule the discovery stage for all unknown work. We cannot easily schedule the design, evaluation and implementation until we have conducted the discovery stage. 
  2. Requests for change via our team inbox. This is reviewed throughout the day, every day by our project coordinators. Work is impact-assessed and triaged against an urgency to importance ratio. Urgent/important work is prioritised and the impact on project work is highlighted to management. 
  3. Student feedback. All Help Centre articles have a ‘feedback’ widget at the bottom of the page. Students use this to give up a thumbs up or thumbs down and can provide and accompanying written feedback. We monitor the resultant feedback throughout the day and identify trends in issues that we need to act on. Where a solution is obvious and easy we act immediately, informing stakeholders about the change. Where the Help Centre feedback is highlighting an issue elsewhere in the OU – with comms or faulty systems we will notify colleagues and pass over to their control. Sometimes feedback is important but not urgent. In this case we look to align the feedback with strategic projects to inform and refine definition of the need as well as the solution. 
  4. AD-hoc requests for change by senior management. Sometimes we are asked to drop everything and do some work that is particularly important to a senior ranking colleague. In this scenario we will attempt to funnel them into our usual user centred design process to try to aid understanding of the purpose and context. If they are too busy or unwilling to engage we will recognise their seniority and make changes under their direction, flagging the development for subsequent evaluation, iteration and exit strategy.     

Governance 

Prioritisation of work against strategic objectives is undertaken via a clear line of management. The team is a part of Business and Online Student Support (BOSS), Student Support, Academic Services.  

Priorities for new developments are set via the Digital Student Support Steering Group, chaired by Rachel Hawkins. Recommendations for priorities are made via the Digital Student Support Communications & Content Working Group (DSSCWG). It reports into DSSSG and includes membership from across Academic Services, Marcomms, Library, LXT and others.  

We are also represented in the Central OU Digital Governance Groups – UX, Content & Communications, Brand, Digital Preservations, Information Security, Accessibility and others.  

Who do we work with? 

Business and Online Student Support 

The Help Centre Content & UX are part of Business and Online Student Support (BOSS), Student Support, Academic Services. 

 We work very closely with our colleagues in BOSS to present an integrated approach to digital student support. 

 The user (student) experience often begins as the result of an email designed and distributed by the Proactive Communications team. This email will contain links to Help Centre content. Together, we construct a targeted campaign with clear and specific objectives where performance can be measured across the entire journey.  

 Also in BOSS, the Quality and Compliance team work with us to effectively communicate OU policy and changes that will impact on student success. 

 The technical backlog prioritisation and liaison with web developers is managed within the BOSS system support team. 

Academic Services 

Our main internal customers are our colleagues across Academic Services. ACQ, Student fees, Career and employability services, ALSPD, Disability support, Widening access, Student policy and casework and of course the SRSCs. We work closely with our colleagues toward shared strategic objectives to improve the student experience. 

Other OU content and UX teams 

We join colleagues in Marcomms, The Library, OpenLearn and LXT in the UX, Content & Comms, Knowledge Information Management, Brand and Digital preservation digital governance working groups.  

We also jointly chair the Digital Student Support Comms & Content Working Group that includes membership from across the OU. 

We facilitate communities of practice to develop common ways of working.  

Together, we work together to develop and continuously improve digital services for students. 

Weekly update – w/b 13 July 2020

It’s been a really busy yet fruitful week for the Content & UX team. We’ve been working with colleagues across BOSS to deliver a number of rapid response items whilst keeping on top of our BAU and one eye on the future!

Your module results, next steps

Our main focus has been on the new “Results wizard”. The content has been through final checks ahead of soft-launch next week. The aim is to reduce the burden of incoming student contact, where possible, when module results are published on 20th July.

We have built the wizard in the ancient “students app” on www2 and applied a new lick of paint to make it brand and accessibility compliant and fit with the new Help Centre aesthetic.

You can see the solution at http://www2.open.ac.uk/students/results 

We have used this opportunity to test our new style performance reporting. We will be publishing daily reports from 20 July to highlight pageviews, feedback sentiment, contact conversion and resultant service request generation.

Request a call back

Working with Bev we were able to quickly deliver an interstitial page to enable students to select their subject-area and get to the correct call back form. This helps us overcome the limitations of the Form Publishing System (FPS) and VOICE routing logic.

The new results wizard will be sending students to this page from a number of ‘next steps’ pages. We’ll be monitoring the traffic volumes and working with colleagues to understand the demand for this service.

You can view the page here: http://www2.open.ac.uk/students/misc/callback

References from the OU

We were asked to find a solution so that Betty the Bot could be launched to handle reference requests by the end of July. Working with Bev and Clair we managed to get Comm100 to talk to the Help Centre and we launched the new References from the OU article (https://help.open.ac.uk/reference). We also took the opportunity to address the oft-quote “It’s really hard to find how to get a reference from the OU”. It’s now incredibly easy to find by browsing the Help Categories or using search. Give it a go!

Equality and diversity

The OU’s Race Equality Statement is somewhat buried in the Policies and Regulations website. We undertook to raise the profile of the statement by making it easier to find in the Help Centre search. Next week we will be updating Help Centre content and introducing a new article on Equality and Diversity. We have also made the recommendation that the OU’s main public facing Equality and Diversity website is updated to reflect our response to recent events. 

Changes to module due to COVID-19

We have been working with Steven C and Ant to create a new page to house Ant’s rather nifty lookup spreadsheet that helps students understand what elements of their modules will change due to COVID-19.

Scottish disability and financial forms

When asked to build three new forms in the Help Centre we quickly realised that there were going to be some pretty big hurdles to overcome to help our Scottish colleagues get the desired result. Regulatory and technical barriers have meant that we’ve had to explore more options with colleagues in IT. We may need to work up some fresh help content next week to help Scottish students to get essential information to us! Watch this space.

Future digital student support

We have been working with Rita Chouhadri, Dom Pritchard and Maz Celliers from CIO Portfolio > LXT to firm up requirements for a new knowledge base and content management system that will be delivered as a part of the Digital Student Experience (DSE) programme being led by Geoff Aldridge. We took part in an engaging requirements capture session that included Liz Vosper from KMS who shares many of our own content and knowledge management needs. 

We are representing Academic Services in a piece of research being conducted by Shift Learning to understand student needs for Information, Advice and Guidance. This will also feed into the DSE requirements.

Web form project

Our long gestating web forms project is nearly complete. Web Happens have delivered the new framework solution that enables us to much more easily create new web forms in the Help Centre. The new reference request form uses this platform along with nine other forms that will launch over the next few weeks. We now have a specification template to use to define web forms for quick creation by Web Happens. The next phase in 2020/21 will add the ability for us to be able to change the wording that appears on the forms (once Prismic has been introduced to our standard workflow).

Prismic migration

We have also been hard at work preparing the Help Centre for migration into the new ‘headless CMS’, Prismic on 16 July. Prismic offers us the opportunity to many things we’ve been wanting to do for years – place content anywhere in the Information Architecture (IA), use consistent content objects, preview the entire end to end of a change to student content journeys, time-release a load of content at once (think Reg Open!) and much more. It also gives us a robust platform in readiness for the bigger changes to Digital Student Experience over the coming years.

Recording online tutorials policy

We are preparing some new Help Centre content to explain the policy and answer student questions about it.

June 2020 Help Centre league table

You’ll find the Help Center content league table for June in the usual place. Plan your time remains the best performing article in the Help Centre once again with high praise for the simplistic yet effective design. Our defer and withdraw process also continues to receive very positive feedback. Web form ‘thanks’ pages also perform particularly well indicating satisfaction with our transactional services.

Disability support resources

We are working with the Disability Resources Team on improved content around alternative formats and assistive technology.

New content designer recruitment

Elle will be sitting on the panel to recruit two new G7 temp Content Designers into LXT. 

Welcoming Joycelyn to our team catchup

It was lovely to host Joycelyn as our special guest this week. We hope that more people from across BOSS will drop by and say hello! We miss your faces!!

It was wonderful to see the Yellow team follow suit this week with a morning photo! Cannot wait to find out who will be next!

Any questions about anything in this update? Contact Guy on all the usual channels.

Until next time.. Content & UX team out.

Weekly update – w/b 29 June 2020

The Content and UX team continue to develop the “Your results, next steps” content ahead of result publication in July. We expect to get sign-off this week on both the content and the daily insight reporting to know if the solution is working effectively. We expect to soft-launch on July 13th, a week before results day.

We are also readying ourselves for the move to the Prismic ‘Headless CMS’ this month. This will give us greater flexibility in managing Help Centre content and user experience.

The new form framework we have been developing with Web Happens is due to launch by the end of the month and we will finally be able to move some old web forms off the old EUD server as well as meet our accessibility obligations ahead of the September 2020 deadline.

Aside from our usual ‘keeping the Help Centre healthy’ BAU activity we are working with colleagues in Academic Services and partners across the OU to vision a ‘Blended Digital Student Support Service’.

Weekly update – 19 June 2020

Most of the Content and UX Team are continuing to work on the online solution for students wanting to query their results in July. We are working with Educational and Careers Advisers to produce suitable information, advice and guidance to provide reassurance. Work on the content is progressing well. We have been working with ACQ to better explain processes such as requesting a result check, resits and receiving and accepting a qualification. We’ve had some really useful meetings with Educational Advisors, ACQ and Careers to better understand and articulate what guidance will help students who have just got their results and are currently firming this up ready for final review next week. We are also consulting with the Students Association and MarComms to ensure the tone and content is appropriate and helpful.

We have a technical solution in place including a new feedback capture mechanism. We are also ensuring that we can capture all the right data to provide robust daily insight into the performance of the solution once live. This will enable rapid change over the days following the publication of the results. We’ll be taking this work forward into our much larger project to revamp the entire Assessment and Exams section of the Help Centre.

Aside from the concentrated work on results we continue to work on replace some old web forms including requests for references and discretionary postponement. The new form framework means we can much more efficiently create new webforms within the Help Centre. In addition to this we expect to move to the new content management solution, Prismic by the end of July.

We are also working with colleagues in LXT to undertake some joint research into technical and UX solutions to make the OU fit for the future – meeting (and exceeding) student needs and expectations.

Weekly update – 5 June 2020

Hello from Guy, Elle, Kathryn, Jags, Allison, Max and Janet!

The Content and UX (Blue) Team have been dividing our time between current projects: Assessment and Exams, Web Forms, Help Centre Content Management (Prismic) and Blended Enquirer and Student Support visioning. We have also been continuing to attend to our continuous improvement initiatives, insight, sentiment analysis and prioritising and actioning student feedback.

The latest Help Centre content league table for May is now available in Sharepoint. The “Your OU email” article had been performing poorly for many months, languishing near the bottom of the table. We made some changes to the content and in May it jumped 2400 places to now reside in the top 100 pages. The Microsoft Office 365 page has also leaped up 2000 place in the table as a result of this change. This is a really good result. For more information about our content league table and content changes please speak to Janet.

For the next three weeks most of the team will be investing time into preparing for incoming student contact about their results. Existing Help Centre content will be updated and new content created to try and help students self-serve answers about their results, what they mean for their future studies and career prospects. We have a tight timeframe for turning around a solution before mid July and will be putting measures in place to evaluate the performance of our just-in-time solution. We’ll also be spending time thinking about how we might better serve self-service information, advice and ‘Guidance’ in the future.

The time critical nature of this work means that we will be unable to spend as much time on other projects and initiatives for at least the next three weeks. We appreciate your understanding but if anything super-urgent crops up please do get in touch.

We have been posting regular photos of the team to the “Keeping in touch” area in Teams. We hope that seeing our happy faces brightens up your day and we’d love to see the rest of you!

Nat has sent us some fresh photos of baby Fin who is thriving and growing steadily! Some of the team are hoping to meet up with her next week for a socially-distanced catch-up.

Next week we welcome James and Dawn back from annual leave. We hope they are well rested and up for the fresh challenge ahead!

Introducing Max Freeman, Content and UX coordinator

How long have you been at the OU? 

I was initially signed-up as a temp for six weeks in November 2016 but I think the team decided I was a ‘keeper’ because after several extensions to my contract, an opportunity eventually arose which enabled me to apply for a permanent position. I’ve been ‘on the books’ since October 2018. 

What do you do at the OU? 

I work with my team across a range of activities and projects to evaluate the performance and experience of the digital services offered to our students, predominantly the Help Centre. My day to day activities range from organising meetings to writing content. 

What’s keeping you busy at the OU at the moment? 

I’m in the middle of a huge audit which includes practically all of the content in the Help Centre. It will help us to remove duplicate copy and out-of-date content. 

What do you love most about working at the OU? 

Sharing the same vision with my teammates. We’re dedicated to helping our students to be successful and this gives me a huge sense of wellbeing every day. It’s a privilege to work with such a genuine bunch of people who really want to help me, and each other, to learn and progress. I also really love wearing jeans to work whenever I want to! 

What do you excel at? 

One of the areas I appear to have a flare for is creating personas. Personas are invented people who have needs and goals, characteristics and emotions, attitudes and backgrounds. They exist to help us figure out what our users’ experiences might be when they encounter our products and services. Everything we do is centred around the user’s experience, so in the early stages of design we use personas in conjunction with scenarios to get an insight to how it might feel for the student. 

What do you want to be able to do and why? 

I’m dedicated to delivering a great experience to our students and constantly check to make sure they’re happy, and if they aren’t, I want to find out why. One of the most important tasks I perform on a daily basis it to check student feedback from the Help Centre to make sure there are no major problems, this gives me a real gut feel about what students are thinking. If students are having problems, I want to find out why and fix them. 

What can be done to make OU a better place? 

Get all of the online systems working seamlessly. 

What/who inspires you? 

Mostly my late Dad who was clever, funny, loyal, honest and accepting of everyone. But also our students, people from all walks of life who’ve had the courage to take on the challenge of studying to better their education, despite all the other commitments and challenges they face in life. 

What else have you done in your career? 

I worked in Admin and PA roles until 10 years ago, but it always looked like the Web Team were having lots more fun so I switched in 2009. The last director I was PA for called me her Rottweiler – I’m sure she was referring to my loyalty! 

What do you like to do when not at work? 

I live on a narrowboat (not a barge!) so I spend a lot of time chilling out in the stunning Northamptonshire countryside. I love photography and wildlife and enjoy singing, I’ve recently joined a women’s a cappella group. I’m one-sixth of the way to achieving an OU degree in Arts and Humanities and I’m also a slave to two cats, Pumpkin and Roger. 

Introducing Dawn Bird, Content Designer

How long have you been at the OU?
Coming up for 10 years. Before working in this team I was in disabled student services.

What do you do at the OU?
Content designer and editor.

What’s keeping you busy at the OU at the moment?
Writing some engaging and informative content for the new OU Assist app that is being trialled in April to students on an engineering module and keeping the Help Centre healthy.

What do you love most about working at the OU?
The holiday allowance! Together with the OU’s belief that it’s open to all.

What do you excel at?
Being supportive to colleagues.

What do you want to be able to do and why?
To spread the word throughout the University about our UX expertise and use it to influence change in other areas of the student journey.

What can be done to make OU a better place?
Get the tech up to date and working as one and make the online web estate look like it belongs together. We need to keep up with our competitors. We should also think about the customer – our students – first.

What/who inspires you?
A view inspires me, whether that’s a cityscape or landscape. Makes me feel glad to be alive and wanting to see more of our beautiful planet.

What else have you done in your career?
I spent many years working in London for a large hotel company, an American bank and an international firm of architects.

What do you like to do when not at work?
Walk, take photos and plan my next city break.

Introducing Natalie Banyard, Content Designer

How long have you been at the OU?
1 year and 4 months

What do you do at the OU?
I’m a Content Designer. In other words, I make words awesome and websites a bit prettier.

What’s keeping you busy at the OU at the moment?
My boss! He’s a real slave driver! ☺

Project wise I am working on creating a Content Design Guide to help with consistency across the Help Centre. I am also working on our biggest project, Content Loves Contact, and I am looking to become the guru for accessibility and brand within our team.

What do you most love about working for the OU?
The team. The work challenges are great but it’s the team that helps me through the good and bad times. We support and challenge each other so passionately to be better and to do better. We champion each other without fail and that’s the best thing about working at the OU.

What do you excel at?
Thinking outside of the box and being creative. It’s either that or talking/distracting others/social sleuthing. ☺

What do you want to be able to do and why?
I would love to be able to fly so I can work from the clouds but that’s just a pipe dream.

In terms of work, I would like to be able to have the time to make the Help centre a better experience for everyone. Being a professional there are many admin tasks to be done. For 2-3 days a week I would love to ignore those admin tasks and focus on working on the Help Centre to make it more inclusive and accessible so that it’s open to everyone.

What can be done to make the OU a better place for students?
I think the OU should focus more on students and what they want, and less on what the business wants. A lot of projects/work are based off the business needs instead of those of the students. We believe in ‘students first’ and we should stick by what we say.

We also need to stop over-complicating processes for students. We should have less systems and more consistency to help the way they work.

What / who inspires you?
The team inspires me. They’re passionate about what they do and how they can help students. If more people had that attitude work would be a lot easier.

What else have you done in your career?
I have worked for the second biggest radio station in New Zealand called The Rock (FM), where I met a lot of celebrities and helped create their first ever Rock FM festival, Rockapalooza. I created trending website content, social media content, graphics and videos – and that was all in one day!

I have worked on websites for over 11 years in various roles and have experience in content editing and writing, SEO, analytics, UX, animation and video creation, graphic design, brand marketing, social media and most importantly, fun!

What do you like to do when not at work?
I love to travel. This year alone will include trips to Canada, the US, Cyprus and Poland. I might even get to squeeze in a camping trip to Wales.

Introducing Kathryn Benjamin, Content Designer

Kathryn BenjaminHow long have you been at the OU?
Just over a year in Academic Services, before that 16 years in Marketing.

What do you do at the OU?
Content design.

What’s keeping you busy at the OU at the moment?
We are clarifying and documenting our content management approach. This will help us to manage content more effectively, focus on continuous improvement and share more easily how the Help Centre works.

What do you most love about working for the OU?
I am passionate about the OU’s mission, it’s a beautiful idea and should be fiercely protected.

What do you excel at?
Building trust in working relationships.

What do you want to be able to do and why?
Bring our design principles to life in every Help Centre experience. So that we hear every day from students that digital support at the OU makes them feel they can trust us to look after them and that they are confident we will help them when they need it.

What can be done to make the OU a better place for students?
More energy injected into small, focussed, time-bound projects that get units working together better.

What / who inspires you?
People who are brave about trying something new.

What else have you done in your career?
Loads! Direct marketing, market research and insight, strategic planning, brand management, internal communications, carer, sandwich maker and sales person of hydroponic growing mediums.

What do you like to do when not at work?
Walk, eat, sleep – in that order.

Keeping busy in Autumn / Winter 2018

We’re not short of tasks this quarter. You’ll mostly find us

  • polishing off our Content Strategy
  • refining our User Centred Design Process
  • defining the persona and personality of the student Help Centre
  • updating our Content design guide
  • recruiting a new student panel
  • cataloguing user (student) needs and expectations
  • completing our student profiles
  • mapping contact points to content
  • testing our Information Architecture (IA)
  • documenting user journeys and scenarios
  • devising usability test scripts
  • continuously improving online support content for OU students
  • getting ready for brand new OU students in 2019
  • making connections with colleagues and students across the OU.