While students were settling into campus for the spring semester, the gears were turning for the unveiling of the new Boston College website. The biggest undertaking since the last redesign in 2006, this overhaul has taken two years to complete and brought the site a new form and functionality, as well as dynamic content for a more interactive experience overall.
The accessibility and consistency of the new bc.edu indicates the strides BC is taking to improve its online presence and meet the demand of users, over half of which now visit the site on mobile devices.
While it may seem like a frivolous endeavor, university websites do have their place on the Internet and can be an important asset in conveying a message or story. With 5,000 institutions of higher learning in the United States alone, the task a high school junior or senior faces in deciding where he or she will spend the most formative years of his or her education can be extremely daunting.
Outside of visiting schools, which can become exhaustive of time and money, high school students are able to turn to their screens as a cost-effective and convenient alternative.
For most students partaking in the college search, a university website will serve as the first entry point to learning more about the school. For starters, the availability of information online has made it easy to narrow down schools based on factors like location, available majors, and costs.
Prospective students can even use statistics that colleges post, like average GPAs, test scores, and admission rates, to gauge their own chances at getting in. What they cannot yet do, however, is gauge how well that school fits their personality based on these facts.
Still, university websites are capable of making statements about their institutions without verbalizing it.
“For the new website, we needed to focus on what makes Boston College distinctive: our Jesuit, Catholic mission,” says Scott Olivieri, ITS Web Technology Manager for the project. “This website presents the university as a world-class institution providing an ‘education with a heart and soul—and the power to transform.’”
The objective of the new website was to effectively showcase what the outdated one could not, namely the stories of the people that make BC special. With the incorporation of more dynamic multimedia elements, the website also aims to have its message resonate with its prospective students while still reflecting the current BC community.
The response to the revamped website has been immensely positive. “I maintain social media channels on behalf of the University, so it’s been incredible to see the reaction both on and off campus to this change,” says Melissa Beecher, Social Media Manager of the Office of News & Public Affairs.
In regards to the school’s social media presence, BC’s promotional videos have been gaining traction since the sensation of the “Happy” music video in 2014--a production thought up by Senior Creative Producer Sean Casey. Viewers of these videos are given more insight on what life as a BC Eagle really entails.
“So far we've had a tremendously positive response to the videos we create,” Casey says. As a BC undergrad alum, Casey cites his own experiences as influential to his work at the Office of News & Public Affairs. “I think that's a huge testament to Boston College. The experience you have here is incredibly formative and impactful on you, even years after you leave Chestnut Hill."
Casey’s challenge to capture the true essence of BC, often accomplished by filming candidly to capture authentic moments between roommates and friends, does not go unrewarded. The videos are powerful in that they can draw up fond memories of the Heights for alumni or allow parents to see what’s going on at BC.
More than that, the videos are capable even of catalyzing a sense of BC pride among current students. For prospective students, it’s an opportunity for learning more about about what BC can offer.
In addition, Casey stresses the unique spirit of the BC community that makes his creations possible. “Our videos would be nothing without the enthusiasm of the students and the depth of the experience I get to be a fly on the wall for," he says. "I hope we can continue to connect with the audience and continue to show the best of what BC has to offer though light and magic.”
The collaborative spirit of BC extends to the Office of News & Public Affairs itself--Casey is quick to give credit to Patricia Delaney, who is in charge of distribution to the web and Twitter, and Beecher, who handles Facebook and other social media channels--for their skills of social media strategy.
“Our social team really is key to the success of our videos," Casey says. "You could make the next Spielberg movie, but if no one sees it, it’s useless!”
With Casey’s hints towards more videos to come this semester, we can be sure to expect more of the best of BC on our screens. Additionally, Beecher is confident that bc.edu is not to be the end of the road in building the University’s online presence, but rather the beginning.
“The Boston College website has grown to more than 230 distinct sites and 40,000 individual web pages, so this is a sizable undertaking,” Beecher says. “Moving forward, we aim to be iterative—build on the successes and refine areas that need improvement. We’re always looking to improve—both on social media and the web.”