When you come to the same place every day and do the same job every day, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. I know this first-hand: I stepped onto campus for the first time as a student in August of 2000, and I’ve been here pretty much every day since. Nine of those years I’ve been working on our website, listening to the needs of our students, hearing the ideas of our faculty. And while the needs of our students and the ideas of our faculty are relevant and worth primary focus, thirteen years at a single place can give you some serious tunnel vision, leading to a way of thinking that yours is the only way of doing things, for better or worse.
That’s why I love perspective. And when four members of the Web Team attended the HighEdWeb Conference last month, perspective is exactly what we got.
HighEdWeb is an association of web professionals who work at colleges and universities across the country. From back end coders to graphic designers to content writers, this is a group jam packed with smart people who know a lot about the Internet in general and how to use it to communicate with students in particular.
I learned quite a bit at the conference: I learned about how to use social media more effectively, I learned about analyzing content on our website and others, I learned about the role of technology in the future of education. But none of these things can measure up to the greatest lesson I was reminded of:
We are not alone.
Not in an “alien autopsy” kind of way. Conferences teach you that other schools – many, many other schools – have the same problems we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Every school is overwhelmed with massive chunks of information that can be difficult to display in a way that will seem logical to all users. Every school needs more resources in web than they already have. Every school has things about their website that they wish they could burn to the ground and build from scratch, but knows that it’s not realistic to do so.
Some schools are doing things on their websites that make us, as a Web Team, extremely jealous. Some schools are doing things on their websites that make us scratch our heads. Conferences like HighEdWeb let us learn from each other and, if we really like something on someone else’s website, borrow ideas from each other.
It’s cool, though. We’re all friends.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember that. Sometimes, tunnel vision can happen on the micro level. You only know what your department needs. And that’s okay; looking out for your own needs is what keeps you functioning on a day-to-day basis. But it’s conferences like these that remind us that not only are we the web workers a team, but that everyone at this university – and higher ed in general – are a team, working towards the same goals.
This blog is a great start toward fostering that understanding here on campus. We’re all here to serve the students we have in the best way possible, and we’re here to make sure that SJU continues to draw high quality students in the future. Let’s use this blog and its accompanying newsletter to start the conversation to make it happen.
I’m looking forward to the perspective.