New options for website news content

In addition to our behind-the-scenes change to improve Open Graph tags, we also made a more noticeable change that some of you may have already seen on your websites.

As you may remember, Hope’s web pages have had the option to display in the right sidebar the most recent press release associated with a department or office:

Now, this field will display the most recent item associated with a department or office. This may include a press release, blog post, news story from an external media source, tweet, Instagram photo or YouTube video. Here’s an example of what it looks like with a tweet:

We hope that by expanding the potential pool of media items to draw from, this content will be more current and relevant to students, and will showcase the variety of content available on our news page.

A few things to note:

  • If a department doesn’t have the news option enabled on their site, this change will not affect their pages.
  • If a department would rather that certain media types not appear, we can turn off any, or all, of them (we recommend leaving them all on).
  • This field will continue to pull only content, which is curated by Public Affairs & Marketing. In many cases, there’s content out there that we choose to not add to our news page, which means that it won’t show up in that field. It also won’t automatically display the latest post from, for example, a account.

We think you’ll like the change!

NEW: OU Campus Help Videos

Did you forget how to find the login screen? Still not quite sure if you’re placing images correctly? Need to make a new page, but you’ve never started one from scratch before?

Believe it or not, you’re not the only one with these (and other) questions. You’re not alone. And help is here!

We compiled a list of most common questions and put together a new library of video tutorials that will guide you through the details of using OU Campus to edit content on the Hope College website. Here’s an example:

(That voice you hear is Allison Johnson, one of the superstar students in our office.)

Here’s a list of topics:

  • Logging in
  • Understanding your dashboard
  • Creating new pages
  • WYSIWYG toolbar
  • Gadget menu
  • Assets vs. snippets
  • How news works
  • Page properties
  • Accordions
  • Banner images
  • Calls to action
  • Uploading and inserting photos
  • Photo galleries
  • Tables
  • Inserting videos
  • Page check
  • Workflow

Check out the videos
today! And remember, you can always refer to the OU Campus Users’ Guide (PDF).

Of course, you’re still welcome to contact us if you have any questions!

Kill Your Jargon

This post provides a brief overview of how to enhance problem-based experiences within a meaning-centered paradigm while strategizing metacognitive decision-making across cognitive and affective domains. By the time you reach the end, you’ll understand how to disaggregate assessment-driven manipulatives for our 21st century learners.

No, I don’t know what any of that means. In fact, I hope it’s complete nonsense, because I copied it out of an educational jargon generator. Jargon, like the kind you find above, generally falls into three different categories. You should avoid them all when you write — and especially when you write for the Hope website.

One type of jargon is industry insider terminology — the kinds of words from my first paragraph. Closely related to these words are industry-specific acronyms and initialisms: If you don’t know what a LYBUNT is, you must not spend much time talking to donors in advancement, development or fundraising.

Another type is words that are so commonly used that they’ve been pretty well emptied of their meaning. These are a bit trickier to recognize: “Engagement.” Yes, but what kind of engagement? “Convening.” Who’s coming together and why? “Impact.” What sort of impact?

Finally, there are those big words that you use when you really mean something simple. What do you mean when you talk about ‘scaling up’ or ‘taking something to scale’ or ‘maximizing’? Right, you mean ‘make it bigger.’ ‘Conceptualize’? Oh, you mean ‘think about.’

Here are three reasons using jargon is a bad idea:

  1. Jargon obscures your message.
    When we write, we write to be understood. Your words should make it easier for people to understand you — never harder.
  2. Jargon makes people feel like outsiders.
    We’re in this together, really, and that means we should speak a common language. Don’t use language that excludes, condescends, or reminds people that they’re not in the know.
  3. Jargon makes you sound dumb.
    A lot of people use jargon because they think big words make them sound smarter, but it actually does the opposite: If your readers don’t know what you’re talking about, they’ll assume that you probably don’t know what you’re talking about, either.

When it comes to effective writing, getting rid of jargon is a must. There is no neutral ground: Either kill your jargon, or your jargon will kill your message.

Here’s how to get rid of it:

  1. Say what you mean, and say it plainly.
    Use short, simple, common words.
  2. Use a conversational tone.
    Unless you literally sound like you’re reading a peer-reviewed journal every time you open your mouth, write how you speak. Better: Write how you speak to middle schoolers.
  3. Ask someone unfamiliar with higher education or your subject area to read your content.
    Do they know what you mean? Can they correctly repeat the information back to you in their own words? What did they find confusing or unclear?

Changes to OU Campus workflow

From the very beginning of the relaunch, I’ve had two main priorities for web content:

1. Update and maintain live web content
2. Develop and launch new websites

These priorities aren’t changing, but it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to balance (juggle?) them.

In short, it’s taking me far too long to move websites from draft to launch. I’ve tried to be Johnny-on-the-spot about responding to OU Campus submissions as soon as I can, which pulls me away from my other projects. Something’s gotta give — and it ain’t the workload. I need to be smarter about my daily schedule.

So I’ve blocked off my calendar for two hours every morning. From 8–10 a.m., my number one priority will be working through my workflow queue. And if I need to, I’ll spend a little extra time to make sure I get through everything. This means that any changes submitted after 10 a.m. will be addressed the following morning. We’re still aiming to publish changes within 24 hours of receiving them.

The rest of my day will be reserved for other things — meetings, site building, launching new sites, and other projects. I’m hoping this will speed up the site launch process while still allowing me to turn around submissions within a reasonably quick timeframe.

Of course, if you have a truly urgent need, let me know, and I’ll get to it as quickly as I can.

OU Open Labs: Spring Semester

Open Lab sessions are back by popular demand!

We’ve blocked out time in a computer lab for you to drop in and ask questions, get help or simply work on your website with fewer interruptions. I’ll be working in the lab the whole time to answer your questions or help solve problems.

There’s no need to register — just show up with your questions!

  • Monday, January 09, 1–5 p.m., Martha Miller Computer Lab 240
  • Tuesday, January 24, 8 a.m.–noon, Schaap Computer Lab 3002
  • Monday, February 06, 1–5 p.m., Martha Miller Computer Lab 240
  • Friday, February 24, 8 a.m.–noon, Schaap Computer Lab 3002
  • Tuesday, March 07, 1:30–5 p.m., Martha Miller Computer Lab 240
  • Friday, March 24, 8 a.m.–noon, Schaap Computer Lab 3002
  • Tuesday, April 11, 1:30–5 p.m., Martha Miller Computer Lab 240
  • Friday, April 28, 8 a.m.–noon, Schaap Computer Lab 3002


Letting go is never easy

One of our goals in transitioning to our new website is to make Hope’s website smaller. There was too much information on our old site, and that just makes it harder for our users to find what they’re looking for. It’s time to slim down.

But that isn’t always easy to do. We’ve gotten used to doing something just because that’s the way we’ve always done it. We’re attached to it. We disagree about what’s actually important to our audiences.

Here are a few questions to help assess your content:

1. Does my audience actually need this information?

Sometimes we put content on our website because it’s important to us, not because it’s important to our user. If it doesn’t answer a question your audience is actually asking or provide information that’s truly valuable to them, then it shouldn’t go on the website. And remember: You are not your target audience.

2. Does this information already exist elsewhere?

We shouldn’t duplicate content. If a user can access the information somewhere else — the registrar’s or provost’s offices, for example, or the online catalog or event calendar — then we should simply provide easy access to that content. Link to it in a way that makes sense to your user.

3. Does this information really belong somewhere else?

Maybe the content is important to your audience, but it really belongs somewhere else. Sure, that syllabus is critical for the 18 people enrolled in your course this semester — but our public-facing website probably isn’t the best place to put it. (That’s what Moodle is for.) Figure out where it belongs, and let’s make sure it goes there.

Introducing Websmith

A while back we launched Websmith, a new users’ group for people who actively manage web content in OU Campus. For those of you who couldn’t make our first meeting, here’s a quick introduction to what we’re trying to accomplish.

Please join us at an upcoming meeting! You can sign up online to express interest.


To connect campus users who develop, edit and maintain content in OU Campus and equip them to effectively represent Hope College online.


  • Connect with OU Campus users in other departments and offices
  • Participate in focused learning about OU Campus and/or web content
  • Celebrate success of group members and other departments, offices and programs (e.g., showcase new websites, highlight new concepts or ideas)
  • Identify and share best practices, tips and tricks
  • Express pain points and identify solutions to common problems


1. Monthly meetings

Here’s a sample agenda:

1 p.m. — Mingle
1:10 — Announcements; celebrate success
1:15 — Featured topic
1:35 — Featured topic Q&A
1:45 — General Q&A
1:55 — Dismiss

Upcoming meetings are scheduled for the first Tuesday of the month (generally) at 2 p.m. in the DeWitt Herrick Room. Here are the dates:

  • September 6
  • October 4
  • November 1
  • December 6
  • January 3
  • January 31
  • March 7
  • April 4
  • May 2

2. Online community

For now, look for additional information right here on the Public Affairs and Marketing blog. You can find it with the new Websmith category. If you’re looking for an easy way to get updated with every new Websmith posts, please subscribe.

Eventually, we’ll put some work into developing a robust online community, including easy access to digital resources, training videos and other material.

3. Additional training

We’ll spend some time at each meeting with in-depth training. In our last meeting, we covered those pesky images — how to upload them and size them for your page and how to create and use new photo gallery assets.

Potential topics for future meetings include:

  • Using assets and snippets
  • Editing images outside of OU Campus
  • Creating video for the web
  • Grammar and style
  • Making workflow work for you

Of course, we welcome your suggestions!