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?

Our new Student Organizations Directory

At Hope, life outside the classroom is as vibrant as it is inside. Our Student Life office offers an array of opportunities for students to get involved in more than 50 student-led organizations.

However, for many years our student groups were provided a fairly limiting template and embedded blog for sharing information (and many were not updated regularly). When we began the process of redesigning the new Student Life website, we knew a key aspect to success would be a finding a way to showcase the many student organizations and opportunities.

Together, we chose to abandon the one-size-fits-all approach of handing every group their own site, and worked toward a comprehensive Student Organizations Directory. The new directory provides an at-a-glance view of every Student Congress funded group, with quick access to social media links. The expanding accordions allow interested users to learn more about each group with a short description, photo, and email address to contact.

We also recognize that some groups or organizations do require more than a directory listing. For those, we work closely with the group to identify specific needs and a plan for sustainability. A few examples of custom sites for student organizations include:

We’re eager to hear feedback from students and others on their experience with the new directory!

Changes to OU Campus workflow

From the very beginning of the hope.edu 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

 

A Few New Web Projects

We had a busy summer working on the new inHope and new Athletics website and app, but we’ve also had a handful of fun projects this fall that we’d like to share with you.

  • Dining Menus: we worked with Dining Services to introduce an entire new website for their area that also features new dining menus. The new menus were created and are completely managed within Google Calendar and allow the dining staff to maintain and update their daily menus easily and while on the go. The menu content is pushed out to their website as well as the display screens in the dining halls automatically and in real time. We’ve also introduced a new set of allergen icons.
  • EMS: many of you use EMS to reserve rooms around campus throughout the year. We gave the Virtual EMS interface a bit of a branding refresher and an overall clean and sleek look.
  • Tickets: our online ticket platform, Webtix, also got a branding update to match our hope.edu tempalate. The new tickets.hope.edu is now responsive and mobile friendly.
  • Admissions Rep Finder: We’ve had an “Admissions Find Your Representative” feature on our website for a while, but the data and files associated with it have had to be manually updated each time a change occurred. The new Admissions Rep Finder is now connected to our institutional Banner data, so updates and changes are made automatically.

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.

Announcing: inHope, the new KnowHope

The new college intranet, which is replacing KnowHope, is now live and available! The new service is called inHope, and can be accessed at in.hope.edu. It is only accessible to individuals who have a hope.edu email account. Features of inHope include: mobile friendly, easy to scan/filter, common links, easy to submit announcements, today’s events calendar, featured news, academic calendar, people search, blog posts, Instagram photos, a survey of the week and more!

Learn more about inHope

  • Mobile friendly: (responsive to every device size)
  • Links: quick access to all of the common links, resources and services you use on a regular basis can be found in the orange navigation bar at the top. Hover over “Resources” to see links for Resources (commonly accessed items), Services (forms and requests), and Safety (emergency guide, incident reports, etc).
  • Content Filters: colored filters can be turned on and off, applying to everything on the page
  • Announcements: tagged announcements can be viewed by clicking the announcement title. A new streamlined submission form makes it easier to submit announcements, which allows you to determine how long you want your announcement to stay on the site. Announcements should include information that pertains to the majority of campus and is not an event (unless you’re previewing your event in advance) and not something already covered in an official press release.
  • Featured Story: most days a new item will appear highlighting a big story for the day (news story, blog post, big event, campus photo, etc).
  • Today’s Events: will always show all events happening today. This is showing a direct feed from our campus web calendar. View instructions for submitting an event to the events calendar.
  • Take Note: these boxes will feature various content that is important to take note and may have a longer shelf life than an announcement.
  • Academic Calendar: this will pull a direct feed of the Academic Calendar via a Google Calendar maintained by the Registrar’s Office. You can also subscribe to it and add it to your own Google Calendar.
  • People Search: Employee Search and Student Search both pull the same information as KnowHope People Search did, but now is a filter instead of a search, which returns even quicker results. Employees can be searched by name or by department as well as sorted.
  • Other Services: you’ll also find updated versions of Marketplace, Ride Exchange, Incident Reports and (coming soon) Minutes and Agendas.
  • More: also explore blog posts, Instagram photos, and a fun survey of the week sponsored by the Frost Center!

 

Questions or suggestions? Contact us at inhope@hope.edu.