July 2017 - Goodenough College is an independent educational charity situated in one of central London's most beautiful garden squares. Its mission is 'to develop future leaders by providing a welcoming residential community for outstanding international postgraduate students and their families, irrespective of background, where mutual understanding and respect are fostered and intellectual, cultural and social interactions are nurtured'.
The College provides a safe and caring community that allows over 700 residents (known as Members) and their families from more than 80 countries to expand their horizons academically, socially and culturally.
The starting point
Goodenough’s college intranet “The Square” contained two useful features - on online user directory and student user profiles. The Directory helped students locate like-minded people across the College, by showing their photo, summary academic profile (i.e. their course, where they were studying), and their interests including which clubs and societies they had joined.
As the College migrated to their new MSL System for membership management, it was decided that these two resources should be re-designed within the new platform to maintain continuity and to build on their success.
Re-building “The Square”
The Square’s re-design was championed by Goodenough College’s Dean, Registrar, Ents (Events) Manager and two representatives from the Members’ Council, which is the main student representative body at the College.
Working with MSL - who had already impressed the Square Working Group by providing so much functionality “out of the box” and demonstrating an understanding of the College’s specialised requirements - the built-in widget framework and template engine made it easy to replicate the look and feel and theme of the old Square intranet, while bringing it into the 21st century.
Student engagement functionality
For the re-launch of the Square, the focus was on core functionality: club and society memberships; e-tickets; news; events; and promoting the food and drink offering across the café, dining hall and student bar.
The Directory’s requirements were quite bespoke, but happily MSL were able to review those requirements, provide a quote and a timescale for development. The Square Working Group was given the opportunity to provide feedback on the test (UAT) system and the Directory went live just a few months after the launch of the main site.
The search interface is intentionally really simple: users can search by any combination of name, year of entry, degree, subject or place of study. Members find this particularly useful during the first six weeks of term, when they are getting to know their fellow residents and building new social networks around the College.
The ability to browse profiles, find out which clubs and societies fellow students belong to and send them a group email has been made far easier than was previously been in place on the old Directory. This works especially well in the College’s environment. Goodenough College is a small, independent Educational Charity, with around 700 full time international postgraduate students, located across two, tight-knit halls. As there is already a strong degree of trust between members, the majority of students are happy to share their details online. However, a simple opt out feature for members who do not wish to be contacted via the Directory is provided.
Member benefits of The Square
- The Directory and Profiles combine the social network elements of Facebook with the professional profile features of LinkedIn. Students are happy to share details on The Square, as it is a closed, trusted network. These new features have successfully driven traffic to the site and encouraged students to network with like-minded individuals in a safe and familiar environment.
- The Directory - used in conjunction with the MSL App and the new room sub-letting feature - help improve student engagement. Google Analytics statistics demonstrate that students are spending longer on the intranet and responding to more ‘calls to action’ by joining clubs and societies, signing up to events and buying tickets online.
- The online community helps to reinforce the good will which already exists amongst members, who regularly dine in together at the Great Hall, hang out at the GBar and organise food tasting events in the common kitchens.
- The group message feature enables new Clubs and Societies, like Horse Riding and Art Club, to develop organically and to identify new potential memberships.
- The College has incorporated some of the UI features of Facebook – like the AJAX quick search – to make it easy to find people, news stories and events, by entering a single search term.
Caroline Persaud, Registrar of Goodenough College commented: “Adopting MSL for our student intranet has been pain free. We were aware of the system limitations but assured at initial discussions that MSL could build bespoke elements for us. These bespoke elements have been delivered on time and MSL’s test systems were, in fact, almost finished versions. Although the directory search and user profiles are bespoke to us I am sure they would be of use to many other membership based organisations using the system.”