This week we chat to Claudia Lusardi, Communications and Outreach Hub Manager at Study Higher, a partnership of universities, further education colleges and other stakeholders working together to provide young people with high quality, impartial advice and guidance about education opportunities.
Tell us what Study Higher is all about then?
At Study Higher, we provide educational outreach to encourage students to get into higher education, apprenticeships, university, or any sort of career that requires more technical, vocational qualifications. We work with underrepresented groups, so we’re specifically trying to reach young people who live in areas where there’s low progression into higher education.
We target parts of the UK where not many young people go on to an apprenticeship or to university. That might be because their parents haven’t gone into higher education, or because there are lots of barriers in the way of making them feel like they can progress.
Part of our work is postcode driven, but we also work with other underrepresented groups such as service children, young carers and care experienced students. We deliver a whole range of different interventions face-to-face with young people including mentoring workshops in school, and campus visits to universities.
That must have been difficult during the pandemic then? Is that why you needed the website revamped?
In part, yes. We had to make a massive shift to having a digital presence, whereas our website hadn’t been a priority before because we were well-established in our target schools. Pre-pandemic, there had been an expectation from our funders, The Office for Students, that we needed to develop the website to provide signposting to all the schools across our four regions, in addition to the focused list of about 35 schools that received in-person resource from us. So, we did have plans to develop our website, but when the pandemic hit, it was a double whammy – we now needed to provide something for the schools that usually had face-to-face contact as well.
"The pandemic forced us to think on our feet about what other functions the website needed."
So, it sounds like the pandemic helped you with your digital transformation by bringing it forward?
Yeah, absolutely. Our new website was originally due to go live at the beginning of March, but there had been lots of delays, so Greenwich Design stepped in to help us. The pandemic forced us to think on our feet about what other functions the website needed. Everything that had been on the backburner prior to the pandemic suddenly became more important, and it forced us to hit fast forward with our plans.
What were the main functions you needed and how did you want them to represent your brand?
I think the most important function is the search engine. This allows schools in our regions to type in their name and find out if they’re eligible for support, and if they are, who their contact is and what outreach is available to them. If they’re not eligible, they can find out what else they can access for free from our partners.
I don’t know anything about designing a website, but I do know it was quite a challenge for Greenwich Design to pull everything together in the timescale! We gave them a spreadsheet of 140 schools that we needed to put online, with the instruction that it needed to be executed in a more creative way than a spreadsheet! The schools were separated into tiers of support, with 12 staff members allocated to 64 schools, and Greenwich Design had to translate that into a search engine that would work online. And they managed to do it perfectly – it’s exactly what we wanted.
In addition to having the functionality to communicate with people about who their contact was and what they could receive, we also needed to make all our resources more presentable in a format that was easy to navigate. Pre-pandemic, we’d created a lot of materials for teachers to deliver in schools, but we hadn’t found a way to display them online. The second part of the brief was to develop a resource page that really showed off the high-quality content available through Study Higher.
So now that you have a shiny new website, will you continue to operate many of your services online, post-pandemic?
We’ve been able to put a lot of development into resources that schools can deliver themselves without needing a member of our staff to come in. These are more than just lesson plans – we’ve spent funding on making sure that these materials are well-designed and come with relevant activities for young people. These resources will continue to be available online, and schools can access and order them from us post-pandemic. We’ve found this is resource-efficient and a good use of our funding as it allows us to support more schools.
We’ll still be going back into our 35 target schools to work face-to-face, providing in-school delivery and campus visits, but having an online presence with resources for schools to access themselves allows us to reach more learners. We offer lesson plans, videos and animations and we’ve added a page where schools can order one of our resource boxes – we’ll probably continue to expand the variety of offerings like that as we move forward.
Finally, what was your experience like working with Greenwich Design?
Greenwich Design took this project on for us in a period of extreme stress and chaos on our part. Deadlines had been missed and we were panicking before Greenwich took the reins and developed and built the new website within a month. (Initially, when the project started, we’d planned for a three-month turned around!) School closures had impacted all of our delivery, so we needed results quickly – and we needed them to be good! Greenwich Design injected some calm and respite into the process, working extremely hard to deliver what we needed. I’m sure it wasn’t calm for Arrann and his team given the time scale, but in terms of how they worked with us, they were really reassuring. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the website went live because what we needed finally existed!
Thanks, Claudia, we loved having the opportunity to work with you to get all those amazing Study Higher resources online for people to access during the pandemic and beyond!