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Case Study:

University of Notre Dame College of Engineering

Overview

WebUnity = Lineage + Resonate + Spotlight

The College of Engineering at the University of Notre Dame wanted to establish a unified umbrella brand for the College with individual sub-brands for their departments and research centers. Six Feet Up helped roll out a parent/child infrastructure to greatly simplify content syndication and to increase search engine rankings. Eventually, Six Feet Up released a new multisite package for Plone called WebUnity, which enables multisite management, content syndication and more.

Challenge

The College of Engineering had a significant problem. Each of its half-dozen departments and dozen research centers maintained their own, independent websites. There was no integration, no consistency, no pooling of resources, and no central brand enforcement.

A strategy was developed and implemented by Six Feet Up to build a centralized website with an easy ability to spawn sub-sites for each department and research center.

Multisite Management

One college site with multiple department and center subsites

While a CMS empowers staff to publish content more easily, and enforces consistent college-wide branding and structure, the College of Engineering wanted each one of their departments and research centers to have control over their own areas of the website.

This was accomplished through Lineage, a popular Plone add-on product developed by Six Feet Up:

  • Lineage gives each department and research center the ability to have its own sub-site.
  • Each sub-site can have its own design, workflow, site-specific content types, and different sets of user privileges (i.e. a faculty member can be an administrator on one sub-site, a content contributor on another sub-site, and a community member on a third sub-site.)
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Content Syndication

To facilitate content sharing within a multisite setup, Six Feet Up developed Resonate. Thanks to this Lineage add-on, college, departments and research centers can syndicate news, events and featured faculty/student/alumni profiles between one another. The syndication process leverages the current publication workflows in place and gives each organization granular control over which content items to display on their site.

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Forms

Six Feet Up set up PloneFormGen to make it possible to manage the College of Engineering's online registration forms via a through-the-web form generator. This allowed administrators to create and manage forms on their own.

Four distinct member types were created to accommodate the registration process: Faculty, Student (undergraduate/graduate), Staff and Alum, each with a custom set of data fields. Registration requests are reviewed by administrators prior to publication to make sure of the identity and credentials claimed by registrants.

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Integration

LDAP Integration

Six Feet Up integrated the College's Plone site with the University of Notre Dame's existing LDAP central authentication service. When users with existing Notre Dame credentials register to have an account with the College of Engineering website, they now only need to enter their NetID as their requested username. Once the site's administrators approve their login, members can access the College of Engineering site using their existing University usernames and passwords. This makes it easier to interact with the new site for both site members and site administrators.

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Staff Directory

While Plone provides significant power to Notre Dame staff and faculty, a CMS is only as good as the content it manages. It was crucial for the University to have a way to encourage faculty members to frequently and consistently publish new content to the website.

To answer this need, Six Feet Up developed the staff directory product Spotlight. The add-on gives each person both a public profile and a portfolio area, which they can use to post recent achievements, news items they are featured in, as well as articles and publications they have authored. Faculty members can also designate and feature the profiles of the students they mentor.

Depending on the department the user is viewing, the staff directory dynamically filters results by affiliation. Visitors can further refine the data via the faceted navigation by narrowing down their search based on "Category", "Area of Expertise" and/or "Affiliation". The directory also features a "Quick Finder" field that allows visitors to enter keywords to help them find the appropriate profile. Another aspect of the directory is the A-Z navigation which allows users to quickly jump to a list of profiles based on members' last names.

The staff directory displays members' names, email, and phone number as well as a small portrait. An in-context preview popup will display when clicking on the name of a member in the directory. The popup then links to the full profile that contains each member's email, phone, website, office, affiliations, activities/interests, education and biography.

Six Feet Up leveraged the ATVocabularyManager and EEA Faceted Navigation add-ons for this implementation.

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Slideshow

The custom landing page for each parent and subsite uses the Plone add-on EasySlideShow to manage slideshows that feature image captions, descriptions, bulleted navigation and links to related content. One convenient feature of EasySlideShow is to feature a dropdown menu to select the type of transition between slides.

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Custom Content Types

The College needed a convenient way to manage information about specific upcoming events. As a result, Six Feet Up created a custom Seminar type, which features several fields pertaining to the speaker(s), a way to designate the host and list their contact information, the event abstract, related files available for download, as well as other specific metadata. Key seminar information can be automatically syndicated to the homepage of the organization hosting the seminar.

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Conclusion

The College of Engineering website was rebuilt using the sophisticated and mature open source content management system Plone to deliver a "hub and spoke" system.

Since launch, the website content has been published much more frequently, resulting in increased traffic and better search results. All of the college departments have joined in the new parent/child infrastructure, and research centers are in the process of integrating too. Notre Dame staff members have noted how much easier it is now to publish and manage website content.

If you need more information about how Plone can manage child sites and provide syndicated features, contact Six Feet Up today.

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