Benefits of Standardizing on Drupal for Higher Education

How Drupal is making the web better for Colleges and Universities

Tuesday, Sep. 4, 2012 4:31 pm

 

Managing over 100 sections of a college website is no simple task. Amongst the many issues there is access control, syndication of content across the entire site, and providing a consistent and meaningful structure for users. Luckily, Drupal 7 is able to satisfy these challenges and has been the choice of hundreds of Universities and Colleges worldwide.

Drupal does many things extremely well to appeal to higher education sites. First and foremost they are content rich media sites, with lots of news, events, and information (content) that needs to be easily accessible and fed throughout the site. Drupal does an excellent job of this because it was built for this exact purpose. It is built around its users creating, modifying, and expanding content that can be published and pushed to all different sections of the site.

An example of this would be how a chemistry professors news piece about improvements to a lab can not only be published to visitors on the department section of the site, but also to the labs page and even the homepage. Through the use of tags, categorization, and a controlled system of promotion, content can grow organically and be published in relevant sections of the site.

Secondly, with hundreds of departments, higher education needs workflow and access control that will allow hundreds of users to access and manage their sections of the site. With Drupal we can control workflow and user access through permissions and user tagging. Each department has its own unique tags that match with user profiles. These tags allow us to control not only who is allowed to create certain content, but also where it belongs on the website. Drupal can also provide a hierarchy of users. This will allow content to be pulled and pushed into new sections of the site by administration choosing to promote specific pieces of content without having to recreate it.

Lastly, it is important for content and sections of a site to be consistent for its visitors. Drupal does a great job of allowing us to provide a standardized set of features to visitors while also giving each specific administrator the ability to make their department their own. What does this mean for Grinnell? It means that every section, whether it's an office or department, will have a standard set of features that it publishes to its visitors. Whether its news, events, publications, contact info, faculty or staff, each section of the site will have easy to find information that will be consistent throughout the site.

At the same time, this content is fully created and moderated by its administration. Administrators can also add additional "pages" of supplemental content that doesn't fall into the standardized format. By turning offices and departments into these "groups" Drupal is able to solve access control issues, provide a consistent experience across the site, while also allowing administrators to control and make their section of the site their own.

Drupal is making a huge impact on the higher education sector because it is able to address the many issues associated with managing and maintaining such large sites with so many contributors. At its current point in the web renovation process Grinnell has been taking full advantage of these solutions to help craft meaningful sets of features for the different groups at Grinnell College. Grinnell will continue to architect the site with a focus on consistency for visitors while also providing the appropriate level of control and customization for its administrators.