With more than 16,600 students, West Chester University is the largest of the 14 schools that make up Pennsylvania State University Systems of Higher Education. Located in suburban Philadelphia, West Chester University offers more than 100 graduate and undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences, business and public affairs, the social sciences, visual and performing arts, health sciences and teacher education.
West Chester University was looking for a way to optimize its website to effectively engage prospective students while meeting the needs of current students and faculty. With so many colleges and departments to feature, some dropdown menu items on the website had to be consolidated, and faculty often complained that their programs weren’t prominently displayed, searchable, or even accessible on the website. For current students and faculty, finding the information they needed was often a challenge.
West Chester’s previous search solution also lacked speed and features like autocorrect and suggested search terms. The University needed a way to optimize its website and applications and provide a single access point to multiple data repositories with a fast, powerful, streamlined search solution.
West Chester University needed a solution with the highest search power and quality that would integrate with its website to provide one-stop access to all necessary information—externally to prospective students as well as internally to current students and faculty. Kimberly Slattery, Director of Web Services at West Chester University, explained, “We looked at various other options, but nothing could handle the quantity of search queries and provide the most relevant results as the Google Search Appliance.”
West Chester enlisted SADA Systems, a Google Cloud Premier Partner that came highly recommended by both Google and one of West Chester’s sister PASSHE universities. SADA’s team assisted in aligning objectives around policy requirements for both Google and West Chester University. “SADA acted as a liaison between us and Google, facilitating the contract agreement so that all requirements were satisfied and we could move forward with the implementation,” said Slattery.
SADA Systems worked with West Chester University to integrate the Google Search Appliance with the university’s external website and intranet to benefit both prospective students and current students and employees. SADA also connected the Appliance to the University’s Active Directory, filtering results so that contact information would only be displayed to current students and faculty. “SADA Systems really shaped the implementation with deep product knowledge, strong project management and strategic guidance,” shared Robert Truitt, Technical Web Specialist, who was part of West Chester’s implementation team. “It was a complete package; not only did they integrate the technology, they did whatever they could to make sure everything was working the way we expected.”
West Chester University is also working with SADA Systems to implement Single Sign-On, which will integrate the university’s SharePoint intranet with the WCU website. The Google Search Appliance will act as a bridge to connect these applications and data to foster engagement and make it easier for students and faculty to access the information they need, fast.
Results and benefits
The Google Search Appliance allows West Chester University to ensure that its website is geared towards prospective students while providing all the information current students and employees need. According to Slattery, “The Google Search Appliance has set us apart from other institutions. Students and staff can quickly find whatever information they need through a single search box. It categorizes data on a single page, making it clear and available.”
Google Search Appliance features like autocorrect and suggestions as you type serve to minimize errors, improve search quality and relevance and create a streamlined search experience. “When our users type in the first couple of letters, they see a full dropdown of common search terms,” Slattery explained. “This greatly improves the search process and reduces errors in order to provide students and faculty with highly relevant results.”
The Google Search Appliance also allowed the University to greatly improve overall engagement and effectiveness on their website by integrating a search box in each main dropdown on the website. The University could then consolidate dropdown menu items without limiting users’ access to any department, program or event they were interested in. Also, from a reporting standpoint, the Appliance will give the University’s IT and marketing teams greater visibility over website visitors’ search patterns in order to further improve how information is conveyed.