As I’m leaving this job, I’m cleaning out my file cabinet page by page, file by file. Along the way, I stumbled on a letter Janette Eby, our student services coordinator at the time, wrote me in 2001. It was mostly about how terrible the Prospective Students section of the site was at the time (and it was terrible… oh God, the site was terrible from top to bottom in 2001).
What’s remarkable about it is how she closed the letter:
…we live in a computer-centric world, and for those people looking for information about our school on the Internet, we must provide a website that easily and clearly directs prospective students or visitors to information they are looking for…. Good recruitment practices, which include good customer service, attract more students…. To put it bluntly, if we don’t have students, we don’t have anything. If we want to attract intelligent, qualified students it is our responsibility to practice good customer service by presenting what our school has to offer in a clear, easily accessible and user-friendly way.
Ten years ago Janette understood the mission of the higher ed web. My last ten years have been about convincing everyone else of this.
Universities exist because of those they provide service to — teaching, research, practice. They must never, ever forget that relationship.