University Digital Strategy

What we do

We are a results-oriented, quantitatively driven shop relying on analytics and usability to drive engagement with students, staff and faculty. 

University Digital Strategy (UDS) is a joint initiative between the Office of the Vice-President (University Relations) and the Office of the Vice-Provost (Information Technology).

The goal

To become one of the best examples of a post-secondary digital learning environment. Enabled by capabilities in web, mobile, social networks and IT systems, create the best, leading-edge digital infrastructure for teaching and learning at any Canadian university.

Pillars of Digital Strategy

To reach the the strategic goals of the university, University Digital Strategy is engaging in the following areas:
  • Web Strategy 
  • Digital Learning Environment Strategy 
  • Mobile Strategy 
  • Social Media Strategy 
  • Online Advertising Strategy 
  • Digital Analytics Strategy

For more information on these areas, check out the online document, Advancing the Digital Learning Environment: The University of Alberta Web Strategy. This is for internal audiences only and is accessed using your CCID.

Additionally, Digital Strategy has established guidelines for Sitecore 3 design and assists with tracking strategies associated with digital campaigns.

Community of Practice

University Digital Strategy sees the power of innovation through crowd-sourcing and peer-to-peer (P2P) knowledge sharing. As part of this strategy, the team initiated a kickoff in the summer of 2012 of the University of Alberta's Community of Practice. 

Initially for technical development, but expanding later to design and social media strategy, the plan is to create face-to-face and online collaboration for faculty, staff and students regardless of position or title at the University of Alberta.

What is it?

The community of practice is a newly forming group of web strategists, communicators and developers who will share ideas and projects amongst each other. The group will discuss the current and future work they are taking part in across the web, mobile and social media. The group meets every six weeks at the same time as the old Sitecore user group. This Community of Practice meeting has replaced that meeting, and expanded to include more than just Sitecore users.

Why was it started?

By leveraging knowledge and information across the University of Alberta, faculties and departments can learn from each other and build on past campaign successes and the technological infrastructure. This could include a sharing of ideas and past projects. It could also include developers across the University of Alberta sharing code once they are Sitecore certified.

How's it working?

The group will have a small team help choose some online tools to begin discussions around the group's web, mobile and social media ideas and projects. Meetings will continue every six weeks. Check back for more updates as the Community of Practice continues to evolve.

Our work

Digital Stewardship

University Digital Strategy assists centres and institutes, faculty and administrative sites across the U of A ecosystem that are majority owned by the university. This includes:

  • Management of an active portfolio of hundreds of digital projects.
  • The implementation of the first Digital Analytics team in 2011 at a Canadian university.
  • Continued consultation and strategy based on quantitative and results-driven analysis.

Here's just a few of the projects that Digital Strategy has been a part of over the last couple years:

Professor Pages (Ongoing)

The why

Professors need a place on the university domain to showcase not only their outstanding research and work, but also their contact and other details for prospective and current students and researchers, as well as external media and government looking to do work with them. Previously, professors and faculties had to rely on a totally custom webpage that was not standardized or necessarily easy to update, making it difficult to build and maintain.

The what

The Digital Strategy team, through an extensive engagement with several different members from numerous faculties, mapped out the first iteration of professor pages in late 2014. Professors are able to update and edit their profiles through a CCID login and LDAP integration, using a simple interface in Sitecore. Early groups to adopt the pages included Public Health, Pharmacy and the Department of Music under Arts. Others will be added in the months to come, led by the site admins in each faculty or department.


MOOC Production, Measurement and Marketing (Ongoing)

The why

Dino 101 Production

UAlberta has access to enormous paleontology resources and a world-class paleontology team led by Dr. Phillip Currie, the world’s foremost dinosaur researcher. Dinosaurs appeal to young and old, male and female, and cross international boundaries. Using a topic that was different than a traditional MOOC Dino 101 was launched in September of 2013 with more than 30,000 eventually signing up for the course in the first two sessions from around the world.

The what

Using formative feedback and in-video quizzes, interactive learning objects and high quality filming and editing, the course achieved world-wide appeal from thousands of people. Early results of an online survey showed high engagement from many who had no previous relationship with UAlberta and would recommend others take courses from UAlberta in the future. More results are still to come.

URL and Domain Strategy (Ongoing)

The Why is one of the most powerful web domains in the country due to the amount of traffic and links it receives on a daily basis. Digital Strategy is taking a lead role in identifying opportunities to increase visibility for groups on campus through a forward-thinking URL strategy focused on the user and the faculty, department or organizational group's web goals.

The What

Ultimately this will result in continued optimization of the Information Architecture of In addition to the inventory, audit and optimization of the main domain and its directories, Digital Strategy assists in vanity url strategies for offline use and measuring various types of traffic, including search and other marketing related efforts.

Campaign Measurement and Tracking Strategies

The why

Campaign Tracking

The University of Alberta tells amazing stories, hosts world-renowned events and conferences as well as many long-standing traditional marketing efforts to attract students, researchers and faculty members from across Canada and the world. By tying in user and business goals and having proper campaign tagging and measurement in place, marketers and communicators can quickly and easily identify the success of ads or communication pieces.

The what

The University Digital Strategy digital analytics team has worked with numerous clients to up their game when it comes to tracking email, online ads and social media. In 2013 they engaged extensively with the following clients as well as many others:

Campaign Tracking Template    |    Contact us at 2-9549 for details.

Web Style Guide

The why

With the move to responsive design, there was a need to standardize some of the ways clients lay out and manage their web content. Inline styles and or content that was previously able to be done and look good on desktop now had many other variables with the responsive design framework.

The what

The University Digital Strategy design team created a style guide for all clients at the university to be able reference and leverage when implementing and updating their responsive section of the site. This includes base styles, photo sizes, layouts and other elements across the faculty and department sites to assist content creators and designers in their builds.

Web Style Guide

Responsive Design (Ongoing)

Responsive Design Image

The why

Instead of creating one-off apps or separate mobile sites, faculties will be able to update their content in one place (Sitecore) and let users have a quality experience no matter what phone, tablet or computer they are using. 

The what

The university is leveraging the power of responsive design to share the same content across all mediums (mobile phone, tablets and desktops). So far a handful of sites, including the institutional top-level pages have launched. Planning is being done to move others and optimize the experience for users in the coming months and years.


Campus Map

The why

A large university with multiple campuses poses a challenge for new students and staff. By providing context through visual illustrations and connecting the physical spaces online, it breaks down the fear of a big place and instill a more human experience to what could be an unfriendly mass of buildings for visitors.

The what

Integration with Google Maps took place in time for fall semester of 2011. Previously, .pdf versions of maps were referenced making it difficult for students, staff and faculty to find buildings and services across all five UAlberta campuses. Further enhancements based on surveys and usability feedback in the fall of 2012 brought improvements to assist the UAlberta community, as well as its visitors, including interior mapping. View the UAlberta maps page.


Campaign Landing Pages

Arts Campaign Hub Example

The why

Measuring the results and engagement of specific campaigns, the university is better able to analyze the impact on tickets sales, sign ups as well as the key drivers of student and staff recruitment and giving to the U of A. 

The what

In the late summer of 2012, the team assisted in content and design for the Festival of Ideas 2012 landing page. Tracking ticket and event sales, the team made recommendations on future design and the events that are garnering the most attention. Other notable projects included Advancing Alberta, Summer Camp listings and Convocation 2012. We continue to support and will push the envelope in 2013.

Institutional Promotions Request Form


Site migrations (Ongoing)

The why

Transferring the university to an enterprise content management system (Sitecore) will allow the team to assess engagement patterns for the more than 30 million visitors the University of Alberta website receives each year.

The what

The Digital Strategy team has helped migrate more than 300 sites without the need for a costly integrator from an outside agency to facilitate the move. This has helped standardize both the header and framework for design, to help users find what they are looking for, and staff update content on the same platform. This step will also ensure a smooth transition to responsive design, which will pull content from Sitecore. Our Digital Strategy unit won Best Education Site in Canada for in 2011 and achieved this win with no implementation partner.


Social Media

Convocation Dashboard

The why

Engagement and strategy around social media is crucial to brand awareness and loyalty both inside and outside the University of Alberta. Using metrics and tactics to reach engagement goals, the team has consulted with numerous faculties and worked on institutional campaigns that continue into 2013.

The what

In the summer of 2012, one of the goals for Spring Convocation included increasing social media referrals to 5 per cent of overall traffic compared to 2011, which was 1.69 per cent. Through a social media contest, landing page strategies and consultation with various units across campus, the referral rate reached 6.27 per cent - a more than 500 per cent increase year over year. Continued dashboard reports and analysis will be done in the future for other campaigns.


Digital Storytelling

The why

Research and analytics have shown users are engaging with video, audio and images at higher rates for both consumption of content and conversion. Traditional long-form text and essay writing must be formatted with appropriate chunking, related links and multimedia to reach readers.

The what

Using video to tell professor's, researcher's, student's and staff's real stories, we showcased dozens of UAlberta's best. This included Tetsuto Miyashita, a graduate student in paleontology at the U of A, and the University of Alberta's accomplishment of taking back the world dodgeball record in February 2011, among many others.

Contact Us

Main Phone: 780-248-2068


Tim Schneider
Director of Digital Analytics
Contact Tim to discuss measurement, segmentation, engagement and digital analytics strategies.

How we can help you

This is a list of just some of the product areas we can assist with. Give us a call or send one of the leadership and email for more information on what we offer.

  • Consultation on your area's web, mobile, and social media engagement goals and success criteria
  • University CMS implementation (SiteCore migration and new sections)
  • Website design and digital experience 
  • Digital analytics
  • Campaign tracking and analysis
  • Social media and email marketing strategy 
  • Search engine optimization

Readings and Resources

From time to time we come across some great articles or resources not only in higher ed, but also from the professional web community. Here're some of our favourite tips and reading selections. We continually add and update as we find new and relevant information.

University Websites: Top 10 Design Guidelines

Universities with a good user experience conduct user research, show programs based on subject matter and job placement content, plus focus on top tasks and findability that contribute to larger institutional goals.

Writing Hyperlinks: Salient, Descriptive, Start with Keyword

To help users quickly find what they need, anchor text should stand out from the body content and accurately describe the page that it refers to.

Define Micro Conversions to Measure Incremental UX Improvements

Not every design and content change generates immediate or significant increases in conversion rates, but they may affect conversion rates in the long run.

Putting People's Needs First: Case Study | Norwegian Cancer Society

By putting the priority of web content to the top tasks of visitors, the Norwegian Cancer Society increased online donations while also increasing traffic and leads.

Tracking campaigns the right way using Google Analytics

By using URL parameters both in links and vanity URLs, you can begin to accurately measure Marketing ROI.