Stellenbosch University has become the first South African education institution to implement a web portal based on Microsoft SharePoint 2013, with significant benefit.
Established in 1866, Stellenbosch University – commonly known as Maties, is one of South Africa’s oldest and most prestigious tertiary education facilities.
With over 28 000 students and 3000 permanent staff members sprawled across five campuses situated in the Western Cape’s celebrated winelands, Stellenbosch University is widely regarded as a world class scholarly destination.
Although the university boasts a history spanning several centuries, it has changed considerably over the years to expand its course offerings and academic focal points. Today, Stellenbosch University offers degrees in Arts and Social Sciences, Science, Education, AgriScience, Law, Theology, Economic and Management Sciences and Engineering.
Courses focusing on Military Science, Health Sciences and Business Science are available at satellite campuses situated in Saldanha Bay, Tygerberg and Bellville respectively.
Historically, the marketing and communication function at Stellenbosch University has fallen under the remit of each faculty in its own capacity.
Although this approach afforded the university’s respective functions the freedom required to pursue internal and external promotion of initiatives, events and lectures, it also resulted in the propagation of multiple disparate web domains that lacked a sense of uniformity.
Put simply, Stellenbosch University’s online presence had begun to lose consistency. Over time, this had begun to cause difficulty when communicating or curating information at a base level.
In response, the university began to search for a provider and solution to tie its web presence together whilst still affording each campus the independence to communicate and market key messages.
In late 2012, Stellenbosch University made contact with Intervate – an award winning Microsoft Gold Partner, to develop, design and launch a new public facing website that would be based on Microsoft SharePoint 2010 technology.
The intention behind this decision was simple – to create a platform that would bring a newfound uniformity to the Stellenbosch University web presence whilst allowing each campus to access and edit information without the assistance of head office.
After several discussions with Intervate, the university agreed to deviate somewhat from its original approach by choosing to build a web offering based on the newly introduced Microsoft SharePoint 2013 platform.
Although Microsoft SharePoint 2013 offers several benefits above its predecessor, SharePoint 2010, the software had only recently entered the market and experience was still relatively limited.
Despite this, Stellenbosch University and Intervate endeavored to push forward, blazing a new trail by becoming the first South African education facility to introduce a web portal based on Microsoft SharePoint 2013.
This decision was made in response to Microsoft Share Point 2013’s new feature list – including responsive design, advanced content management and a newly introduced search engine facility.
In February 2013, Intervate commenced the development of Stellenbosch University’s new web portal. It was completed and introduced to the public in April 2013.
The benefits associated with Stellenbosch University’s decision to develop a new web portal based on Microsoft SharePoint 2013 have been significant, admits Lize Esterhuizen – Head of e-Communication Development.
“Microsoft SharePoint 2013 is a wonderful platform from the perspective that it allows each faculty to simply and easily access content, make updates and submit requests remotely while still ensuring that a uniformity and commonality is applied to the university’s online presence”
“The newly improved search engine update and content management system has allowed us to introduce an approach where each faculty submits news and events to be displayed and, once approved, these are automatically routed to the relevant portals according to level of importance. This has significantly reduced the time and cost associated with managing the process internally”.
Microsoft SharePoint 2013’s improved graphical interface and ability to support a responsive design architecture has also proven a significant advantage to the university.
“Microsoft SharePoint 2013’s responsive design allows the website to resize itself according to the device it is being viewed on. This ensures that the most important information is always displayed and removes the need for a separate mobile friendly development. Furthermore, the new graphical interface has made it easier for us to affect image changes or tweaks internally. This will lead to reduced overheads in the long term”.
“This web content management project was one of the first in South Africa on SharePoint 2013 and provides Intervate with a great opportunity to work with the new features which will provide us a distinct advantage in the market place for future web content management projects in SharePoint 2013”, concluded Kevin Pederson, Intervate Project Manager.