Raising the bar with university course pages

Course pages are getting better. We take a look at an example from Plymouth School of Art and ask "Is it time for others to follow suit"?

Today, we talk about university course pages and how the bar is rising.

Plymouth College of Art in this week’s education of Education Marketer:

Plymouth College of Art has rekindled my interest in university course pages. Honestly, these are just beautiful. They have all the hallmarks of good UX, but the two stand-out features for me is the “student-work” tab and consistent use of high-quality, branded photography. Every course page feels like it belongs to a larger set and you get a strong sense of the College’s identity. Bookmark for when you are looking at your own course pages.

Nathan Monk
Hello, and welcome to yet another episode of Most Clicked. Now Most Clicked is our weekly show, where we take the most clicked item from Kyle’s newsletter all about how HE digital marketing. We are live on LinkedIn, YouTube every Monday at 9am. Don’t forget to like and subscribe. I’m joined, obviously by Matt and Kyle. And Kyle, what is this week’s most clicked item.

Kyle Campbell
So normally we go kind of far out there on Metaverse, and stuff like that, don’t we. But this is a kind of home topic, everyone really knows about which is course pages. And I know it’s not the most interesting thing. But this is about Plymouth College of Art. And I went through a phase of being really interested in course pages. But this has rekindled my interest really with a bit of time away from them. But yeah, this is a really, really great design job, as well as a lot of good UX thinking gone into this.

So if you take a look at this, I do highly recommend it. So at the top, we’ve got a nice, nice standard menu to navigate around. But also, if you just look at how these things are put together, it’s just a joy to read, it kind of encourages you to kind of move through the page, lots of white space, but also something that really stood out to me here was this really cool student work tab. And often, when you’ve got your course page set up, there’s usually a small sort of sliver area where you feature like a student testimonial, or there’s like one example student work. But, you know, this actually expands out that section. And it’s just packed full of student work, if you click on one is a bit more detail about it, and it’s really thoughtful, it’s really well put together.

And you see here is just high-quality work has been gathered in one place, and obviously shares information about the course. But then it’s actually got the output of the course does, it’s got the ability to talk to students. A lot of thought and time has gone into this. And I spoke to the team recently, to see how this was shaped and what this project looked like. And, you know, it’s really impressive that their team is absolutely tiny. And it’s actually a case of a lot of them doubling up on roles and you know, supporting each other, so don’t really have a digital team. They have a few colleagues who are skilled in these areas and they work the best they can to turn these massive projects around. So I don’t know about you guys thought? Matt, I’d be interested to hear what you think about this from a design perspective certainly.

Matt Lees
Yeah, the first thing that stands out to me is the use of images. And I think sometimes universities underestimate the value of images. And I just think it’s a huge mistake. And in these pages, you know, they’re some of the highest-ranking pages in university sites, and I think they should be treated that way. And this feels like they have been, the level of photography in there is just brilliant. And it really begins to tell that story and set the scene and show you some of the kind of lifestyle that you can expect by enrolling on that course. So that definitely stands out to me. And I think, Kyle, you talked about the student work as well, that’s another thing that I thought was really quite nice about these pages.

We often when we’re going through the design process, and we’re looking at course pages, we’ll talk about contextual content, and there’s all of the factual stuff, there are the modules and the entry requirements and those things that you’ve got to have in there the details that you need to have in there but universities are selling way more than just the course it’s a lifestyle, it’s something that you know you’re going to enrol in and you’re going to and he’s going to become your life for three/four years and beyond so kind of learning from you know, validating that with student work feels like a really nice step to me.

Kyle Campbell
Your point about photography is really well made because there are usually so many courses at universities, you can be tempted to dip into the stock photography folder that you will have and you put that image at the top and it works but with these, it seems like they’ve had to shoot for every course. Now I might be wrong there but it just feels like the photography has been deliberately selected, curated even, to raise the profile of these programmes in the best possible way. And having worked on course page projects myself in the past, I can’t get over how much effort has been put into this.

Most Clicked screenshot talking about raising the bar with university course pages

Matt Lees
And I’m sure they’re blessed with being an art school, everything does have a visual element to it, which makes it a lot easier to source those images. But it still has to be sourced, it still has to be done. And they’ve done a really great job of it It just it lifts the page, I know that you know, when we’re going through that process, if you’re gifted with a load of great visual assets, images, videos, it makes the process of designing pages that are visually pleasing so much easier.

Nathan Monk
Yeah, I really like the, with the student work as well, the whole notion of social validation. And, you know, it not being just what the institute is telling, they’re giving you all of the tools to make up your own mind on the course. So I can only echo what Kyle and well, what both of you are saying really in the sheer amount of work that’s clearly gone into that. But you know, as you said, Matt, it absolutely should, the homepage isn’t the main page, the course pages, you know, it’s nice to see good course pages.

Matt Lees
The other thing that really stood out to me as well was the staff section on those. This is something that we’ve been kind of preaching to the institutions that we work with for the last couple of years. There’s, there’s an out of sector example that we often cite, which is Masterclass. And Masterclass is a kind of series of courses delivered by people like Gordon Ramsay or famous actors and actresses. And they make a big deal out of who is delivering the course. Now, obviously, that makes a lot of sense when you’ve got celebrities delivering them, but it feels like they’re bringing elements of that into these pages. And they’re really celebrating the staff that are behind each course. And yeah, that stood out to me as well.

Kyle Campbell
You’re right on that. I mean, I think in general, if you look at how content marketing is shifting, it’s taking into consideration the rise of a creator economy, influencer marketing, you’re beginning to see not just regular content marketing programmes associated with brands, but people within those brands. Highlighting the value of the product they’re offering I can see that starting to creep into education, with some academics building their own independent career and providing independent courses in the subjects of interest. So it’s definitely something to watch.

Nathan Monk
All right, well, it’s a lovely example there. And I’m looking forward to seeing even more. Hopefully, this year will be the year that people take note of examples like this and really push their own course catalogues forward. But thanks, as always, Matt and Kyle, that’s all for this week. I look forward to seeing you all next week, Monday 9am. Same place, same time, and don’t forget to subscribe and like this video. See you soon

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Elliott Barnicle

Lead Designer