At LaGrange College, we’ve now been using a PDF bulletin (or catalog) for years. Looking back through the decade (yes, decades) one can see a drift in style and changes in organization which have all served us well. However, continually evaluating what we’re doing and whether we’re doing the best at a task is important.
Problems With Our Previous Bulletin
Our process for building the bulletin was painstaking. Each section of the bulletin was distributed via email to the appropriate director/program coordinator/department chair/AVP/VP in the Microsoft Word format. They were instructed on a visible way of making changes so the registrar could clearly see the changes for insertion into the document. The registrar and I would then check formatting and hyperlinks before exporting to PDF. (This last step always took multiple days and multiple drafts.)
This meant that, for a few weeks, the only copy of the bulletin was located on one computer. A crash, accidental erasure, power surge, etc., could completely derail this entire process.
Our process didn’t end here, however. Then, we would upload the file to the web server and make a link. Not a big deal, right?
Invariably there would be problems. Someone would forget to send in their version or suggest that their changes weren’t inserted. This could have been error on our end or theirs–saving in MS Word isn’t always as straightforward as you think! We also found errors (formatting, policy, etc.) after publication resulting in a need to make changes quickly. These fixes always necessitated an upload to the site and, early on, may even be daily depending on the severity of the error.
With a new CMS for the website, a colleague in our Marketing and Communications group and I started talking about using the CMS rather than our PDF version in Fall 2018. She introduced me to the Hannon Hill Cascade Catalog plugin and we instantly got moving on employing this tool for a reboot to the bulletin. We began in earnest in February 2019.
Internally, we set a timeline. The registrar and I wanted to use the new tool going into the Fall 2019 term for undergraduate bulletins only. My student worker and I started putting in content (we got her appropriate credentials) and building all the necessary course pages and programs. (This would not have been successful without the wonderful Amy Channell!)
By April 2019, I shared the bulletin with my VPAA who was (and had been) behind the update to the tool, entirely, but who was skeptical of the timeline. A few weeks later, we showed it to the president who was entirely thrilled. At the May faculty meeting, I offered a preview to the faculty who received it with enthusiasm!
Content for the current version of this online bulletin is in! The change in format (print to specific CMS formatting) has necessitated the addition of a great deal of content that was not previously in the bulletin — in particular, descriptions of entire departments. Also, this change has resulted in a significant reorganization in the content of several departments. In future years, we will sort this out and make the content even better organized.
There are still some problems to be resolved before 7/1, but we’re getting there.