Responsive redesign and managed cloud hosting lead to a lift in mobile engagement and site performance for Alamo Colleges.
As competition for students increases, Alamo is tasked with communicating the value of more than 300 degree and certificate programs while casting a positive vision for prospective students. With half of its users engaging from mobile devices, and program pages not optimized for mobile display, Alamo reported an increase in bounce rates and a drop in engagement from this important segment of users.
The underlying technology also needed evaluation. While still supported, the incumbent CMS platform, Ektron, had been acquired by Episerver and was no longer a viable long-term solution. With an opportunity to reevaluate web platforms, the Alamo team sought a tool that was easier to use for internal and non-technical teams, reduced reliance on IT, and offered industry standard digital marketing capabilities to help reach prospective students.
Internally, hosting and managing the site through an on-premise datacenter had become cumbersome and presented performance challenges during high-demand periods, like fall enrollment and class registration. Meanwhile, the provisioning of servers and the internal resources needed to maintain them was increasing the total cost of ownership while pulling resources and focus from more important on-campus tasks.
Built on Episerver, the new site experience features site pages optimized for mobile display, resulting in a 65% drop in bounce rate and a 75% increase in pages per session for mobile users since site launch. Meanwhile, the new site design affords each Alamo campus its own distinct look and feel within a greater District experience. The redesign included a refresh of Alamo’s custom “Pathfinder” tool, a three-step wizard which integrates local labor data with the Alamo course catalog to provide students a wealth of information for researching careers of interest, local demand, and relevant programs and degree opportunities. Clear calls to action, including applying for admission, financial aid, and scholarships, are all available within a single page.
With C2 Managed Services, Alamo is hosted in a secure, Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud environment with guaranteed 99.9% availability, ensuring uptime and scalability during high-demand periods. A full suite of services including automated backups with disaster recovery, managed OS updates, non-breaking CMS upgrades, load balancing with autoscaling, and DevOps integration with Jenkins for zero downtime automated deployments makes maintenance and availability an afterthought for Alamo's IT team. By migrating to the cloud, Alamo reduced its datacenter utilization, hardware spend, and total cost of ownership while freeing internal resources to focus on local-to-campus tasks.
Since launch, the website has received a Gold Paragon Award from the National Council of Marketing and Public Relations for outstanding achievement in design and communication. The web initiative also factored into Alamo receiving of a Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, the most prestigious honor bestowed upon institutes of higher learning for performance excellence in innovation, efficiency, and leadership. Additionally, the website was recognized at Episerver Ascend 2019 for "Best User Interface and Navigation" for its ability to easily find information and complete tasks quickly and efficiently.