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University of Northampton launches app-based prospectus

University is using software to create an app-based prospectus and improve internal communications

The University of Northampton is using software from a UK startup to automate the production of a digital prospectus and to improve its internal communications.

A platform from UK startup Better than Paper is enabling the university to offer digital-savvy students an easily accessible and interactive document, which it can make changes to as and when it wants. It has also automated many of the processes for putting the prospectus together, while reducing production costs and paper usage.

Traditionally, a university prospectus presenting all the courses on offer to undergraduate students is put together every year and posted out to interested bodies and individuals. But today’s students want to receive things via their mobiles, with interaction and real-time updates and notifications.

“Students today are an awful lot more likely to explore online and expect things to be digital first,” said Owen Morris, head of public relations and corporate communications at the University of Northampton. “So we wanted to evolve our traditional prospectus – a big book with all the courses – to make the physical document much lighter and complement it with a digital prospectus. This is not only available anywhere but is adaptable so the university can make changes as and when we want.”

Morris said that after meeting UK startup Better than Paper at a trade event and following a tender process, the university started using the firm’s software to automate the creation of a digital prospectus.

A major advantage is the fact that the document can be changed and updated, he said. “The thing with a printed prospectus is that once it is printed, that’s it. Today the document is live, with changes and updates made when required as well as automatic notifications being pushed to users.”

The first digital version of the university’s prospectus was issued in 2017. The app can be downloaded on IOS or Android, with a complementary website for people who do not use the app. The university also produces a physical prospectus, which was “much thinner than usual”, said Morris.

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The university’s marketing department puts the prospectus together with teams trained to use the Better than Paper content management system (CMS). “It is easy to use, which was one of the appealing things about the platform,” said Morris. “It had the right balance of technical capability and ease of use for us. We could effectively use the CMS system straight away.”

The digital prospectus reduces publishing and distribution costs and also makes it easier for the university to reach a global audience at no extra cost.

Before using the new platform, the university had “dabbled in digital for aspects of its prospectus”, said Morris. “But this was nothing comprehensive,” he added.

Now the university has gone further by creating internal newspaper using Better than Paper, said Morris. “On the back of the prospectus work, we are using the platform to build a new internal staff publication.”

Staff can download an app and receive a publication that is unique to their interests, he said. “This gives people the news they want using internally and externally published content.” The publication is updated constantly.

Previously, an internal staff newsletter was emailed to employees once a week, with the same stories and event notices sent out to everyone. “Today, people receive content and notifications relevant to them in real time,” said Morris.

Such internal and external communications would not have been possible in the past because of a lack of internal resources, he said. “Without software like this, it would be very, very difficult for us to do something like this and we would probably have to outsource it.”

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