Norwich University has a large population of online Masters degree students; they make up nearly half of the student population. Consequently, the library puts a lot of energy into designing services for their unique needs. The online programs are very much focused on integrating everything into the Learning Management System (LMS); from bill-paying to the library proxy server. The expectation is that everything in the LMS will be designed for their specific needs and they will never need another password to access anything. Not surprisingly, we’ve had a unique web portal for online learners since 2005 (with pages for each individual program), but it was coded in static HTML, difficult to update, and difficult for students to navigate. As I was using Drupal for a class I was teaching for San Jose State University, I began to think that it might be a good platform for developing a dynamic library web presence for the online students. The top things I wanted to be able to do was to push subject-related news to students on the pages for their programs, for librarians to be able to easily edit links in one place (instead of on each discipline’s subject page), and to re-use an entire block of content from one page to another. I also wanted a modular design that looked a bit like LibGuides, but still wanted it to look consistent with our regular library website.
I developed the wireframe prototype of the current Kreitzberg Library web portal for online learners and the basic look and feel. I then successfully lobbied the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies for funding to hire a Drupal designer to turn the idea into reality. We contracted with a Drupal designer who built the functionality we needed as well as the skin to make it look consistent with our regular website. In the end, it looked exactly as we’d hoped. After we launched it in early 2010, we got a lot of positive feedback from students and faculty alike on the design and ease-of-use. On our side of things, the site was much easier to manage, which allowed us to focus more on creating instructional content than maintaining a large website.
While this website is freely available on the Web, it is also embedded into every online course offered through the School of Graduate and Continuing Studies.