Syracuse University

SU News

Campus collaboration creates informational site for new SU students

July 28, 2010

Carol Kim Masiclat
(315) 443-8568

First-year and transfer students starting their first semester need a lot of information to successfully transition to Syracuse University. From registering for the right courses to knowing where to eat, new students have lots of ground to cover before they arrive on campus. To help them prepare and get excited for the road ahead, Syracuse University this summer introduced the online readySET. A collaboration of SU's Division of Student Affairs (DSA), Division of Advancement and External Affairs (AEA) and SU Information Technology and Services (ITS), the readySET site was created with efficiency, sustainability and accessibility in mind.

readyset"We are very excited about the improvements we have made to the readySET this year," says Thomas V. Wolfe, senior vice president and dean of student affairs. "Not only is this method of sharing the readySET more efficient and sustainable, it's responsive to the needs of our students, who have been asking for a useful online resource for this information."

Taking the once-print publication to an online format dramatically reduces the paper use and expense associated with previous editions of the readySET. The site is also compliant with the Section 508 Amendment to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, making it accessible to people with disabilities. The new format also solves the problem of misdirected or delayed packets, which frustrated students, especially students living outside the United States and those traveling throughout the summer. The expense of printed publications limited readySETs to one per student, which posed a challenge to non-custodial parents, who did not receive a copy of their own.

"The readySET site effectively resolved a variety of large and small challenges for our office," says Greg Victory, director of the Office of First-Year and Transfer Programs. "Though students grew to depend on their physical readySETs in the past, we had to deal with mail delays, lost copies and printer delays that slowed down our production schedule. Being able to make instantaneous changes and additions to the site has made a huge difference in our ability to get students the best up-to-the minute information. Students are discussing topics covered on the readySET site on Facebook, sharing links and answering each other's questions. That's an early indicator of success."

Work on the site began with rigorous planning between DSA's units (Office of First-Year and Transfer Programs, Technical Services, and Communications), AEA's Technology & Systems Support group and ITS' Academic Applications and Service Centers (AASC). The team designed the site based on priorities and needs reported by the Office of First-Year and Transfer Programs: a checklist, easy navigation and a clear organizational scheme. "And photos," said a student tester. "Lots of photos." Features of the site include a checklist, distinct topic areas, a video feature, student-to-student advice and a photo gallery.

In 2007, the Division of Student Affairs teamed up with units from across campus-including the offices of Admissions, Academic Affairs, Publications, and Word Processing and Bulk Mail Distribution-to create the first readySET, a series of organized, comprehensive publications mailed in phases to matriculated students. It replaced an unstructured and heavy stream of disparate mailings that left students and their families feeling confused and overwhelmed. The following year, readySET expanded to include a packet dedicated to academic matters, including course registration and the University Shared Reading book. Last year, readySET was streamlined in response to students' requests for more focused, concise information, all at once. This year's transition to an online version was a logical next step. 

"Taking readySET online is another example of our efforts to leverage online capabilities in the service of our students and a good example of how well-planned collaboration can yield great results," says Jenny Gluck, ITS director of AASC. "This collaboration was so successful that we are now working jointly on the Study Abroad site with Enrollment Management."  

Marcello Prattico, senior Web developer at AEA, brought essential experience to the effort. "The readySET site is integrated with and based on SU's Orientation site, which we built in the Cascade Web content management system," he says. "Using Cascade streamlined the production process while preserving the look and feel of the University's website." 

The readySET site will remain active throughout the summer and part of the fall semester, and plans are in the works for a modified winter readySET site for students who will enroll at SU in the spring semester.

Recent News