Do You Use Your Course Catalog to Recruit Students?

[Ed. note: This guest post was written by Lance Merker, president and CEO of OmniUpdate. A version of this article originally appeared in Career College Central. OmniUpdate’s OU Campus is the leading web content management system for higher education institutions.]

If you’re like other colleges and universities, you’re recognizing that your online course catalogs can be powerful recruitment tools.

At the same time, schools are realizing that their current web-based catalogs are archaic and difficult to navigate.

At OmniUpdate, we provide content management and digital marketing solutions for more than 700 college and university websites, and because of that, we’ve be able to work with institutions across the country to make college catalogs more user-friendly and a more powerful means of prospective student engagement.

We interviewed three schools that used our OU Campus™ content management system (CMS) to modernize their catalogs. Here are their tips on how to transform a catalog from ordinary to extraordinary!

1. Design the catalog based on how students use it, not based on the college’s organizational chart.

Like many other schools, Utah Valley University (UVU) organized courses in their old catalog by department, not by degree or major.

“Previously, if you were looking for a web design degree, you’d have to know to look in the digital design department,” said Nathan Gerber, UVU’s Director of Web Development Services. “Students want to know, ‘Do you have my degree? What do I need to do to get my degree?’ So we [built] the new course catalog that way.”

Today, UVU’s course catalog is managed in the CMS, which means it can be dynamically searched.

“Users can drill down into a degree. Once they drill down to the degree, they can see a graduation plan, departmental information, faculty and courses,” said Gerber. “When users get to the degree level, they can print a PDF for just that degree or department. The content management system lets students get information at a very granular level.”

2. Create consistent navigation: Standardize how departments present their degrees, courses, and majors

To make it easier for students, and to leverage the power of the CMS, institutions are also doing the hard work of standardizing the way majors, courses, and degree requirements are presented across departments.

At Stony Brook University in New York, this was no small challenge. “Our health sciences catalog includes six schools and there was no consistency in how they showed degree requirements,” said Lynn Zawie, the school’s Web Production Coordinator. “It’s not easy when everyone does it in a different way.”

Zawie recommends evaluating all the ways departments are presenting courses and degrees. By working with the schools to standardize the way the information is presented, “you can create consistent navigation across the catalog.”

3. Shopping for a degree

California State University, Fresno’s work to update their catalog for our digital world meant an impact on recruitment. “Now even prospective students can effortlessly shop for a degree,” said Associate Director of Web Communications Dawn Truelsen.

That’s exactly the kind of experience today’s prospective students are looking for.

Learn more about online course catalogs.

About Lance Merker

Lance Merker is president and CEO of OmniUpdate. OmniUpdate’s OU Campus is the leading web content management system for higher education institutions. Today, OU Campus is used to manage more than 700 college and university websites worldwide. Lance can be reached at

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