Petal

University of Amsterdam.

A first-class student experience for a first-class education institution.

The University of Amsterdam unified content that had been spread across faculties and teams into a single student portal, giving students more time to focus on their studies.

Challenges

  • Consolidating an overwhelming amount of information for students spread across multiple locations
  • Ensuring editors access only the content they need to edit 
  • Creating a tailored, unified experience for students 

Solutions

  • Create a content model in Kontent.ai that serve all faculties and the administration
  • Implement a role and permission structure to give editors the access they need
  • Deliver content to students via a custom frontend

Results

  • Students easily find what they need with a streamlined student portal
  • 30+ separate sites migrated to a single portal
  • Editors all work in the same system with control over their own content

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) has a rich history dating back to 1632 and stands as a pillar of academic excellence and research. Home to over 41,000 students and 6,000 staff members, UvA fosters a vibrant community dedicated to learning and discovery. 

With a large student body to support and inform, there’s a lot of information to stay on top of, such as: what’s happening at the university, the latest test or course results, contact information, calendars, and so on. This information, if not presented in an organized, systematic way, can be tough to navigate. 

To make it easier for students to access all critical information easily, UvA created a unified, personalized student portal, student.uva.nl. This portal offers one single place for students to find all the information they need.

By combining a custom front end with Kontent.ai as a content management system, UvA built a portal that makes student life easier to navigate. Here’s how they did it. 

Contending with an overwhelming amount of content

The new student portal was part of a larger initiative with the goal of supporting well-informed students. 

Before the launch of the new portal, students had to seek information related to their studies across many independent portals, each separately maintained. There were certainly challenges with their previous setup. 

From a student’s perspective, the biggest challenge was simply finding the information they needed. Students had to use multiple different sites and would sometimes not know where to find particular information. Students would use Google to search for the student portal, but would often end up on the wrong page.

For teams and faculties maintaining all the content, this approach led to a lot of duplicated content across different sites. Content duplication, especially over the long term, often leads to inconsistent information, which can confuse or misinform students.

The solution was clear: To help students better navigate all the information available, UvA would consolidate 50 student portals into one. Instead of 50 URLs for students to choose from, they would use just one: student.uva.nl. Plus, when students land there, they would see a personalized view based on their faculty and study program. 

Migrating to a single, governed content repository

A key decision for moving to a single portal was how to consolidate all the content. Traditional content management systems did not fit UvA’s vision because they connect specific content with specific URLs. UvA instead wanted to build their own frontend (the way the portal looks to students) and use a CMS to deliver the content. 

After a thorough review of their options, they chose Kontent.ai. With Kontent.ai, they can manage their single repository of content and deliver it to any channel, including their custom frontend. This makes it possible to serve students a personalized portal from a single URL.

The importance of content modeling

Kontent.ai’s robust support of content modeling has been critical to UvA’s success. UvA invested a lot of time carefully considering how their content should be structured, and then created that structure using a carefully planned content model in Kontent.ai. This lets the portal create customized experiences from different blocks of content, assembling modular elements together to create a page relevant to the student using it.

  • Creating a strong content model is critical for long-term success.
  • For more resources on content modeling, check out our dedicated Learn course here.

Achieving governance at university scale

UvA also wanted to ensure everyone involved in content production has the right level of access to different types of content in the system. Each faculty maintains their own independent content, while there is also shared university content relevant to all faculties. There is a chief editor for the whole university, but there are also chief editors for each faculty, which creates a need for a good governance solution. Now, with Kontent.ai, it’s easy for each faculty at the university to maintain their own content independently. 

How does this work in in the platform? Content is organized into different groups based on the relevant faculty using “collections”. Collections let editors be assigned different roles for different collections, which ensures faculties can have control over their own content, without being able to work with content from other faculties. This helps UvA set clear boundaries around content within a single Kontent.ai project. More than 80 users across all faculties now work in Kontent.ai with the right levels of access, keeping content safe and processes organized and governed.

This setup helps UvA create more consistent content and a better portal experience for their end users: students. 

Happy students, happy staff

The process of setting up the portal, including the migration of content, beat the university’s estimates and was a clear success. With this new portal, students have a much easier time finding the information they need. All they need now is one portal URL. 

A concrete example: in the past, if a student searched for “UvA course registration”, they would get 10+ results for the same domain on Google, and picking the right one could be challenging. Now, the same search leads to just one result for the correct domain, giving students certainty that they’ve found the right result.

When logged in, students get information perfectly tailored to them. When not logged in, they also have the option to select their program from a clear drop-down menu and receive a portal experience aligned to their program of study. Streamlined, informative, effective.

Users can select their program from the drop-down menu to get a personalized experience

For staff and faculty who create content, this new portal experience is also a win. Now, there’s no fear of editing content that shouldn’t be touched. Plus, Kontent.ai’s user-friendly, collaborative interface helps them produce and distribute better content, faster. Content is never duplicated unnecessarily, and information is consistent for all study programs.

UvA’s innovation won’t stop here. They already have plans to add more functionality to the student portal, ensuring it continues to fulfill its mission of a well-informed student population. The portal’s success is another example of the university’s dedication to learning and discovery.

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