December 4, 2013 debbie.m

Lessons From Cornell Drupal Camp

Here at Sanmita, we’re fresh off Cornell DrupalCamp 2013 and eager to share some of the highlights. For us, it doesn’t get much better than gathering 180 web professionals to discuss Drupal and higher ed web solutions.

Among the biggest headlines is Drupal’s explosive growth in the higher ed industry. In the last decade, the number of higher ed institutions using Drupal-based systems has jumped to nearly 3,000 sites (There are about about 4,000 accredited institutions in the U.S.). That includes main “.edu” college and university sites, as well as internal portals, blogs and digital signage, according to Acquia, the for-profit company provides Drupal services and support. Chris Hartigan, Acquia’s GM for Higher Education, says Drupal sysmtes now account for 27% of higher ed website management systems and growing rapidly.

So what makes Drupal-based websites and products so popular with higher ed?

Drupal is a website framework and CMS used to build dynamic websites, create web apps, and manage content. Hartigan says Drupal offers higher ed three main benefits with their web sites:

  • It helps avoid technology that locks you in
  • It allows staff to focus on the business
  • It allows you to think differently

“If you can do these three things, you control your future,” Hartigan said in his keynote address to the conference. “That is very powerful.”

More specifically, he says that Drupal-based systems are nimble and customizable. By using open-source software, higher ed websites can adapt to changes in technology and changes at their institutions.

The changing future of higher education, Hartigan said, aligns well with the future of Drupal. For example, mobile is a key future venture for universities, and Drupal-based systems allow for easy adaptability and responsive sites that can be viewed on any size device. Another benefit, he said, is Drupal’s agility. Schools, he says, need web platforms that can adapt to their changing positions and Drupal systems allow for that.

Another benefit is integrating social media. Drupal-powered sites offer opportunities to embed social media in content, rather than just driving users away from a website and onto social media platforms. For example, he said, a Georgia Tech website powered by Drupal featured social media in the content of a main page, rather than links on the side or at the bottom. A Twitter feed, for example, was featured below the main photo box.¬† This social media integration was designed to pull users¬† — such as alumni, prospective students and current students — into the conversation through a variety of channels, while keeping them on a main website.

We’ll share more highlights from Cornell DrupalCamp in coming days. Until then, what did you take away from the conference?

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