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American U Web Site Goes Social Using CommonSpot CMS

American University in Washington, DC has launched a new community-focused Web site built using CommonSpot Web content management software from PaperThin. Huge and North Highland provided site design and development.

The Web project began in the summer of 2006 with the creation of a university Web advisory committee. That committee, comprising faculty and staff, studied what possible audiences look for in a Web site. In March 2007, the university turned to Huge to analyze the current site and produce a new vision for american.edu. Huge created a seven-step plan for the complete visual and structural redesign. PaperThin and North Highland were then brought in to help the university execute the plan.

The new site consists of more than 5,000 pages and includes several community-focused features. AUpedia is a wiki-style informational tool that covers university life by aggregating the experience of all contributors regarding the topics they're interested in. AU Profiles provide student profile and faculty listing pages that feature photos, articles, personal stories, and other types of information related to topics of interest and areas of expertise. AU Newswire is a ticker that displays university news in real time. A virtual tour of the campus created by RealView TV, lets prospective students open a three-dimensional campus map; "My 5 Faves," a section of the virtual tour, gives students a special tour guided by a student, a faculty member, or an alumnus showing viewers their favorite spots on campus. And a multi-media page provides videos and podcasts with lectures and speeches, news reels, study abroad experiences, and featured internships.

"As with all things on the Internet today, sharing is essential. Whether between students and friends, faculty and staff, or [School of Public Affairs] and [School of Communication], the new site utilizes CommonSpot to foster content sharing across the AU community," said David Swartz, the school's CIO. "CommonSpot makes site management and creating and sharing Web content much easier, which was essential to the successful launch of our new Web site, and in bringing the entire campus together as a community."

"For many audiences, particularly the external ones, this is the front door of the university," said Terry Flannery, executive director of communications and marketing. "It is going to allow people to access the university from points near and far. Internally, the site is more like our new public town square, where people can come together to share news, applaud successes, or gather in a crisis."

The CommonSpot content management system provides an interface for users to publish any type of content, including text, forms, video, images, and RSS for delivery to the Web, streaming media, mobile phones, and iPods.

Other higher ed users of CommonSpot include Cornell University College of Engineering in Ithaca, NY; Shimer College in Chicago; and the University of Alaska Anchorage.

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