Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

After doubling its programs, university focuses on website development
To fine-tune the user interface and content strategy, the Noel-Levitz Web Strategy and Interactive Marketing Services team reviewed new design prototypes and facilitated direct research with prospective students, including quantitative survey and qualitative user-testing sessions.
The top aerospace and aviation university in the world, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) offers seven primary fields of study, including more than 70 baccalaureate, master’s, and PhD degree programs. The university consists of a centralized administration with three main business units: 1) a traditional, residential campus in Daytona Beach, Florida; 2) a traditional, residential campus in Prescott, Arizona; and 3) a flexible Worldwide campus with more than 150 locations across the globe that primarily serve adult, online, and military populations.

With a presidential vision to reach a wider audience and academically transform from an aeronautical institution into a world-class, comprehensive university, ERAU grew from 30 degree programs in 2005-06 and currently offers 75 programs of study. As the university invested in this vision, website leadership, governance, and structural challenges evolved into a “culture of no” that stalled the university’s ability to innovate its website. Instead of driving enrollment to their three campuses, the site reflected internal silos and agendas with a primary focus on the university’s three-campus organizational structure rather than the programs and educational outcomes of its students. 

In response to a sense of urgency to grow enrollment and realize returns on investment in new degree programs, institutional leadership shifted their focus to the web team to redevelop its Worldwide site in 2012-13. To fine-tune the user interface and content strategy, the Ruffalo Noel Levitz Web Strategy and Interactive Marketing Services team reviewed new design prototypes and facilitated direct research with prospective students, including quantitative survey and qualitative user-testing sessions. The results of our research were used to fine-tune the final user interface and content strategy for the site. 

To promote the breakdown of silos across all of ERAU, the Worldwide partnership served as the basis for additional user testing projects for the Prescott and Daytona Beach sites. As a result, ERAU’s enrollment, marketing, web, and IT teams converged and reorganized into a powerful, closely-knit team with the resources, ideas, and knowledge to drive enrollment while building strong internal relationships. Staff, administrators, and faculty creatively thrive in a transparent culture that actively solicits review, input, and feedback from the university community. With these new strategies in place, ERAU launched the redesigned www.erau.edu in July 2014, transitioning from campus-based to program- and outcomes-focused content.

ERAU continues its partnership with Ruffalo Noel Levitz, currently employing dynamic search engine optimization (SEO) and content strategy in the development of playbooks, ensuring internal staff, such as admissions counselors and program marketers, have a singular go-to resource for each of ERAU’s programs. Serving as an online training manual, these playbooks outline each program’s essential value proposition, key positioning themes, functional details, marketing materials, alumni outcomes, competitors, and potential pitfalls. Each playbook is a living document, allowing for updates as programs evolve.



"We've gone from a culture of rogue-ness and even sarcasm or cynicism, to a culture where people know they can speak up and be heard. That shows a major shift in what our organization is able to provide the university community, particularly our faculty.

“Our restructuring around our web and digital departments has allowed the organic nature of self-advertising to run our entire social media and ad campaign. It gives human power to each program lead and gives them the tools to promote Embry-Riddle.

“I have worked with many firms over the years, but to me, [Ruffalo Noel Levitz] really does have their finger firmly on the pulse of higher education; they know what resonates with students and parents in their college decision.

“Partnering with [Ruffalo Noel Levitz] helped the university realign resources in a way that put web and digital communication and marketing technologies at the forefront of our overall efforts. Prior to our partnership, many staff and faculty members saw the web as mysterious, an afterthought.

“The playbook project was really a turning point in our relationship with faculty. It gave them the assurance that there is something new going on in university marketing—that our doors are open and we value their contributions.” 

Ms. Chrissy Clary                                                 Mr. Bill Hampton

Director, Web Services Management                 Vice President for Enrollment 

Case study used with the permission of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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