Achieving the Dream is a national network dedicated to helping more students succeed in - and complete - community college.
For the first time in U.S. history, the current generation of college-age Americans will be less educated than their parents’ generation. Yet, our workplaces require higher-level skills than ever before. A healthy economy and democracy depend upon an educated citizenry. Because our demographics are changing and poverty is high, we must actively create the conditions for more low-income students and students of color to attain postsecondary credentials.
Achieving the Dream has been helping for years to create these conditions. And now, the network's new website will help to amplify their impact even more.
We worked with staff to simplify the website's message at the top level, while still providing easy access to more detailed information for those who want it. The navigation (information architecture) was completely revamped, and most of the pages were re-written by Achieving the Dream's communications staff in accordance with best practices for web-writing.
Hundreds of resources and reports are classified by type, by topic, and by relevant step in the Achieving the Dream process. The website's Knowledge Center makes it easy for visitors to browse by step, or to filter by type or topic. The search results can also be sorted by title, date, topic or type, according to the visitor's preference.
Detailed profiles for each college can be found by clicking its pin on the map, or its name from the alphabetical list. The profiles describe in simple terms the changes each college has implemented in order to realize these improvements. Supporting charts and graphs highlight a college's improvement time.
Google Maps make it easy to see how widely Achieving the Dream's influence is felt. One map shows participating colleges, and can be easily filtered to show subsets of the colleges if desired. Another map shows states where teams are actively working for policy changes that will support student success. All of the maps are interactive, making it easy for visitors to click on a pinpoint and learn more about what's going on there.
Achieving the Dream coaches, advisors, board members and staff members are featured prominently on the new site. Alphabetical lists include thumbnail photos at a glance, and visitors can click any person's name or photo to see his/her full bio and larger photo. This builds credibility for the network as a whole, and helps participants get to know each other.
When it comes to education, students themselves are key, and college-age Americans are generally big users of social media and the internet. The new website design is sleek and streamlined, and its large image carousel features close-up photos of students. Achieving the Dream is also very actively engaging students on Facebook, where they've already held a t-shirt design contest and a short video contest. The main website served to drive potential entrants to the Facebook page, and also to highlight the winners of those contests.
Staff creates custom news searches with Google News, and then Drupal pulls them into the site automatically by way of the Feeds module. Drupal leaves them unpublished by default, so staff retains control over what the public sees. A simple dashboard lets staff see all of the items that have come in, and easily publish or delete items either in batches or one-by-one.