"I appreciated working with someone who is a really good listener. He heard what we wanted, and went off and built it; and was able to accommodate our learning curve along the way."
Pioneer Valley Early Educator Pathways
Pioneer Valley Early Educator Pathways
The Pioneer Valley Educational Readiness Center (PERC) wanted to create a brand new website that offered clear, easy to navigate, up-to-date information to help early educators to find the best options for advancing their careers in early education and care by pursuing recognized credentials and college degrees; and routes to advisors and organizations that could help. The site needed to be easy to maintain and keep accurate, with extensive information for early educators about:
- Early Childhood College Degree and Credentialing Programs in the region
- Contact information and links to college and career advisors at each institution
- Career choices and pathways in early childhood education with professional qualifications required
- Contact information for help with Application Process and Financial Aid
There were other roadmaps for career development for early educators; but the goal was a more interactive experience that would be responsive to their individual situations, and would be specific to a local region. This could better help early educators to connect quickly with the right knowledgeable advisor to help them move forward..
PERC talked with other web development vendors about their idea, but found them prohibitively expensive. “You can spend a lot of money and not get what you want.. you have to be really clear what you’re looking for in working with web development vendors,” said Kay Lisseck, Executive Director of PERC. Some vendors wanted to build a website for the project from Wordpress templates. PERC felt that would be limiting, without the ability to adjust functionality that could be achieved by building the website from scratch. Lisseck, realized that CES, already a trusted Readiness Center partner, could offer a customized and cost-effective solution for her project.
Travis Johnston of CES started with deep discussions with Kay about her ideas and goals. Then he developed a detailed Sitemap proposal for the website, including the menu structure, a detailed content outline for each page (including images and text), sidebar content, and the taxonomies used to categorize, group and filter pages for easier searching and browsing. The content and site development process was iterative, with more consultations and adjustments along the way, until both felt that the site design achieved its goals.
Review and User Testing assessed the working site for accuracy, style, functionality, and alignment with goals; and additional adjustments were made based on user review and feedback. Users were then trained to manage the site’s content with intuitive and easy to use editing screens built for content management. The user testing surfaced some refinements for the PERC site, including more responsiveness to mobile devices.
PERC’s college partners on the project looked at the website, and felt it was intuitive and easy to use. The Readiness Center also found the user training hugely helpful, along with the Drupal manual provided to them that will allow them to easily make changes to the content on the site themselves.
“We’re in charge now, and we can change the content to keep it current,” said Kay Lisseck.
The site was designed for a Pioneer Valley regional focus. When it was shared with other Readiness Centers across the Commonwealth, they were also excited about the potential of the design. The charge for readiness centers was to try to create a more standardized process for getting the information needed for early educators to pursue their degree; and Readiness Centers were looking for a product that could assist early childhood educators to move forward in their profession; but with benefits that were sustainable beyond the end of their funding in December of 2015.
The statewide network of Readiness Centers have approved and contracted for a project to expand on the PERC Pathways site to build a multi-site network statewide, with regional pathways for each major region; but also the ability to be searched across regions. That work is underway with a target of the end of 2015. The envisioned network of regional sites will combine the clear navigation and powerful search built into the PERC site, as well as a very user-friendly interface for updating and maintaining the college and program data to keep it current. Readiness Centers hope to partner with regional EPS centers, where the maintenance could take place moving forward.