Client: Maastricht University
Maastricht University (UM) is known both at home and abroad for its unique education system: problem-based learning (PBL). Moreover, UM positions itself through its strong international orientation. An increasing number of students from across the Netherlands and abroad, are choosing the Maastricht system. Maastricht University is the youngest university in the Netherlands, and is growing rapidly. There are currently approximately 16,000 students and 4,250 employees. Education and research at UM is primarily organized on the basis of faculties and schools.
The UM website was due for renewal. Students, employees and external parties indicated that they could not find the information they were looking for because of the obscure menu structure and inadequate search engine. A tender was issued by the University to find partners to implement the student portal in Liferay, and the website in Drupal. One of UM's requirements was that the implementation partner should be a certified Drupal partner with at least 5 years of implementation experience, and with a preference for Agile. The project goal was to provide the visitor with access to the right information at the right time, and in the right language and format for the Internet device at that time, to ensure third parties were satisfied with the digital information from the UM and could share it with others.
In August 2014, Finalist started on the UMweb project. Our expertise consists of, among other things, the development of complex websites that are fed from a Content Management System (CMS). Drupal CMS was chosen for the Maastricht University case because of its flexibility and wide-ranging possibilities. Dozens of editors will be working to keep the website up-to-date: we started with the implementation of the CMS, we organized 8 workshops to make a complete list of requirements the new website had to meet. After this initial inventory, we began the implementation in October 2014. Because of the diverse nature of the information that the university has to provide on the website, a link needed to be built to many systems, such as SAP, Hodex, Tripolis, UMAPI, Personal Profile Pages (PPP), Pure and SSO afds. This technical challenge was resolved by using different interfaces based on web services. We deployed SOLR and Nutch to make the different systems - the website, affiliated websites and newsletters - searchable.
An Agile approach was used to execute the project. This means that over a period of two weeks, bit by bit functionality was developed and demonstrated. The advantage is that, after two weeks, there is software that is up and running. Also, it was easy to make adjustments thanks to the evolving insight. Since the start of the implementation, Finalist was at the ‘Tapijnkazerne’ in Maastricht every Tuesday and Wednesday. On the other days, the Finalist staff would be working at the office in Maarssen. Working on location in Maastricht was very helpful in the collaboration with UM. Finalist and Maastricht University formed one team, with a common goal. Thanks to the short lines, they were able to reach each other quickly and could, when necessary, conduct immediate consultations. The pleasant atmosphere within the team made working together a pleasure and the project a success.
As a result, all the Maastricht University information is easily accessible in two languages via a logical menu structure and a competent search engine. This includes extensive information on education (80 programmes with 2400 courses), the organizational units (faculties and service centres, such as the university library) and research (research units, researchers and publications). The new website includes current items such as news, events and blogs. The old site, with over 55,000 pages, has been replaced by a new, more compact and customer-friendly site of about 4,000 pages. The site is responsive and fluid for desktop, tablet and phone. Also, the editors can sort the pages according to their own ideas, with sections such as text, video, highlights, publications, social media, personal profiles and photo carousel.