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UTPA takes top national award for best higher education website
By Gail Fagan, Public Affairs Representative
(956) 665-2741
Posted: 09/09/2010
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The University of Texas-Pan American’s revamped website hit the Internet in late August 2009. Since then, the website — www.utpa.edu — has been recognized with several awards of excellence. The latest trophy is the 2010 Best of the Web Award in the Higher Education Website category from the Center for Digital Education.


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The center's annual Best of Web Awards and Digital Education Achievement Awards showcase exceptional higher education websites, digital technology projects and programs worldwide that have enriched education for students and teachers. The Best of the Web awards also recognize the best K-12 district education website and Department of Education website each year. The winners were announced Sept. 7 by the center and its Converge Online magazine.

"We are very excited about winning this recognition for our new website," said Kumar Raman, UTPA director of Internet Services."Its dynamic new look improves both on usability and accessibility for the diverse audience that visits our website daily."

The hundreds of entries submitted for the Best of the Web were judged in the areas of innovation, features and functionality by a panel of senior fellows from the Center for Digital Education and other experts in digital technology.

"Despite the tough economy, education leaders remain committed to improving learning through the tools of technology," said Cathilea Robinett, vice president of the center, in a press release announcing the awards. "Our Best of the Web winners have beautiful, functional websites that speak to the needs of students, parents and educators."

Raman said an overhaul of the website's design and information architecture, the first undertaken in 10 years, began in March 2009 and was unveiled in August – a mere six months later. The project was under the guidance of the Web Advisory Group, affectionately known as the WAG. The WAG team, initiated by Janice Odom, vice president for University Advancement, and made up of individuals from various departments on campus, worked quickly and collaboratively to get the job done, Odom said.

"The look and feel of the new site is also a credit to the efforts of the graphic designers in Studio Twelve01, others in the University’s marketing and communications group, and the web designers from Internet Services," she said.

The revamping process included compiling analytical data about how web visitors used the site, which links are most popular and what types of information visitors searched for. Many new Web 2.0 technologies were incorporated also to give it a contemporary look and feel and to make it more interactive.

"The website update was also done entirely in-house without additional funding or external agency help," Raman said. "Individuals across the organization contributed to the effort and had the passion and the desire to see the new website be a success. It was truly a team effort."

Raman said users of UTPA's website, which has approximately 200,000 unique visitors to its homepage a month, now experience a simpler and more relevant navigation and structure, a cleaner look, and links to social networks and RSS to keep audiences connected and engaged.

"The new website has been well received by our visitors," Raman said. "This latest national recognition indicates it is has been well received by the industry as well."

The Center for Digital Education (http://www.centerdigitaled.com/), a division of e.Republic, Inc., is a national research and advisory institute specializing in K-12 and higher education technology trends, policy, and funding. Along with its research services, the center issues white papers and conducts the annual Digital School Districts and Digital Community Colleges surveys and award programs as well as hosts events across the K-12 and higher education arena. The center also supports the quarterly-themed Converge Special Reports and Converge Online (http://www.convergemag.com/).