TopperStation.com

An Evolution in University Broadcasting

Located in the northern Panhandle of West Virginia (just north of Wheeling), West Liberty University is a forward-looking, four-year public university steeped in rich Appalachian heritage. Beginning as a small studio located in the basement of Elbin Library, West Liberty's television station, WLU-TV14, has grown to include a multi-million dollar facility equipped with leading technologies.

WLU-TV14, while reaching 100k+ cable homes through the local cable networks, knew that their delivery strategy needed to envolve to meet younger audiences online — where, when and how viewers wanted to watch their content.

Services
Drupal Development
Interactive (Web) Design
Responsive Development
Technical Consulting
Team
Aaron Silber
Aaron Silber
Senior Web Designer
Partners

Understanding The Challenge

Very early in our discussions with WLU we knew that we needed to develop a better understanding of who the platform would be for and what would be important for those users. We invited a cross-functional group of stakeholders from the university to a design workshop where we spent half a day discussing the future of collegiate video and WLU's long-term strategy.

An outline of needs for three primary audiences: students, prospective students and alumni.

Through conversations with students and the community, we discovered and prioritized the most common needs amongst users.

Jason Koegler; VP of Institutional Advancement

We knew we needed to reach out to students through a digital channel, but we weren't quite sure what the solution looked like. Omni was able to pull our stakeholders together, define a strategy, and use their genius to breathe life into Topper Station.

— Jason Koegler, VP of Institutional Advancement

Over 60 percent of Millennials and Gen Z consumers stream video daily. By comparison, less than 30 percent of Baby Boomers stream video daily.

(Source: Deloitte)

The average consumer spends 40 hours per week watching video content, with 15 hours per week of that through video streaming services.

(Source: Deloitte)

78% of college students prefer smartphones to other digital devices.

(Source: The Impact of Broadcast and Streaming Video on Education, Cisco)

 

A collection of early project wireframes for the homepage, show page, and player page.

Designing wireframes combined with the Invision prototyping service helped the project teams collaborate and iterate on design workflows right in the browser.

The homepage of topperstation.com as shown on a desktop monitor and a mobile device.
The search interface of topperstation.com as show on a mobile device.
The channels directory of topperstation.com
The player page of topperstation.com

Developing Topperstation.com

In planning the site's development, we found that a missing piece existed between the site's content management system (Drupal 8) and the hosting provider (Pantheon).

We've planned and developed many websites using both the Drupal 8 content management system and Pantheon's web operations platform, so we felt confident that we could deliver the featureset through these technologies. Video Streaming, however, was a much more nuanced and complex component that needed additional effort to evaluate and understand. 

Is YouTube Good Enough for Higher Ed?

Universities are complex organizations. Any technical solution or strategy we built needed to be flexible enough to meet the needs of multiple stakeholders, not just for today, but for the foreseeable future.

Initially, we thought that services like YouTube may be a great fit for video distribution, but given the aspirations of the Topper Station platform, we quickly foresaw roadblocks that would limit future development. 

Who knew that YouTube couldn't always be the solution?

Topper Station needed many features that Youtube was able to provide.

Evaluating Video Hosting Solutions

Technical Evaluation Report for video streaming providers.

After an exhaustive evaluation of different video hosting platforms, Brightcove was able to check all of our boxes when it came to streaming quality, integrations, and ease of use. They've also built a top-notch integration with our preferred CMS (Drupal 8), which allows us to make managing topperstation.com much easier for editors.

With this dual systems approach, one team of people produces and uploads content to Brightcove, while a second team manages the website and social networks. Both teams can operate simultaneously without stepping on each other's toes.

In considering the rapid rate of technology change, we also felt this dual-system approach would give the university the opportunity to swap out the website or video hosting services independently of one another. In the future, this approach may also be applied to mobile and OTT applications.

Videos from Brightcove sync to Drupal, making it easier for editors to curate and manage the website content.

A person watching a football game on topperstation.com using their smartphone.

60-day Post-Launch Metrics

3000+ Monthly Active Users on topperstation.com

Topperstation.com has received over 36,800 pageviews in it's first two months.

78% of users are browsing on mobile devices at topperstation.com

Drupal Modules

Editor Features

  • Editors can rearrange and create several different types of blocks including; sliders, video lists, and schedule tables.
  • Enabling a livestream activates a blinking "Live" menu item, directing users to the streaming content.
  • Video interactions are recorded and stored within the Topper Station Google Analytics account for marketing review.
  • Channels are easy to create and only require a few steps. Create a new channel, enter your description, images, cast members, hosts, and select a few videos from Brightcove to include in a season.

Future Roadmap

  • Improved content discovery through Academic, Sports, and Insitutional categories.
  • Improved suggested videos through user activity and content similarity.
  • Accounts allowing users to save, rate, and comment on content.
  • Password protected institutional videos and pay-walled academic content.
  • Site-wide notifications.
  • Automated weekly "What's new" email marketing.
  • OTT apps, including Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.

We’ve loved working with Omni and highly recommend chatting with them about creating digital platforms for your college or university. We only wish they could work with us full time — they’re a tremendous asset to the organization!

— Jason Koegler, VP Institutional Advancement
& Theresa Gretchen, Executive Director of Visual Media

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