Project Management Tips for Your College's Academic Catalog

August 29, 2016

Last updated: October 2, 2020

Building your college's catalog is a massive project — most college catalogs are somewhere in length between To Kill a Mockingbird and Anna Karenina, but instead of being written by a single person they require content and input from dozens of people with different schedules across the college. There's not much you can do to reduce the amount of content in your catalog, but there are a few things you can do to make the whole process much less daunting.

Have a Workflow

Here's what we mean by workflow: know who's responsible for what on the catalog, and where it goes once they're done with it. For example, one department's workflow might go like this:

  1. Dean of accounting department assembles course and degree descriptions and sends to communications specialist.
  2. Communications specialist edits and proofreads accounting content and then sends back to accounting dean for approval.
  3. Accounting dean sends approval or edits to communications specialist.
  4. Communications specialist enters accounting content into catalog software and sends to communications director for approval.
  5. Communications director reviews accounting content and publishes to catalog site.

A system like Clean Catalog provides this sort of workflow — and the ability to see the current status of every piece of content —  but even without an advanced system you can still determine who's responsible for what and what they do with it once they're done. Doing this — and regularly communicating where things stand — can ensure that everything gets properly vetted in a timely manner.

Have a Point Person

Catalogs often are (or should be) team projects, but in our experience it's immensely helpful to have a single person who can answer questions and guide the process along. Even if you're using an editorial workflow, it can help to have someone who can periodically check in on where content stands and remind people of deadlines.

Break The Catalog Into Components

It's likely that you'll have some areas of the academic catalog that change very little from year to year — static front matter, certain academic programs, some policies and procedures.

For those, you can run them through the approval and editing process well in advance of the actual deadline. That way, instead of running 60,000 words through the approval and editing process all in one chunk, you can move pieces through part by part.

It's way less daunting this way — dealing with a few pages at a time is much easier than dealing with 200+ pages — and you can ensure that each component gets thorough attention at each part of the process. And, if you deal with components as they're ready, you'll have more capacity to handle last-minute changes and emergencies.

Leverage Technology (But Fix Your Processes)

We're obviously believers that having a catalog software system can revolutionize your college's process and save time and money, all while providing a valuable service to students and college stakeholders. But if you've ever been on a thirty-person email thread to decide what time to hold a meeting, you know that technology's power depends on the processes behind it.