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The culmination of seven and a half months of hard work, the Wilmette Institute’s new website went live on May 14, 2020. It is far more user-friendly, attractive, and automated than any website the Institute has had in its 25 year history.
When one now visits wilmetteinstitute.org, one sees a mural showing dozens of people from all races, walks of life, and ages doing different things; looking through telescopes, painting a heart, bicycling, reading, dialoguing about religion, and interacting with nature. A diverse group of people holding the letters of the word “Unity” make the mural’s theme clear: that we are all a single community of human beings in this world, in our diversity of actions and backgrounds. Many of the Wilmette Institute’s courses will have a group of the characters as their representative image.
Below the mural is information introducing the Wilmette Institute, with a link to our “About” page where more overview information is available. The next section is “Why Wilmette Institute?” which highlights some of our distinctive strengths and emphasizes the social transformation aspect of the Institute’s mission, a priority of the Institute that reinforces the current emphasis on social action and public discourse.
The bottom of the page has six sections: a list of four upcoming courses; testimonials reflecting the impact the Wilmette Institute has had on students; links to past and future Web Talks; three links to basic information about the Institute, about how to apply for a university course, and about the Bahá’í Faith; links to articles and other videos; and links to sixteen important individual pages on the site, such as the Institute’s faculty and departments.
Across the top of the page are links to four important sections of the website. “University courses” will take students interested in taking a Wilmette Institute for credit to a page that lists the courses and explains how to apply. “Community courses” takes learners to our non-credit courses, which constitute the majority of our courses. On the “Articles and videos” page one can find Web Talks, other webinars we have sponsored, articles written by students, some faculty publications, and articles written for the eNewsletter (such as this one). Finally, “About Us” provides basic information about the Institute’s history, values, and vision for its role in the world.
When the process of developing the website began in October, three Wilmette Institute staffers—Robert Stockman, Chitra Golestani, and Nicola Daniels, along with Jeff Albert, the head of the National Spiritual Assembly’s Office of Education and Schools—met for three days with a marketing and website development company. The team led them through a process that helped them define the basic qualities they wanted the Wilmette Institute to exemplify, qualities they hoped would be active in their college-age students as well. The principal characteristics they identified were three: being a “sage” or wise source of information; an “explorer,” one who inquires and investigates reality; and a “carer,” someone who cares about others and wants to encourage and support them.
The marketing team also considered the principal audience of the website: college age students attending university who might want to take a Wilmette Institute course for credit. Another crucial audience is university faculty and administrators considering a relationship with the Institute. Over the next year the Wilmette Institute plans to build on its initial agreement with the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities by partnering with other higher education institutions, which will allow a wider range of students to obtain credit for Wilmette Institute courses. It is also drafting an application to become an accredited higher-education institution. Hence a high-quality professional educational website is an important step in its future development.
Postscript: One thing you may notice is that some of the illustrations and photos on the website appear with relatively low resolution (they look a little fuzzy). The technical team is working to optimize the images so that they look good but also load quickly in your browser.