Online Communications

28 February 2023
Online Communications team members (from left) Timothy Benjamin, Gareth Dawson, Nico Badenhuizen, Lucre van Breda, Shaqeel Less and Rethea Deetlefs. <b>Photo</b> Lerato Maduna.
Online Communications team members (from left) Timothy Benjamin, Gareth Dawson, Nico Badenhuizen, Lucre van Breda, Shaqeel Less and Rethea Deetlefs. Photo Lerato Maduna.

Online Communications (OC) is responsible for the staff, students, main and news websites. This covers information architecture, edits and updates, tracking of statistics, as well as the technical support and maintenance of the web content management system. We support other CMD units and UCT website owners and provide live-streaming services for UCT events. The team also performs web governance duties, such as exercising oversight over UCT’s web presence and checking compliance with web policy.

UCT Main, Staff and Students sites

Multiple content updates were done, including the addition of a small permanent online application banner on the Main site’s home page.

News site

Multiple upgrades were made to the content management system, including building in-page layout options previously implemented manually. The COVID-19 toaster (pop-up) was added to this site as well.

The Faculty of Health Sciences was given its own news feature on News and training to populate it.

The team worked with Information and Communications Technology Services (ICTS) on upgrading the News server operating system and the system’s programming language.


A toaster with information about the government’s official COVID-19 resources was implemented in Drupal to appear on all websites in the system, as per legislative requirements.

A few bugs were investigated and fixed or passed on to ICTS / the service provider for further investigation or fixing.

Multiple security updates, several of which required development by the service provider, were applied to Drupal and extensively tested by the team before going live.

Drupal website summary

There are 363 live sites. The faculty with the most live Drupal sites is Health Sciences (92). Forty-eight websites went live in 2020; 30 of these in the last quarter of the year.

Faculty site breakdown:

CMD Annual Report 2021 - Online Comms Infographic
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A welcome development was the Faculty of Commerce moving their faculty and 15 departmental/unit sites onto Drupal. Except for the Graduate School of Business (GSB), all faculty sites are now on the system.

Drupal upgrade project

CMD and ICTS embarked on the Drupal 8 Upgrade and Website Migration Project. The project is upgrading Drupal 7, UCT’s current official web content management system since it is coming to end-of-life in 2022. The project will also migrate all the Drupal 7 websites into the newer system. A moratorium on new Drupal sites 7 was implemented in November 2020.

We were responsible for the following:

  • Business requirement specification document
  • Extensive wireframing and prototyping
  • Working with a designer on a refreshed, contemporary look and feel
  • Style guide.

The first phase, the development and implementation of the system, was divided into 12 sprints, of which four were completed during the year. Work started on two more sprints.

We met with all faculty communications managers except Commerce, to introduce them to the project and go through their faculty’s site migration list. A presentation was drafted to introduce deans to the project and request their support.

Other key unit activities

UCT Vision 2030 strategy: A solution for a custom Vision 2030 site was researched and a concept prototype created. The framework development was implemented on the ICTS application server, and the site was created and made live. Updates were done as needed.

Physical events recorded and/or live-streamed

Parent Orientation was the only physical event of the year that the team was involved in. The work included set-up of equipment; image and video editing and uploads; sourcing and reviewing quotes (eg technical, scaffolding, drapes, window block-out); reviewing floor plans; liaising with Properties & Services, and directing videographers.

Online events

Our work on online events include dry runs, set-up and configuration (initially with ICTS until the required access was granted), speaker/VIP training and technical support, event production and live streaming. In addition, hardware and software research and self-training on their use ensured the optimal quality of event online production and live streaming.

Research and development, and training:

  • A task team was established by ICTS to investigate live-streaming options. Our senior PHP developer was asked to join the team. After investigation and multiple functionality tests, Microsoft Teams was chosen as the UCT online event solution. We have assisted departments and faculties with many events.
  • A workshop was held with CMD's events team to demonstrate the Teams webinar and workshop options.
  • “Live event” tests were run on Teams; custom backgrounds were tested.
  • Meeting recordings were investigated to determine if there are privacy concerns.
  • Teams live events were integrated into Facebook and Twitter.
  • Some CMD and ICTS staff were trained on producing live events on Teams and Zoom.
  • VIPs were trained on Teams for events.
  • Teams live-stream Twitter integration was workshopped with ICTS.

Live events produced:

Event support only:

  • Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance event (training and technical support)
  • VC interview audio recorded and edited for SABC
  • DAD fundraising event consultation
  • DSA Student Leadership Awards.

PASS and academic department web support

The unit provided coding, formatting, content editing, bug/error investigation and Drupal user support to the owners of 118 Drupal websites – most users were assisted multiple times. This total includes 49 websites that were quality controlled (and had fixes implemented) prior to approval being granted to go live.

The team also provided substantial assistance, advice and/or instructions to about 40 UCT groups on (among other things) new websites, website design, site statistics, site security issues, Everlytic, video edits, coding, and investigating and proposing non-Drupal solutions for their online needs. The Department of Medicine home and COVID-19 pages were redone. The Faculty of Health Sciences site’s main page was redone, and their Drupal news replaced by embedded articles from their self-maintained presence on the News website.

CMD digital assets management system (DAMS)

A cache of old CMD CDs and DVDs was discovered, investigated and the content uploaded to DAMS. NetPublish (purchased and installed in December 2020) allowed the creation of collections of multimedia content (such as official logos) over 2021, with access for users outside CMD.

Training: The team trained a few staff members on Drupal, and multiple CMD staff members on DAMS. Other CMD staff members were assisted with hardware set-up and software training (Skype and Teams meetings), to enable them to work from home, or with laptop/PC issues.

Everlytic bulk email / RSVP forms: The team sent almost 70 bulk mails to UCT community members, created about 25 RSVP forms and edited and uploaded the mailing lists for each bulk mail.

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