Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Graduation collaboration: Sharing the workload on commencement programs

There are few higher education publication projects that are more collaboratively time-intensive than the commencement program. It's a document that will be treasured for decades by graduates and parents alike, and whether your institution is graduating 50 students or 5,000—it had better be accurate.

Of course, reaching perfection can be an elusive goal for any publication, let alone a commencement program. It's a herculean task requiring extensive collaboration from the registrar's office, student affairs, academic deans, faculty award committees, etc. Academic recognitions may not be finalized until weeks before the event, and it's tempting to delay production for the inevitable last-minute changes.

Since our communications office began producing our graduation-related programs two years ago, we've found Adobe InCopy to be an invaluable tool for managing the process. It's a basic word processor that can link directly into an Adobe InDesign document, where the graphic designer can alter the appearance and organization of the layout. Think of it as a content management system for a printed document, instead of a website.

By saving the files to a shared campus file space and separating sections of the program into different linked files, several users in different departments can update the document at once. Once the information has been finalized by the various offices, the communications office finishes the publication and sends it to the printer.

To train other departments on how to use InCopy to update the program, I used TechSmith's free version of its Jing screen-capture video software to narrate the steps for finding the files and editing them in the program. Watch the training video.

Another technical trick for checking accuracy is to save every official name to your InDesign user dictionary. It won't catch every mistake, but running a spell-check to the entire document after this step can catch some elusive name errors.

Photo courtesy of under Creative Commons license.