UW Colleges Online

Helping a first-rate online campus work smarter

One of 14 freshman/sophomore campuses, UW Colleges Online gives students of all stripes easy access to a world-class University of Wisconsin education. KW2’s digital team was tasked with making that access even easier.


Chock full of potential.

UW Colleges Online helps more first-generation and non-traditional students earn their mortar boards (without having to travel to a brick-and-mortar classroom) than any other institution in the UW system. But the College knew it could accomplish even more with a site that wasn’t holding them back.

The objectives were clear, and so were the challenges. UW Colleges Online wanted a dynamic experience with lots of useful tools for online learners…but their site was built on an old template meant for traditional institutions. They wanted to help prospective students apply and enroll…but most of their content was aimed at current students. They wanted to give visitors clear paths to the info and resources they needed most…but their current navigation left most students confused.

Our client needed a clean slate. So KW2 overhauled the entire site experience: information architecture, user experience, content strategy, programming and design.

Doing our homework.

User research and a close working relationship with our client led to a number of vital improvements.

According to user task surveys, learning more about UW Colleges Online courses was a major goal for current and prospective students who were currently being shuttled offsite to detailed course information. And during a collaborative content strategy workshop, our client recognized their admissions process—which changes with every different student type—was intimidatingly complex for first-time and returning student applicants. 

Most surprising? User research proved the hiccup in the College’s admissions funnel wasn’t an admissions problem at all. Students were dropping out of the process during the course enrollment process, long after they’d been accepted. 


In response, our UX designers mapped a simple, step-by-step admissions, payment and enrollment process that used incremental successes to keep students moving forward. They also built a comprehensive course search tool to make exploring and enrolling in classes a snap.

Feeling like a success.

Around half of UW Colleges Online students are jugglers—non-traditional students returning to school while raising a family, serving in the military, or working a job. (Scratch that, jobs.) Helping these students overcome their natural, rational fears meant delivering simplicity and support at every turn.

  • We’ve peppered the site with success stories featuring students from all walks of life.
  • New site photography shows students making online education work: in coffee shops, with the kids and at the kitchen table. 
  • Charts, calendars and graphics guide users through complex info and multi-step processes.
  • A new page on the site, How Online Education Works, counters common misconceptions about online learning and provides a roadmap to success.
Uwco Web Flat

On course, of course.

UW Colleges Online’s new site may have launched on time and under budget, but our work isn’t finished yet. KW2 continues to provide ongoing maintenance—developing student-focused content, building a robust knowledgebase and offering new ideas that always put UW Colleges Online users first.