Telling the Story of an Online Education Innovator

By Lily Berman,
A young student logs into her computer to review VHS Learning's website

Let’s take a trip back to 1996. Bill Clinton was elected to his second term as president, and the Nintendo 64 was released in North America. People called the internet the World Wide Web and logged into AOL to check their email while tying up their phone line. There was not much else to do online, as Google, Twitter, and Facebook were not around yet (thanks Slate and Wikipedia for the time capsule info). It was in this context that the US Department of Education awarded a grant to develop the first nationwide “Virtual High School”.

23 years passed. A quick Google search for “Virtual High School” in 2019 now generated pages and pages of organizations offering online high school courses. The time had come for “The Virtual High School” to become “VHS Learning,” both to reclaim their place as a leader in the market they created and to avoid being seen as just another virtual high school.

VHS Learning had a big story to tell, but lacked the flexibility within their Drupal site to freely communicate who they are, where they’ve been, and where they’re going. In particular, their homepage included large sections for specific types of content (like events and press), which were not always the most compelling or relevant. As an education nonprofit, they also lacked a giant budget to match their giant vision.

That’s where Kalamuna came in, helping them transform the way they told their story. We brought all the expertise 2019 had to offer and extensive experience making a big impact with a limited investment.

 

“I chose to work with Kalamuna for our rebranding of our website because of their history and expertise working with both education organizations and nonprofits. I treat my VHS Learning budget like it is my own, and after speaking with Nick, felt that Kalamuna really understood my goals with this rebrand and more importantly, our values and beliefs as a nonprofit organization.”

- Angela McReynolds, Director of Marketing, VHS Learning

 

Discovery

We began by working with Angela to hone in on the mission of our collaboration, which helped define where we would focus our efforts.

 

Project Mission

  1. Immediately understand who VHS Learning is and what they do
  2. Expand ability to swap out content to feature most relevant content
  3. New and refreshed look and feel to match rebrand
  4. Announcement to explain rebrand and new brand launch

 

We limited our work to only what would be absolutely necessary to achieve the project mission, so we could stretch their budget as far as possible. We knew we would be creating a landing page content type, and leveraging the paragraphs module to give VHS Learning flexibility to shift the content over time.  Rather than overcommitting, we promised what we could confidently achieve within the unknowns of their site build. When our lead developer reviewed their current Drupal 7 site and determined we would not be at risk of exceeding our development effort, we were able to extend our content strategy and copywriting efforts significantly.

 

Content Strategy and Copywriting

We drafted a simple document to align on the components that we would create for the new homepage. The choices were informed both by our experience and VHS Learning’s unique needs.

 

Two Column Visual + Text Layout

Elements

  • Title
  • Image or video
  • Content block
    • Title
    • Text
    • Button (link text + link URL)

Use Cases

  • Promote summer school
  • Announcement of rebrand (if not featured in hero)
  • Prominently feature "The VHS Difference" or other video content
  • Link to "Contact Us" page

 

After Angela confirmed that we were on the right track, we began filling in the details with real content. First and foremost, VHS Learning wanted to tell their story. So, we envisioned their homepage describing who they are, and building trust and excitement in their refreshed brand position. 

As we learned more about VHS Learning’s history, we knew their full rebrand story could not be told in a sentence on the homepage. So, we recommended creating a separate timeline page linking from the homepage hero to focus solely on the rebrand. The project scope allowed us to write the copy for this “Future of Online Learning” page, along with student, parent, and school landing pages reenvisioned with the new components.     

 

Design

To keep this project as lean as possible, we limited our design deliverables to a single static mockup of the new homepage across breakpoints, showing VHS Learning exactly how their new component library will look. The content shaped the design, and it hit the mark with minimal revision.

 

Homepage mockup illustrating hover effects

 

The Results

 

“Kalamuna delivered high-quality work that was exactly on brand with our organization wide rebranding efforts. We were in the process of updating our brand when I began working with them, so they had to read between the lines a bit. They were able to articulate our offerings, beliefs, and benefits clearly by creating more engaging content for our website.”

Rather than seeing incremental change as inconsequential, we dreamed big within our constraints. It did not require a full redesign to dramatically shift VHS Learning’s ability to launch their rebrand, tell their story, and control their message over time. Now that it’s live, we look forward to discovering the impact the work will have over time.

Check out the website: VHS Learning

an image of the VHS homepage on a laptop and smart phone

Want to see what Kalamuna can do for you? Drop us a line

Lily Berman

Strategic Account Manager

As our strategic account manager, Lily ensures Kalamuna delivers on what matters most. She is passionate about building authentic connections, translating tech into English, and using the web for good. Ask her about walking across the country leading a sustainability nonprofit or facilitating literature discussions with incarcerated men. Or, even better, tell her your story.