In a partnership with Sheridan College's International Student office, my team (Christina Weng, Tim Chu, Jordan Akin, and myself) developed a interactive prototype of a dashboard to be used by an international student applying to study at Sheridan College. Over 14 weeks, we collected primary and secondary research by interviewing staff and international students; Synthesized that research into industry-grade research reports; Developed design requirements, userflows and wireframes; Delivered a fully interactive prototype of the entire portal and presented a comprehensive report and document detailing the project.
On this project I served as one of the lead UX researchers and designers. I conducted most of the interviews and worked heavily on the resulting insights, design requirements, and userflows. The wireframes, visual design, and the interactive prototype itself were worked on by Christina Weng.
Sheridan College wants to update it’s international student application process to make it easier for students to understand and complete the process. Students who have experience with the process have given feedback that highlights the following problems: language barriers, confusing interfaces and trouble comprehending micro and macro instructions given to them by the process. Users experiencing these pain points become frustrated and confused with the system. This both negatively impacts the reputation of Sheridan College and makes it harder for students to successfully complete an application to attend Sheridan.
Our team wanted to gain a deep understanding of the process of applying to Sheridan as an international student. This meant not just the mechanics of applying, but the emotional state and mental model of the student as they were going through this process. We also wanted to gather insights into all the actors in the process and how they interact with both each other and the application process itself.
As a first step, our team reviewed Sheridan's already existing service for international students. Doing so informed our hands-on research, allowing us to formulate specific questions for research participants to learn about their experience using certain UI elements or stages of the current experience. This analysis also enabled us to establish where the current experienced lagged behind the industry standards and could be flagged for improvement in the future design
Semi Structured Interviews
This research method allowed the participant to share the most accurate version of their experiences applying as an international student during a 30-50 minute discussion with the interviewer. We could follow-up with questions about their specific experiences and get answers to the questions we had coming into the interview, while also building an understanding of what we didn't know and filling those knowledge gaps at the same time.
During this process we were given the opportunity to discuss the process with one of the international office's staff both during a Q/A period and submitting questions via email. This was key to understanding what the constraints of the system as well what it was like for the people on the other side of the application.
Through heuristic analysis, semi-structured interviews and digital surveys with international students and staff, we began to understand the current experience of applying to Sheridan as an international student and found several problems that were nearly universal across all usergroups.
Sheridan's current system is only available natively in English, and while applicants can use services like Google Translate to translate the page to other languages, accurate 3rd party translation cannot be relied on during such an important process. If applicants were to enter incorrect information due to poor or limited translation it cause delays, or rejection of their application. Additionally, even if the information entered by the applicant is correct, the applicant may suffer anxiety during and after the process because of the possibility of a mis-translation.
The current system interface lags behind modern standards of UI and causes unnecessary confusion during the process. The overall user experience leads to a length process that may have to be restarted or revised multiple times as new information is revealed to the user. In one case, a timer appears on the page that informs the user they have 15 minutes to complete their application. We were informed during our first meeting with the staff of the international office that this timer does not work and no system action is taken when the timer hits zero.
The current system offers limited, sometimes incorrect, instructions to users as they go through the process. The resulting user inputs can result in significant delays while the mistake is corrected either by the applicant or administrator later in the process.
Personas & Context Scenarios
We developed 4 primary user personas and 4 secondary user personas for the system. 4 international students, 2 educational agents, 1 Sheridan international office employee and a parent of a international student. Each primary persona had a context scenario associated with it and it detailed how each individual user would interact with the system and the required features for those interactions to occur. The combined list of those features across all personas were defined as our design requirements.
Design Requirements / Feature List
The requirements of the design were broken down into single features that were then detailed by their specific components and crossovers with other features. This processed allowed us to scope out the scale of our design and easily change and update features as we iterated while keeping the relationship of the features and their elements clear and consistent.
The interactive prototype was created in Adobe XD has two implemented user experiences: A student who is applying by themselves and an educational agent who is managing the application of a student client
Project Gallery - Research
Project Gallery - Prototype