Though our IS 4220.01 course is slowly coming to an end, we want our work to still live on. We worked too hard to just set it aside. So, as the year is dwindling, I wanted to write a design report to act as a written record of our project. I hope others find this report, and use it to continue our work, or inspire them to create their own change. In this report, I will explain the problem we wanted to solve, our design and our design decisions, and lastly, an evaluation of our final interactive journey map.
In late January, when the semester was just beginning, a small group of us sat down with Professor LeBlanc, and set our goals for the class. Our signature project course is specifically made to explore “design” and what makes a good design. Also, we were to evaluate the first year experiences here at PSU and design new experiences for future PSU students. While researching online and meeting with current Enrollment Management what the current first year experience is like, we discovered a problem; prospective students have a lot of information to sift through, and finding that most relevant information for them is difficult. So, we needed to find the most fit solution for prospective students. From that day on, our journey to find a solution to our information overload problem began.
Today, there is a great amount of stress and anxiety levels surrounding the college application process. Some reasons include a greater population of high school graduates moving onto college, which leads to higher competition levels, the decrease of affordability of a college education, and pressure from families to perform and get into a “well known” university.
The Admissions and Enrollment Management teams are aware how stressful applying to college can be, and have a couple designs in place to aid in the process. Admissions uses a tool called “Mongoose” to text students and parents about reminders for application deadlines. There are also various emails sent out to students and parents to inform them of the next steps to take. Our school website has various resources for prospective students to use at any step of his/her process. There are plenty of useful tools to help relieve some of the stress, but none where all the information is in the same place. That is where our design comes into play.
- Is found within 3 clicks on the PSU website
- Takes less than 3 clicks to find information in the journey map
- Easy enough to follow, takes less than 10 minutes to click all the way through
- Aesthetically rated 6+ on a 10 point scale
- Rated 8+ on a 10 point scale for PSU branded
- Hyperlinks include nearly 50% of the text
Our design is a visual, interactive journey map, that guides prospective students through the most critical path of their college application process. How it works is, a prospective student would find it on the PSU website, load it, and click through the stages that are most relevant to them. For example, there are five different stages a prospective student could be at. Depending on that stage, that is what menu they would click. If a student is just in the beginning of the process, unsure if PSU is right for them, they would click the ” I am Ready to Learn about PSU” menu, which would take them to a list of hyperlinked resources that would let them get a feel for PSU. If a student has already been accepted, they would click the “I am Accepted” menu, and find out what the next steps are.
- We use informal, simple language
- Stay as close as we can to the critical path
- PSU branded
- Created a main menu with four stages (I am Ready to Learn/I am Ready to Apply/ I am Accepted/ I am Admitted)
- We decided to not replicate important information but provide a simplified version of that information and include hyperlinks to the details on the PSU website
- Include “back” buttons
- Include “speak with admissions” buttons
- Created final “ I am ready for classes” closing passage
Our interactive journey map will be used by prospective students of PSU. Parents would also be able to use it, if they are curious about their child’s next steps in the college application process. The journey map could be accessed via computer or mobile device. Students would click on menus most relevant to them, and have options to click on hyperlinked sources to find information regarding whichever stage of the application process they are in.
Our plan for evaluating our design was based by experimental testing of a prototype. We created various prototypes, and critiqued them according to the feedback we received from the Admissions, MCCS and Student Enrollment teams.
The design process is iterative. It took us many trials and errors to put together our final journey map. It started out from post-it notes on the board, to stories on the application “Twine”, to reorganizing our work on the chalk board, and then many presentations to the Student Enrollment team. From that process is how we came to our most final edition of the journey map.
So, What are the Next Steps?
Going forward, we need to figure out where this journey map will go once the semester ends. Will we hand it over to Admissions? MCCS? Who will make sure the links stay updated? These are all very important questions we need to find the answers to. One thing is for certain, we want to see our interactive journey map be implemented in the first year experience. We want our design to do its intended job, and make the college application process a little more simple.
Our class will be presenting a poster in the Student Showcase of Research and Engagement on May 2nd, from 2-5pm, if you would like to learn more about our work. We hope to see you there!