GETTING SCHOLARSHIPS INTO THE DESERVING HANDS OF STUDENTS
Millions of dollars in scholarships go unclaimed in Canada. Our team researched student obstacles at the University of Toronto to create a potential solution.
AQUATICA: MAYBE MONEY DOES GROW ON TREES
Aquatica is an online website that empowers students in their scholarship application journey and streamlines their experience.
Our team conducted user research and testing in order to create a product that meets student needs.
(INF 1602 assignment)
Yuejun (Mimi) Guo
Youngeun (Grace) Choi
Millions in award dollars are going unclaimed each year in Canada alone.
To understand this issue, our research team conducted primary research on 26 University of Toronto students through either a Google Survey questionnaire (n=20) or a Zoom interview (n=6).
Several issues were identified:
LACK OF FEEDBACK
Interview Insight #1:
Students usually don't get any feedback once they submit their application. They don't even know if their application was received, or if it was reviewed. This is something that they find discouraging.
FOR THOSE WHO DON'T APPLY, SUBMITTING NEEDS TO LOOK EASIER
Interview Insight #2:
Research participants ranked the perceived difficulty of each stage of the application cycle. Individuals who haven't searched for scholarships before perceive submitting the application to be the most difficult stage in the process, while those who have searched before perceive writing and preparing to be the most difficult.
Interview Insight #3:
11 of 18 students did not submit an application because the scholarship's instructions were too vague.
Interview Insight #4:
10 of 18 students did not submit an application because they found out about it too close to the deadline.
Interview Insight #5:
14 of 18 students didn't apply for a scholarship they found because they were not eligible.
Our primary and secondary research was used to generate our target group profile, Shane, to better empathize with, and prioritize goals according to their needs.
Our target group has several needs to address in order to have an improved application experience.
Our team reflected on our target group's current application experience, empathizing with Shane's experience to identify the needs that he and other members of our target group, would have.
Several Big Ideas were generated based on our research and persona, which were then prioritized based on impact and feasibility.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE MAP
A product-based journey map was one of the tools we used to examine Shane's revised journey through the application process with our platform.
Several user stories were identified and carefully framed by our team. These stories would be the targets of our minimal viable product.
WIREFRAMING, PROTOTYPING, AND USABILITY TESTING
User testing was foundational to our prototyping process. After each stage, we conducted formative user testing on our target audience.
Our team generated a low-fidelity prototype in Procreate.
Four users were recruited for a 30 min to 1-hour Zoom Interview. A modified Wizard of Oz testing format was used.
Modified Wizard of Oz Testing: Researchers have two documents open during the Zoom call: (1) the screens, which are shown to the participant, and (2) the storyboard with the pathways, which is for the researcher's reference.
The screens are placed on individual PowerPoint slides with an appropriate number. Based on the participant's description of how they would navigate the platform, the researcher would click the appropriate screen from that PowerPoint slide deck.
Numerous key findings were found for each stage which were used to inform our medium-fidelity prototype.
Our team generated a clickable medium-fidelity prototype in Balsamiq.
Our research found that users want to have the option to browse available scholarships without logging in. On this pre-login page, users can do just that.
The most efficient way for University of Toronto students to activate Aquatica is through their UTOR and JOINID.
A SEARCHLESS PROCESS
Student profiles are generated using the system data from the University of Toronto. Adding more specific information into the tabs, from skills and hobbies to past awards, allows for more specific matches. In Aquatica, no searching is necessary.
Scholarships are matched based on the number of people applying, and how similar the user is to past winners. When hovering over a scholarship, match information is provided.
Selecting the heart icon allows users to bookmark matches.
SEE SCHOLARSHIP DETAILS
For quick reading, scholarships are listed in the same format.
Detailed information is provided on scholarship requirements (under Scholarship information) and previous winners (under Applicant demographics).
Users can store files in Aquatica, from resumes to cover letters. These files are then used in the streamlined application process.
SUBMIT ON ONE PLATFORM
By selecting the application button, users can upload, preview files by application, and submit.
Our team conducted further formative user testing on our medium-fidelity product with four participants. We assessed the ease of use and accessibility, as well as value and desirability using task-based usability testing, and semi-structured pre- and post-test interviews.
EASE OF USE
Our findings suggest that participants found numerous Aquatica features to be desirable. There is a need to reiterate a few of Aquatica's features, which would improve its ease of use and desirability.
REFLECTION AND NEXT STEPS
Our next steps would be to iterate further on our interface design to create a better user experience. From there we would conduct further formative testing. This cycle would be repeated several times based on user feedback. Once a suitable medium-fidelity product is generated, we would begin creating our high-fidelity prototype.
Our team created a solution to a significant student issue. This redesigned solution has numerous well-liked features and a good satisfaction rate. However, it is important for our team to continue to iterate on this project to better meet user needs.
This piece is a reminder of how important user testing and repeat iteration is. Testing in the low and medium fidelity stages gathers a lot of significant information about a product. For this piece even after two stages of user testing, I anticipate another two rounds of user testing.
A second lesson learned from this product is to focus on fewer features for the first iteration. Aquatica focuses on a large volume of student issues within the application process. By focussing on such a large number of features, the testing and iteration cycles need to be repeated a larger number of times, as instead of focussing on getting a narrow set of features right, designers and researchers have their attention divided among many.