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Research Notes


How might we design an experience for new students to browse, search and propose new student organizations.

I chose the challenge of creating an experience for students to browse, search and propose new student organizations because it's an area I have extensive experience in and it has been an integral part of the college experience for me. I focused on addressing the 3 key issues outlined in the challenge as well as any additional concerns that I found while collaborating with the Sheridan Interaction Design Association (IXDA), a Sheridan College student organization that focuses on assisting students in the Sheridan IXD program.

The Problem

Postsecondary education is becoming increasingly popular and with over 2 Million Canadians enrolling in postsecondary education in 2017, this doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon.

Out of these 2 Million students, hundreds of thousands are relocating from different cities, provinces and countries to pursue their dreams and for many of them this will be their first time living away from home. Living in a new place, making new friends and starting a new degree can be extremely challenging but thankfully there are hundreds of student organizations at colleges and universities across Canada that help make this transition easier.

Creating an accessible experience that allows students to browse, join and create organizations will help new students find friends with mutual interests and quickly adjust to their new environment.

My Connection

From August 2015 - April 2018 I was a member of the Sheridan Interaction Design Association (IXDA) in the role of VP of events (2015) and Vice President (2017 & 18). Each year we organized and ran a variety of events for the Interaction Design (IXD) program and worked to create a lasting organizational structure inside IXD.

A major challenge we encountered each year was not having a central platform (apart from facebook) where members could learn about events and discover the organization. This forced us to put more time and effort into spreading information and growing the organization than actually running it.

User Study

To give me a better idea of the people I'm designing for and to help guide my solution I explored what issues students face when creating and joining school organizations. Using my past experience with school clubs as a starting point I interviewed 4 classmates that are participants or organizers of student run school organizations.

Talking to my classmates helped me hammer down 3 key areas of possible improvement in addition to the challenge objectives.

Organizing events around schedules
Forms being overly complicated
Spreading the word of organizations to students

Talking to my classmates showed me how broad the demographics of students are and that everyone has a unique goal when approaching a school club or organization.

Three of my interviewees joined & started organizations to meet people with shared interests, these three users were also the subjects that did not originally come from within an hour of Sheridan College. This showed me that students who are new to an area will make more of an effort to make new friends and get involved in school activities than students who have a pre-existing friend group in the area.

Research Notes
Snapshot of my notebook after conducting my first two interviews.
Students are not just your average 19-25 year olds, they're people from around the world, all walks of life and ages 1-100.

Current Products

Almost every school offers some kind of school organization website and before I moved into prototyping, I explored a few different pages from schools around Ontario.

Most schools share a number of similarities in the way they present student organizations, providing a brief description and contact information. I hypothesized that this comes from school websites often being built by service providers who focus on education sites and will use a similar template for different schools, changing only what's necessary.

An issue all the current sites failed to address is that student organizations are bigger than just one school! Organizations such as Toastmasters are a staple of campuses around the world and schools should embrace this and work towards connecting students with organizations across the country.

Research Notes
Screenshots of the student organizations pages from Queens University, University of Waterloo & Sheridan College


Moving into prototyping my goal was to create a simple and intuitive experience that exceeded the deliverables outlined in the challenge. I identified 7 primary screens that would encompass the majority of the users interactions and roughly sketched them out to ensure all the functionality I wanted was there

Research Notes

The home screen allows users to browse organizations, filter from the overall list, search for other organizations as well as propose the creation of a new organization. This connects to the individual display which provides an in-depth description of the organization, their meeting times and past events and lets users join the organization. Users are also given the opportunity to login with their institute login (SSO) and then have access to their personal profile and synced Google Calendar which allows them to join clubs and events, directly adding them to their calendar and ensuring there are no conflicts with their pre-existing schedule.

On the proposal / creation screen, I made use of a principle called Progressive Disclosure which focuses on providing smaller amounts of information to a user at a time to keep them engaged and feeling in control of the experience.

This creation screen also makes use of a conversational form, stepping outside of a normal questionnaire or online form, this design engages users by using prompts such as "Hey, what's your name?", "Thanks for that Sean! Could you tell me a bit about the organization you're interested in creating".

Research Notes

Translating the sketches to graybox prototypes gives me the opportunity to double check dimensions, finalize the layout and get feedback from potential users before adding color and graphics. I also use the graybox stage to check off all my boxes for potential features and functionality, double checking that I didn't forget anything during the transition from paper to digital.

Research Notes

The final high fidelity mockups bring the graybox prototypes to life and simplified the functionality I planned in previous mockups. The final flow focused on students at my college, Sheridan College, using their single sign on (SSO) and drawing inspiration from a number of student organizations.

I had a ton of fun working on this challenge and I look forward to a future where schools around the world to embrace a platform that connects students with organizations that match their interests!

Looking Back

I would have loved to spend more time on user research and learning more about how students interact with school organizations. This wasn't possible because of the short turnaround on this challenge but I hope to explore this concept further over the next few months.

I would also like to explore other possible integrations of the Google ecosystem into the product outside of Google Calendar. I think there's great potential for integrating the concept into google's preexisting Google Classroom's which is becoming widely adopted around the world.