How might we help UBC students decide on which electives to take?
Timeline: Oct 2017-Apr 2018
My Role: Design Lead
Tools: Adobe XD, Illustrator
My Role: Design Lead
Tools: Adobe XD, Illustrator
Recourse is an Android mobile application that helps UBC students to make a more informed choice for elective courses. Users can post comments, insights and advice for other students. The app was created to curate the overwhelming amount of courses available.
This was a project created within UBC Launch Pad, a student-run software engineering club.
As our team was designated as an Android team, we were limited in platforms for this project. Additionally, as we are unaffiliated with UBC, we were unable to implement sign in with CWL (Campus Wide Login) to automatically load in student data. Without CWL, one cannot directly register in a course on the app.
This meant that Recourse would have to work alongside the existing website. We also needed a workaround for collecting a student's schedule - we accomplished this by requiring an iCal file to be uploaded to the app.
The current way to find your perfect elective has many pain points. When you hear about a good course via word of mouth, its hard to remember the course code, and the integrity of the recommendation is questionable. When searching for courses on your own, UBC shows all courses in an extensive list that becomes overwhelming to browse, putting the user in a state of analysis paralysis.
When navigating the UBC Course page on mobile, a student cannot see whether they are able to register in a course until they tap 2 levels down in the navigation. Next, they will constantly navigate back and forth between these 3 pages to browse courses.
The 3 taps to go into course, and back 3 taps to see subjects again gets tedious quickly. Multiple tabs could be opened on the mobile browser, but can become difficult to navigate when many pages are open.
The search page lends itself better to very specific searching. However, when choosing electives, a student does not know exactly what they are looking for. While this search page allows them to set filters (ie. Wednesday afternoons only) there is a possibility they would want to drop a class in order to take another one.
While a similar product - the popular website RateMyProf - also has a review system, Recourse provides curated courses for each individual user. Curation is based off of whether they have friends in the course, the content of previous courses they've taken, and tags they often use. By replacing the existing approach of asking your friends one-on-one via word of mouth, the user is now able to access their entire network.
Choosing electives is hard. There are many factors to consider that affect a student's ability to take the course as well as their motivation to attend class. How do students make their decisions? I asked them to rank their top considerations, then organized them into two sections:
These considerations informed the information hierarchy for each course card. After exploring a variety of options, I settled on a layout that reflected these insights.
Multiple Card System
How can decision making be translated into visual design? Keeping Hick's Law in mind, I opted for the multi-card approach because of Recourse's emphasis on curation. Less options can be shown because the courses that appear are the courses the user wants to see. Multi-card systems emphasize browsing over searching, which corresponds to the target user's behaviour.
New users are required to connect to Facebook and upload their schedule before seeing course suggestions. This allows them to reap one of the largest benefits from the app - the ability to see what courses their friends are taking. By avoiding course conflicts, a common pain point is averted.
See Friends in Class
Students can click into their profile to see what courses their friends are interested in, registered in, and have taken in the past. This information can also be accessed on the 'Friends' tab of a course page.
The main parameters for each course are easiness and quality of content, which follow the hierarchy of motivations that users prioritize when choosing courses. By showing questions one at a time, cognitive load is reduced while the likelihood of completion increases.
A single free-form text field for keywords replaces the 13 form fields on the original UBC Course website. Instead, user generated tags can be selected, which show examples of what can be used as a filter, as well as allow easy access to most commonly used parameters.
I aimed to communicate dynamism in my design elements to convey Recourse's mission to redirect and rethink what educational tools have to look like. As course scheduling isn't the most exciting activity, life is added into the app through arrows, gradients, vibrant colours, and energetic animations.
However, upon first hearing our app name, research participants believed it involved redoing or retaking a course. As I have never failed or retaken a course, I had not thought of this possible connotation, which was a welcome reminder to check my biases even though I am within our user group.
If I had more time with this project, I'd like it to be an all-encompassing solution for the course registration process. This would involve integrating a course scheduler to show different variations of what the student's schedule could look like, as well as a notification system for when spots open in courses.
Working in a software development club, there was a large emphasis on immediately starting development. To advocate for the best implementation for the user, I learned to communicate the importance and reasoning behind my design decisions even if they extended the development process.