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pratika.appaiah@gmail.com​  |  571-234-7345

© 2019 Pratika Appaiah

CampusConnect

Encouraging college students to participate in clubs, organizations, and events

practiced skills:   research + strategy  |   concepting  |  rapid prototyping  |  design  |  user testing 

tools used:    sketch  |  photoshop  |  illustrator |  invision

THE ASK

Design an experience for new students to browse, search, and propose new student organizations.

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THE SOLUTION

A touchscreen interface that allows students to discover organizations and events on campus.

Research

I began the process by trying to completely understand the needs of students living and attending classes on campus. After talking to 12 different students, I began noticing a pattern in the way they receive their information about organizations and events, as well as how often they actually attend events and club meetings throughout the semester.

THE

INTERVIEW

(Click through for detailed responses)

Key Takeaways

  • Students don't just need a way to search and propose organizations – discovering events and activities around campus is just as important to raise awareness about the available organizations they can join

  • Organizations and clubs are introduced to students at the start of every semester at an event called the SOVO fair. This fair has hundreds of booths featuring every single VCU-affiliated organization. Students can sign up to be members of these clubs at the fair if they choose

  • The SOVO fair only takes place at the beginning of the semester. A lot of students are not quite ready to join a club at the start of the semester. But that ends up being their only opportunity to discover clubs 

  • VCU already provides a service for students to browse through events and organizations. The service is called RamsConnect and is available online. Unfortunately, it's not publicized as much as it should be, and students rarely use it

  • Clubs share their events and activities on campus by posting fliers across campus. However, most students don't pay attention to these fliers and posters

  • 8 out of the 12 students I interviewed were not currently a part of any organization.
    5 out of the 8 students who are not part of any organization were interested in joining, either this semester or next

  • An organization needs to have a minimum of 8 members to be funded by VCU and registered as a part of the university. Many new organizations end up not surviving more than a few semesters because member-retention is low. The biggest reason for this is the lack of awareness, especially for clubs that form in the middle of the semester and do not have the opportunity to represent themselves at the SOVO fair

Opportunities

Based on the interviews and consequent research, I was

able to narrow down my findings into three different opportunities 

  1. Find a simpler way for students to discover clubs and organizations

2.  Find a way to feature brand new niche clubs               who are looking to increase membership

3.  Engage with students by publicizing events that       are happening on campus throughout the week

Personas

I developed three unique personas to help me with my design decisions along the way and to help me narrow down my target audience. Each persona focused on one of the three challenges I was trying to solve for.

JOINING A CLUB

STARTING A CLUB

GROWING A CLUB

An exploration of different solutions

for different audiences

I began brainstorming by first sketching out 8 different solutions to the problem at hand.

These solutions included: a chatbot built to help students find the perfect organization, an online message board to bring students with mutual interests together, and a counseling-like service provided by VCU students to help new  students find the right organization for them.

The solution I chose was the one that took into account all

three of the challenges/personas that I was trying to solve for.

Three distinct solutions, one platform

  1. Discover hundreds of organizations

  2. Learn how to create/register your own organization

  3. Find out about all the events that clubs across campus are hosting

I broke down these three ideas even further while designing 

the prototype for a touchscreen monitor:

  • Browse through all the available organizations on campus

  • Filter search results based on categories

  • Search events happening by date

  • Highlight new organizations that were recently formed to raise awareness

  • Student ID scanner to allow for simplified contact/inquiry between
    student and organization 

Flows + Annotations

BROWSE

ORGANIZATIONS

REGISTER NEW

ORGANIZATIONS

BROWSE

EVENTS

Locational Context

Ideally, this interactive display would be installed at the University Student Commons. It's the central location on campus where all student tours, orientations, and organizations meet. The Commons also houses the offices that are in charge of registering organizations, student government, and organization membership.

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User Testing

I had the opportunity to user test my concept and inVision prototype with seven students. Based on how they interacted with the prototype and their general feedback, I came to the realization that my next version for this would have a fair amount of revisions. Here’s what I would like to update:

 

  • Add filters to events so that students have the option to browse events/activities based on their interests, similar to how they would
    search organizations

  • Add contact information for each organization, just in case students don’t have their student ID cards on them

  • Incorporate images/logos for each organization so it isn’t as text-heavy

  • Make the “back” button a little more prominent on each screen

  • Filter events by importance

  • Give the user more information about each event if they were to click on it. Maybe include a map of where it will take place, consider an RSVP button, and add iconography for the perks of each event (free food, free swag, etc.)

  • Incorporate micro-interactions at the confirmation page after the student swipes their card 

Reflections + Future Considerations

I created this model for VCU, but could see this being used at other universities as well,

but branded accordingly. 

 

This interactive model was created primarily for awareness and discovery on campus. However, I think it should also exist on multiple platforms, as a website or as an application. By doing so, the students have the opportunity to personalize their experience. As an app, CampusConnect could send the user push notifications about events that line up with their interests, or automatically add meetings and events to their calendars.

I really enjoyed working on this exercise. My favorite part of the process was learning 

about the needs of the students. Hearing what they had to say made me realize that there are so many unique fixes that were needed to make the experience useful and beneficial to them. If given the time, I would have loved to get the perspective of more students, as well as professors and heads of different organizations.

I also enjoyed using my past experience as an Environmental Graphic Designer to create a tactile, dimensional concept of what the space surrounding the interactive screens could

look like.

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