Moneythink: Progress Tracker
The college enrollment process is long and arduous. There are various deadlines, many forms to submit which makes it an overwhelming experience for many college-going students, especially if you and/or your family comes from a low-income or first-generation background. DecidED empowers students to take control over their journey and choose the college that is most affordable to them. Since the journey is so long and tiring, students from this population often get lost and end up dropping out of the process and are never able to attend college to better their lives. Students who have the support of their advisor fall off track less, thus DecidED also offers a webapp for advisors to utilize. This feature was born out of simple exploratory research, and changed to unearth a larger systems issue.
Given that student’s upload their award letter in late March, how might we best encourage students to stay on track in their enrollment journey?
Lead Product Designer and Lead Researcher
WHAT DID THE SOLUTION ACHIEVE?
- Uncovered a larger service design and systems issue from researching with a new population
- Increased educator user sign ups for the Advisor App
- decreased internal staff time to train Advisors to use the product
- Influenced an organizational wide shift and change to start our onboarding process months earlier for a deeper impact on our users which has lead to an increase in engagement
- Validated product after one year of the MVP being in use for usability updates
Service Design Approach
This problem called for a new way of looking at the college enrollment process. I decided to focus on the advisor experience to better unlock the largest systems issue. I felt that there were a lot of unknowns in the college enrollment journey and I wanted to ask the experts. The research that took place was very exploratory and only during the research process did I land on the true problem that I was seeing, which was that advisors had no way of seeing where their students were at in their college enrollment journey. Using a service design approach, I was able to unlock the larger systemic problem that was present which I will talk more about later.
I served as the lead UX researcher for this project and facilitated all interviews as well as lead operations.
Identify current DecidED advisor pain points within the app
Understand Advisors workflow and work stream of their current process (either with or without DecidED)
Validate the share notes feature and understand other feature needs
Define why Advisors do not currently use our tool
I used both qualitative and quantitative methods in order to conduct this research. I conducted interviews via Zoom with 8 educators who have all signed up for our product but were not actually using it.
Advisor support needs: Currently Advisors feel a bit lost in the app, which was shown in some of our usability test results and general feedback. All advisors expressed a need/want for training outside of the demos they have attended.
A new level of stress: The constant shift between remote school vs hybrid models has orgs scrambling for ways to reach their students. This has left advisors feeling jumbled and at a loss for how to engage their students through the various technology platforms they currently use.
Feeling Lost: Advisors are constantly wondering what progress their students have made. Most of their time is spent going back and forth with students/other advisors to identify where in the “roadmap” a student is currently at.
As a researcher, I kept hearing the same things. Both students and advisors were pressed for time and also really stressed during the virtual pandemic. With all the overwhelming deadlines, and many tools that they are mandated to use, students and advisors felt lost and needed guidance.
DEFINE PHASE, A SERVICE DESIGN MAP
The Advisor web app had only been launched for one full year prior to me joining the team and there was not a service design map or research done to validate the tool. In this map I show all the other competing factors that are present for these educators. Since the tool is “seasonal” being that advisors always see the tool being used best in May and June, however they need support in the Fall. This is an interesting system challenge because the system of providing support to college students was failing for both educators and students.
Wireframes & Testing
As shown in the service design map, and research, advisors needed a reason to showcase the tool in the fall. Research shows that well informed college lists allow a student to apply to a greater subset of schools that can best fit their needs. Other tools out there are muddled with tons of misinformation, schools that pay for appealing reviews and students are left with more questions than answers. Additionally, prior to this progress tracker - there was no symbiotic flow that an advisor would have to know where students are on their journey.
So, where does design come in? I started to think through how we might better showcase important fall deadlines that allow students and advisors to stay on track. Covid had caused people to be tucked away in their homes, doing this journey on their own.
There was also a major business and organization need that encouraged advisors to incentive either students for taking action in the tool. However, this did not yet exist in our product - so to an advisor view point, our tool didn't make much sense.
I went through several iterations, and realized that I needed to design a whole new page where students can see ALL colleges on their list vs scrolling through the tool bar. I also needed to change the navigation bar a bit to showcase the new my colleges page and my progress page.
I took these wireframes and did a round of usability testing prior to the handoff to my engineers. The tests and really well and I learned that this progress tracker allowed both students and advisors to keep track of their progress.
The timing of this launch was the biggest constraint. We launched this design in spring of 2022 and heard amazing reviews from advisors and students, however to really quantify the impact we need to wait for a full academic season where the design is already implemented.
CONCLUSION AND SUCCESS
This design change was actually a full organizational change. We decided to shift our approach to the service of our tool, and I collaborated with our partnerships / sales team to ensure this narrative made sense for our users. I had to research key deadline moments that usually our user stops out of the tool but also stops out of enrolling in college all together.
Now, we as an organization were better able to measure the success of our tool. Prior to this tracker we had no idea where students went to school. Now we are able t o see if students picked the most affordable tool. We used sweepstakes to encourage students to confirm enrollment.
This design was a major success and is now in further iterations in order to add more deadlines, and more milestones to encourage advisors and students to use the tool. This was also a huge success to exploratory research and for us as a team asking the right questions and understanding a deep need that our advisors did not know they really had.