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MELBOURNE UNIVERSITY

The Digital Campus



Summary

I was engaged via Loud&Clear to lead an ambitious project from within the University of Melbourne to centralise its various student-facing systems (such as enrolment, library loans, daily calendar, etc) into a single interface to vastly improve the existing student experience.

After three initial research sprints I came up with a concept for an app that would contain all the key functionality a student needs, centred around a “feed” of timely, personalised content that would raise awareness and engagement in appropriate services for each student. This social media-style feed would adapt to student behaviour and highlight content valuable to that student, leaning on similar services such as Facebook and Google Now. In this way the student could have a single app that would bring together their timetable, library loans, social events, extracurricular activities and more, while the university would have the ability to learn from and adapt to the behaviour of their students to improve their offerings.

In addition to this feed, the app would facilitate key student activities such as planning courses, viewing calendars and navigating campus.

The Brief

This project was initially scoped to last 3 sprints, to convert existing research into a design direction. However, the success of our early work resulted in continuous extension of the project, delving into more areas of the university to uncover possibilities for improvements, and ultimately branching out to product management & development.

The central focus of this project was an app concept known as the “Digital Campus”, that would become a one-stop-shop for all student queries. I led a team of designers, solution architects and other UXers through design and testing on this concept, and eventually became Product Owner for a development team tasked with delivering a prototype.

The Story

This project was an exciting opportunity to follow a “purist” design methodology, where the quality of design was the highest priority to the client. Our task was essentially to present an ideal vision of the future, behind which the various departments of the university could gather and develop a coherent digital strategy.

We used a two-week sprint cycle (with showcases every second sprint) to retain velocity and keep the wider university engaged with the project. Our initial focus was on the thorny subject of course planning – a complicated and systems-heavy process for students, and one that causes a huge amount of churn. A combination of co-design, research and user testing resulted in an elegant prototype solution, which allowed students to navigate their course options in a simple step-by-step process.

From here, we moved to tackling the issue of awareness and engagement in university services. Often students are uninformed or unmotivated to engage in services that are highly beneficial to them, resulting in a negative experience and a poor reflection on the university. By centralising the various disparate student databases into a single point of truth, I was able to envision a solution that spotted patterns and opportunities in the data, and provided students with personalised recommendations for services at the appropriate times. For instance, if an international student was receiving low scores in written essays the university could recommend essay writing workshops or supplementary language education.

After 12 sprints of research and design work, in which I engaged widely with faculty and over 40 students across multiple schools, we were tasked with developing a working prototype. I then led a team of UXers, UI designers, project managers and developers through a six-week rapid prototyping phase, resulting in a fully-functional prototype Android app.

The Outcome

Despite originally being scoped at only 3 sprints of UX work, this project ended up being one of the most fertile and lucrative for Loud&Clear in the entire agency. It spawned three side projects and became instrumental in winning work with other universities across Australia. Although development was sadly paused due to internal personnel changes, departments across the university are now excited and engaged in the possibilities of design thinking and the richer possibilities inherent in good student experience.