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Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

Design sprint 3 prototype walkthrough

In sprint 3 we generated an idea to test around helping students to understand the potential costs associated with studying for a degree, and how these can change based on decisions they make.

This post is part of a series, summarising our learning as we prototyped and tested potential future features for prospective students.

See the full video series list

Sprint goals

Our goal in this sprint was to establish whether students would value being able to calculate their total cost of study, if presented with a breakdown of costs – whether certain, variable or estimated.

How we built the prototype

We used the interactive prototyping software Axure to build this prototype. As we weren’t considering presentational design at this point, we kept the interface looking broadly as it does in the existing degree finders.

We considered different ways to present questions to the applicants and provide them with the relevant fees based on their answers, we prototyped one of these ways.

The approach we chose to test was a component which presents a sequence of questions individually, in a sequence, displaying the responses given. This approach is one that has been developed and refined by the Government Digital Service, and appears as a digital service design pattern in their Design System.

See the “Check a service is suitable” pattern in the Government Digital Service Design System

How we presented to students

To explore the effectiveness across different fee statuses and study modes we tested 2 scenarios for an international taught postgraduate student: compare fees for the following

  1. Scenario 1: Studying online
    1. Full-time over 1 year
    2. Part-time over 3 years
  2. Scenario 2: Studying on campus
    1. Full-time over 1 year
    2. Part-time over 3 years

In both scenarios they were looking to start in studying in the next academic year.

Prototype scenario video walkthrough

In this video, Nicola gives a tour of the prototype service interface we created in this sprint. She highlights the key features, how we intended it to work and our rationale.

The prototype was developed in little over a day with contributions from the whole team, using everything we learned from the previous week’s research and the contributions of our subject matter experts during the sprint workshops.

What we learned from testing our ideas for sprint 3

While the fees estimator prototype was based on functionality used in the pattern library our research suggested that for comparing fees depending on different criteria it is not ideal.

  • The display of the breakdown of tuition fees was helpful: participants found the breakdown information useful and clearly laid out. They understood and appreciated that the total was estimated due to yearly fee increases.
  • Clarity on yearly increases: although it was clear to participants that fees increased every year some did question what caused this and why it had to happen.
  • Further explanation needed: some participants wanted an explanation of what they are paying for – rather than just being presented with a number. What the tuition fees cover and what they don’t.
  • Multiple steps, multiple times: Participants felt there were too many steps to get an answer and had to repeat this to be able to compare other costs. They wanted to see all the values in one area, side by side, or in a table. This could have been influenced by the task we gave them.
  • Other student costs: There was an expectation to see other costs other than tuition fees such as field trip and course materials. Accommodation and living costs are also major considerations when it comes to costs and are important when factoring the total cost of study.

What we learned – video walkthrough

In this video, Nicola runs through the prototype service interface highlighting the aspects that worked particularly well for the students we tested with, and the aspects that confused them or didn’t meet their expectations.

Read more

Read more about the user research done in this sprint on the Future Students blog

List of all design sprint summary videos

All blog posts about our degree finder design sprints


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