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Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

The future of postgraduate taught programmes online provision (event summary)

On 13 December 2023, we hosted an update event on the progress our team has made in designing the new postgraduate taught page template for the new degree finder. This post gives a summary of the event, with access to the event slides and recording.

Slides and recording

Slides: The future of postgraduate taught programmes online provision​ (University login needed)

Recording of 13 December 2023 postgraduate taught update event on Media Hopper

View the content model and prototype

Our content model is a spreadsheet giving a detailed breakdown of every component of the new postgraduate taught programme page.

View the postgraduate taught content model (University login needed)

Our prototype is our first pass at what the design of the postgraduate taught programme page will look like.

View the postgraduate taught prototype on Miro

Questions for staff on the prototype

On the prototype you’ll see questions in blue post-its: these are questions we’d like school- and college-based staff input on to help us improve our design.  You can provide answers to these through our form for this.

Answer our questions for staff about the prototype (University login needed)

Register interest in our school collaboration sessions

Following this event, we’re now looking to collaborate with school- or college-based degree finder editors to improve the design of the PGT programme page.

  • What we’re doing: Taking you through our prototype in detail and raising any opportunities or concerns to better address the requirements of your programmes
  • Who can join: School- or college-based editor of PGT programmes in the degree finder
  • When: 90-minute session in the last two weeks of January

Sign up to collaborate with us (University login need)

Event summary

The event covered:

  • an overview of the project and an update on most recent activity
  • creating the content model for postgraduate taught programme pages
  • user research summary
  • our work-in-progress prototype for postgraduate taught programme pages

Overview of the project and an update on most recent activity

We’re now in year two of a three-year project to transform the central provision for prospective students, including our degree finders. While last year we focused on the undergraduate prospective student experience, this year we have turned our attention to postgraduate students.

Our updated project timelines are now:

  • Undergraduate
    • Summer 2024: Release of new degree finder system to school-based editors
    • March 2025: Go-live of new web presence
  • Postgraduate
    • Summer 2025: Release of new degree finder system to school-based editors
    • October 2025: Go-live of new web presence 

Creating the content model for postgraduate taught programme pages

A content model breaks down the content you have into its component parts. In the case of our postgraduate taught (PGT) content model, this means listing the components that will make up the new PGT programme page and describing them.

We call these components attributes.

Auditing PGT content

Our first step in creating the model was to audit PGT content across the University web estate.

Our goal was to identify what content might be beneficial in a new postgraduate degree finder to better serve prospective student needs.

We audited:

  • the content in the current postgraduate degree finder for taught programmes
  • a selection of 12 school websites from across the three colleges
  • central service areas that deal with prospective students (for example, tuition fees, scholarships and funding, international applicants)
  • postgraduate taught sections of our central postgraduate study site

What we found was that:

  • the current postgrad degree finder has a lot of content gaps compared with undergraduate degree finder
  • the Applying section does not have enough space in the current degree finder
  • central services often mix the UG and PG (or taught and research) experience

Read a more detailed summary of our PGT content audit

Building the first iteration of the model

While conducting the content audit, we generated a list of attributes and used this as the starting basis of the PGT content model​.

We then audited other university degree finders (and further audited our web estate) to find other attributes and gather ideas of how these could be displayed​.

We logged the attributes and details about them into a spreadsheet, answering questions like:

  • is the attribute compulsory
  • who writes the content for the attribute
  • what does the attribute look like.

We then had to refine our ideas to align with the user research done on PGT students.

User research

Through research with PGT students, we wanted to learn:

  • how they approach finding and applying for a PGT programme
  • what information they look for and prioritise most highly

This would help inform our content model and how to structure information on the programme page.

What we did

Card sorting

We conducted a card sorting activity with participants. Card sorting helps us learn what our users think about the terminology we use for our attributes and how we group them.

We gave each participant a list of 80 items of information, which we asked them to sort into 9 categories we set for them. The 9 categories were based on the subsections we proposed for PGT programme pages.

Semi-structured interviews

We also held semi-structured interviews with the card sorted. Semi-structured interview provides the flexibility to follow up in any area where we want to dig deeper into something we have observed.

In the interviews we asked participants:

  • to show us how they used the programme page to make their decision to apply
  • about a range of different items and categories in the card sort activity
  • to tell us what were the top 5 items of information from the card sort activity when applying for a programme

Who we conducted research with

We conducted research with:

  • 5 full-time UK on-campus students
  • 4 part-time international online students
  • 2 full-time international on-campus students

What we found out

This is a high-level summary of the insight we gained from our research​. There will be a more thorough dissemination of research findings early next year​.

We learned:

  • what information was most useful to student when applying
    • what you will study
    • how you will study
    • entry requirements
    • what you can do with this degree
    • how online learning works (for online learning participants only)
  • international students expect to be told what requirements they need to meet
  • PGT students use careers information to understand if a programme will get them to where they want to go
  • students look for the ‘real’ experience but not on the University website
  • students use the information in the Degree Programme Tables (DPTs) but it’s difficult to navigate and understand
  • participants reported growing anxiety during this post-application stage due to void of communication and were unsure if they needed to get in touch
  • participants expected to see information relating to the cost of studying within a single category

We used these findings to refine the content model by:

  • adding or removing attributes
  • changing the structure and/or prioritisation of content

Creating the prototype for PGT programme pages

We then translated our refined content model into a prototype.

We did this by gathering content for all relevant attributes according to the refined content model for three programmes:

  • Biodiversity, Wildlife and Ecosystem Health (Online Learning) MSc, PgDip (ICL), PgCert (ICL), PgCert, PgDip, PgProfDev 
  • Service Management and Design MSc, PgDip (ICL), PgCert
  • Marine Systems and Policies MSc 

We chose these programmes to include a mix from different colleges and feature different delivery study options.

With the content in hand, we held a series of prototyping sessions where we designed the interface for each attribute.

Sections of the new PGT page

The sections mirror what is in our undergraduate beta pages, with some slight changes to accommodate for PGT-specific features and insights from the card sorting:

  • Metadata: high-level key details like school, college, awards, study options
  • Overview: intro to programme and space for programme benefits and rankings
  • Fees, costs and funding
  • Entry requirements
  • Programme details: info on what you study in the programme, teaching, assessment, facilities
  • Online learning: only to be filled in for online programmes describing how it works
  • Career paths and further study
  • Applying
  • Life at Edinburgh: on-campus life info, not to be used for online programmes
  • Contact and events (and footer elements): for both programme and generic contact info and open days

See our current content model and prototype

View the postgraduate taught content model (University login needed)

View the postgraduate taught prototype on Miro

Impact of these changes

The new PGT page aims to have the space and features need to host all your programme-specific content. The main exception to this would be graduate/alumni profiles we’d still expect school sites to host.

The responsibility for content and current PG workflow will be the same or similar.

There is no immediate action for school-based editors to take, but start thinking about what content you have on your school site that could incorporate into the new PGT template instead.

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