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Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

Go and see – principles in practice at the postgraduate open day

We recently spent the day talking to prospective postgraduates and observing them interacting with colleagues during a visit day. It was an eye-opening experience for the team for a number of reasons, and importantly we began putting some important principles into practice.

I recently wrote about the principles I want the Team to work to. The University’s Digital Experience Design Principles puts “Understand our users” at number one, and rightly so. This is fundamental to the development of services that are fit for purpose.

See my post about the importance of principles

But for me, this was also about understanding our colleagues and the business of student recruitment. So our work at the open day was also about the Lean principle of “Genba”, or to translate from the Japanese term coined in the original Toyota process – go and see.

Genba is a Japanese term meaning “the actual place”… In business, genba refers to the place where value is created; in manufacturing the genba is the factory floor.
Wikipedia definition excerpt

Why do this?

While Gayle is our UX Specialist, and ultimately responsible for gathering and sharing user insight, I was really keen to get the whole team out for a number of reasons. I wanted to us all to:

  • get directly in contact with our target audiences, and see first hand how they interact with the University website
  • meet colleagues involved in student recruitment, having a chance to see them in action and learn from them. I also wanted to raise awareness of our existence and the value we put on user research.
  • get some invaluable practice in recruiting students and executing usability tests. I want everyone who works on our team to be proficient at engaging with staff and students to learn directly how effective their work is.
  • gather as much insight as we could, taking full advantage of the opportunity arising from there being thousands of our target audience on site during the postgraduate open day.

Watching service interaction

The thing I found most interesting (because, yes, I was out there recruiting, testing and observing too) was when I hung around with colleagues from the Fees and Scholarships services. After introducing myself, they kindly let me just hang around to watch and listen. It was enlightening to hear both what students were asking in a very natural setting, but also to see how colleagues set about dealing with their queries.

A member of staff answers a student’s question at the open day

Staff from each student facing service were set up to answer queries at the open day. Watching how they interacted provided valuable insight to the team.

If our aim is to make students as self sufficient and independently successful online as possible, this is a critical point of interaction. Oftentimes, they are asking for help because they’ve been unable to confidently self-serve.

We have much to do, both for students and for our colleagues who support them by answering their queries.

What’s next?

We’re currently reviewing the usability testing videos we recorded on the day, and will be inviting colleagues to work with us to prioritise the biggest issues during workshop events early in 2020.

This will give us a good steer on the top issues to fix around the postgraduate fees experience which is a top priority for the new year.


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