Immigration project sprint 4 recap: new content for Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) and financial requirements
During the 2-week sprint 4 of our Student Immigration Service project, we developed new Certificate of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) content and tested the changes with University staff. In addition, we started work on new content for student visa financial requirements.
User stories for sprint 4
Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
A CAS is an electronic document that generates a reference number needed in student visa applications.
The user stories about CAS covered incoming students wanting to know:
- what they need to do to get a CAS
- when to expect their draft CAS
- what to do if they receive their CAS number but then notice that their details in the CAS are incorrect
In many cases, students must show documents that they meet financial criteria to study in the UK as part of their visa application.
The user stories for this topic covered students wanting to know:
- who needs to submit financial documents with their visa application
- the criteria to meet the visa financial requirements (including documents needed, acceptable account types and for how long the funds need to be held)
What we did
Creating a new CAS section
After we agreed on the user stories with the SIS team, we carried out a full review of the content and explored the issues for incoming and current students in an ideation and prototyping workshop. This was followed by gathering and exchanging ideas for headings, content changes and a new structure.
We created new webpages for the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), split into information for:
- new students
- current students
- deferred students
- pre-sessional students
Freya also rewrote the site’s existing CAS page for current students. She shifted the focus to what to do if you need more time to finish or extend your studies. This was because not every student in this scenario will need a CAS, and if they do, they might not know that they need a CAS.
We reviewed the entire new content with the SIS team to ensure the accuracy of the information.
Usability testing the content with staff
We tested two versions of the CAS content in research interviews with University staff. We reviewed the insights during a playback session with the SIS team and significantly changed the design to mitigate issues we saw in testing.
Developing new content for financial requirements
Additionally, we started to create new content for the financial requirements for students. We set out with an ideation and prototyping workshop to gather and exchange ideas for improvements and the future structure.
Initially we progressed the work individually and created three separate design ideas. We then combined our ideas into one draft with the help of peer reviews and reviews with the SIS team.
This work continued into sprint 5.
What we learned
Dividing content by audience lets users interact with only the content they need
We significantly changed the structure of the CAS content following our usability tests with University staff. The previous webpage was text heavy. Students would have to work out which information applied to their situation and key information was not easily identifiable.
Other University webpages display information for undergraduates and postgraduates separately. As students expect content to be divided this way, we mirrored this approach for the new student CAS content to help their orientation.
Listing out steps is easier to follow than a page of subheadings
Previously the CAS page described the process using subheadings and bullet points. All the information was there, but we found that test participants had trouble understanding how the process worked.
We moved to listing the individual steps of the process on the new student CAS webpages for undergraduate and postgraduate students. This allows students to get an overview before looking further into the process and at required actions. Additional information for some of the steps is then available by expanding collapsible headings (accordions).
We need to plan for technical issues on go live days
A detailed plan for the go live date ensures all aspects are covered and every member of the team knows what to take care of. It makes it easier to carry out the required tasks quickly and in a coordinated way.
However, we experienced unexpected EdWeb performance issues on the day we wanted to publish the new CAS content. Due to the potential risk of subsequent issues, we adopted a staged approach for the publication of the new pages.
We realised that we needed to establish a SIS contact for the go-live dates in case these types of scenarios require last-minute decisions on how to proceed.
How this work informed the next stage of the process
We changed a few ways of working following sprint 4. For the next sprints, we:
- worked closely with the Student Immigration Service to come up with more detailed scenarios for usability testing and refine test scripts
- copied the scenario and task into the Teams chat during research interviews so that the participant could easily refer back to the information
- carried out quality assurance (QA) checks for the new content before going live to have the best chance of a smooth and error free transition
You can read more about this project in our Student Immigration Project sprint recap posts.