Sprint 8 interim update: A new fees site takes shape
We have had to adjust our plans to accommodate recent disruption and working from home. But we’re back on track with new timelines, and provided updates on student-focused content being delivered, changes to enquiry channelling and improvements to programme fees tables.
Sprint focus: Build a new site for Student Fees, changing associated content on the central studying website, and communicate guidance to schools-based web publishers.
Dates: 23 March – 7 April (12 working days to interim check point)
Due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 virus, we opted to extend the length of our final scheduled sprint working with the Fees Service team.
Sprint 8 will run until 1 May. This is too long a period to operate without our usual formal review point, so we put in this interim update to ensure all stakeholders were briefed on progress.
Initial focus for Sprint 8
The check-in was a welcome opportunity to take stock of where we are, being about half-way through our final sprint and delivery of an improved fees experience for prospective students (scheduled for early May).
We set out on the first-half of this extended sprint to:
- Deliver our first batches of critical content areas of the site
- Identify and test a new technical approach to the integration of tuition fee rates information into the website
- Develop a new approach to channelling and categorising enquiries from staff and students which will support greater self service
New content designed for student needs
We reported on some of the key content areas that were approaching completion and ready for the Fees Service team to do a final review.
- Fees status – students don’t always understand the purpose of a fees status assessment, or when and how it happens.
- Paying your fees – students can have concerns about how and when to pay fees at times, and contact the Fees Service when they need to be speaking to the Finance Department.
- Fee policy – students are put off interacting with policy information because of its complex and dense structure, and then make enquiries that they could’ve answered themselves.
Improvements to fees tables
The Scholarships and Student Funding website contains a large amount of fees data going back around ten years. We have seen students encounter significant usability problems with these enormous tables, and our technical review identified opportunities to improve their management by making better use of EdWeb’s functionality.
At this review we were able to:
- Explain our rationale for making changes to both the technical management and the user interface design of these tables, and confirm the Fees Service team were comfortable with this.
- Demonstrate a functioning prototype that we intend to test with people to inform refinement of the interface. (In normal circumstances, this would’ve been current students but we are going to have to settle for colleagues playing a role this time).
- Show how our approach to filtering tables of fees reduces the need to work on the existing fees search feature, which also needs significant improvement work. We agreed to park the fees search, and investigate use of the University search engine at a later date.
Channelling enquiries more effectively
The Fees Service fields a significant number of email enquiries year-on-year, and at present website visitors are directed to a single email address. This causes the service several problems:
- It’s time consuming to monitor the quantity and nature of enquiries.
- It’s impossible to steer enquirers to provide specific information, which often means multiple emails to-and-fro before the query can be resolved.
- Enquiries for other teams get bundled into fees-related emails which then need to be forwarded on or addressed.
- Enquirers often send emails asking questions that they could’ve answered themselves more quickly via the website.
This check-in provided an update on our work to address these issues through the use of EdWeb CMS form functionality.
To ensure we can build the most effective enquiry form, we’ve been reviewing historical enquiry data and working with the Fees Service to classify all the most common enquiry themes. This has now been summarised, with form fields defined so that the student only needs to provide the information essential to getting their enquiry dealt with.
We’ve also confirmed the website content the Fees Service would like a student to have interacted with, before getting in touch. Measuring this pre-enquiry interaction with the website is going to be fundamental to ongoing improvement which will help reduce unnecessary enquiries and increase self-service.
Next step is to build the enquiry form and test it with users.
Our extended Sprint 8 continues, with a little under three weeks of activities left – culminating in the launch of a new standalone fees website.
We’ll have another interim check-in in a couple of weeks, by which point we expect the nearing delivery. Beyond this, we also need to:
- Agree a responsibility matrix for ongoing management, which in future will be across both our teams
- Develop guidance to schools-based web publishers so that they can adjust their content for prospective students to reflect this new provision
- Enhance website search results so the most relevant pages for all popular fees-related search terms appear top of the page
Track our progress sprint-by-sprint
We’re summarising our work as we go, so everyone knows what we’re doing (and what we’re not).
If you’ve any questions, get in touch.