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Future student online experiences

Future student online experiences

Sharing the work of the Prospective Student Web Content Team

Our working design of postgraduate research programme pages (event summary)

On 25 March 2024, we hosted an update event on the progress our team has made in designing the new postgraduate research 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: Our working design of postgraduate research programme pages​ (University login needed)

Recording of 25 March 2024 postgraduate research 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 research (PGR) programme page.

View the postgraduate research content model (University login needed)

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

View the postgraduate research page prototype on Miro

Event summary

The event covered:

  • an overview of the collaborative sessions to design the postgraduate research programme page​
  • our work-in-progress prototype for postgraduate research programme pages
  • what’s next for postgraduate research design

Collaborative sessions to design the postgraduate research programme page​

The PGR design journey timeline

  • Summer 2023: user research on the PGR applicant experience
  • September 2023: PGR content audit
  • October 2023: PGR content modelling
  • December 2023: playback of PGR user research, where we invited staff to sign up for collaboration sessions to help design PGR programme page
  • February 2024: school/college collaboration sessions to design PGR programme page

Content auditing

As the user research was finishing up, we audited PGR content across various platforms to identify what content might be beneficial in a new postgraduate degree finder. This included looking at:

  • the current degree finder​
  • school, college and Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) sites​
  • central service areas

What we learned was:

  • the current PGR degree finder pages have a lot of empty fields compared to PGT​
  • school sites are used more heavily for PGR content than undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate taught (PGT​)
  • PGR degree finder pages don’t explain the connection to funded projects or application process well

Content modelling

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

We call these components attributes.

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

We then audited other university degree finders 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.

As we were finishing the content modelling, there was still an unanswered question of how schools were looking to use the degree finder for PGR.

We had gone into the user research for PGR asking if there should even be a PGR degree finder. The answer was ultimately yes because that’s currently how we funnel applicants to apply (and it’s out of scope for this project to design another mechanism for that). We also learned that for some schools, the degree finder was all they used to promote PGR degrees.

So we knew we needed a central PGR presence, but we didn’t want to start designing anything until we had input from school- and college-based colleagues.

This is what led to us approaching the PGR design process a bit differently. With undergraduate and postgraduate taught, we designed a programme page before inviting feedback from colleagues across the University. With PGR, we invited colleagues to work with us prior to design work taking place.

PGR design sessions

The PGR design sessions were broken down into three parts:

  • workshop 1 with collaborators where we ran activities to explore what should be on programme page
  • internal team workshops to design PGR programme page based on workshop 1 insights
  • workshop 2 with collaborators where we played back the initial prototypes we designed in the internal team workshops to get feedback and make improvements

Who participated in the collaboration sessions​

We had 14 collaborators across schools and colleges, which included staff working in admissions, content/comms/marketing, development and administrator roles.

Our collaborators worked in:

  • College Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences:
    • Literature, Languages and Cultures
    • Moray House
    • History, Classics and Archaeology
    • Business School
    • Health in Social Science
  • College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine:
    • Biomedical Sciences
  • College of Science and Engineering:
    • Engineering
    • Informatics
    • Biological Sciences

Workshop 1 activities​

At our first workshop, we ran activities where we asked our collaborators to:

  • state their priorities for PGR pages (what was the biggest issue they were looking to tackle?)
  • state the relationship between school sites and the degree finder (what’s the ideal scenario for how you use one versus the other?)
  • state the relationship between projects and programmes on the degree finder (what’s the ideal scenario for how these are communicated on the degree finder, if at all?)
  • vote on our list of proposed attributes (to clarify if they would be relevant to their programmes or not)
  • sketch an outline of a PGR programme page (if you were given the new PGR programme page, what headings would be set for you versus ones you would create yourself?)

Our key takeaways from workshop 1 were that:

  • many school editors do in fact want the degree finder to be able to host all the content they need to about PGR programme​ (and not use their school sites)
  • our proposed content model was on the right track, and we gained greater insights into differences between programmes (which would inform where we needed to adjust the content model)

Internal team workshops

Prior to kicking off the internal team workshops, we refined our working content model based on the insights from workshop 1.

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 four programmes:

  • Precision Medicine PhD​
  • Biological Sciences (with Internship) PhD​
  • Education PhD​
  • Nursing Studies PhD, MScR

The design choices we made in the prototype were informed by the content the programmes needed to convey.

Once we finalised our initial prototypes, we presented these back in the second round of workshops to get feedback. With that feedback, we’ve since made improvements to the design.

Sections of the new PGR page

The sections are similar to the proposed sections for undergraduate and postgraduate taught pages, with some slight changes to reflect what’s most important to PGR applicants:

  • Metadata: high-level key details like school, college, awards, study options
  • Overview: intro to programme
  • Applying
  • Projects/Supervisors: FindAPhd widget filtered for relevant projects and/or links to supervisor details
  • Funding, fees and costs
  • Entry requirements
  • Programme details: info on research profiles and community, facilities
  • Careers
  • Life at Edinburgh: student life info
  • 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 research content model (University login needed)

View the postgraduate research page prototype on Miro

What’s next

Our next steps are to test the PGR programme page with representative users, which will help inform refinements and improvements we want to make to the design.

We then look to start building the new template in our new system later this year.


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