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User Story workshops within the Notifications Service rollout project

As part of the “Notifications Service – Rollout, Integrations and Subscribers” project, the team have run a number of user story workshops with interested staff and students. The most recent of these were held within Services Marketing and Marketing of Services lectures, where stories were captured by 61 students; both undergraduate and postgraduate.

The service aims to transform task-related communication at the University. The purpose of this post is to describe the approaches and outputs of these workshops, to provide us as a project team and other service areas, insight into the key areas participants discussed and prioritised, in terms of receiving task based notifications.

What we did

Notifications Service user story workshop
User stories creation

We chose to use the user story workshop approach, as this was an effective way to make the most of the time we had with participants (both staff and students). User stories allow us to establish and validate user requirements in plain English. Shifting the focus from what we need as developers, service owners etc., to what the user needs helps us to reflect on why we want to do a particular thing, and what value and benefit it has to the user.

Our most recent workshops have been delivered in four parts:

  1. Introducing the service. The problem it aims to help solve, along with how we hope to see it being adopted.
  2. User story creation. The hands-on aspect of the sessions, allowing students to create stories relating to tasks they considered important to be notified of, as well as methods of receiving notifications. There was no limit to how many they could create and to encourage conversation students worked in small groups, to discuss various ‘tasks’ or ‘triggers’ they might expect a notification from, or already receive in some form.
  3. Familiarisation of stories. Allowing groups to read out and explain each of their stories.
  4. Prioritising the stories as a wider group. All the stories were collated and grouped, allowing participants to vote on stories that they felt were important to them. Participants were given five sticky dots and encouraged to vote on the stories that were most important to them. They could have split their 5 dots across any number of stories.
Unfortunately as these were scheduled lectures, we weren’t able to use preferred locations. In one session we used floor space for the prioritisation task!Prioritising user stories

Whilst the purpose of this project is to rollout the service based on the technology and previous user research, we are keen to continue engaging with students and staff within it, to validate everything that has been gathered up to now, to ensure we are prioritising our efforts in the relevant areas.

The user stories created span multiple areas within the University, and as such sharing the output like this seems sensible, allowing relevant service areas outside of WGI to access the output of these workshops, and how it may be of relevance to them.

From a Notifications Service viewpoint, our aim is to understand these stories to help shape the service, as well as sharing with others. This will assist in the deployment of processing such task based notifications with future adopters.

For the students involved it allowed an opportunity to not only feed into the project, but also experience a real-life example of service improvement.

“I think this exercise was very useful to students in my class as it provided them with a real-life opportunity to apply the concepts they have learned about measuring service quality.” Dr.Dahlia El-Manstrly

What we found

Our last set of workshops captured 72 stories from 61 students within Service Quality lectures at the Business School. These have been merged and categorised into one manageable view. The categories included:

• Assessment (17% of stories)
• Employment opportunities (4% of stories)
• Events (1% of stories)
• Library (8% of stories)
• MyEd & User Centred Portal (13% of stories)
• Notification Features (17% of stories)
• Printing (3% of stories)
• School communications (10% of stories)
• Timetable (13% of stories)
• VLE (14% of stories)

Categorising stories will allow us to share with colleagues across different services our findings and to spread awareness of how they may want to integrate with the Notifications Service in the future.

Whilst we expected stories covering a mix of areas, one category that surfaced which wasn’t necessarily anticipated related to features of notifications. Stories relating (and not limited) to end user administration/categorising of notifications, formatting and receiving mediums were discussed in all the workshops.

Of all the stories created, two ‘trigger points’ of notifications were seen in all the sessions as high priorities for participants. These notifications related to, in their simplest forms:

1. The cancellation of a timetabled event.
2. Availability of published exam results.

Interestingly, both of these user stories fall into work packages being considered within the project, where the project team are working with or have plans to work with stakeholders in the areas that deliver services relating to these and other related stories.

It is worthwhile to point out that some stories didn’t necessarily relate to the Notifications Service rollout, but it was felt important to include these in our output for staff.

What we’re doing next

We’re working towards the basic deployment of the service that allows for manual notifications to be generated, and then delivered via MyEd. It will also include service processes for future adopters to follow in order to integrate with the service.

A defined group of users will be piloting the service in the first instance.


Special thanks to Graeme Ferris, Rosalyn Claase and Dr. Dahlia El-Manstrly of the Business School for their involvement in the set up and organisation of sessions.

Additional thanks to the project team involved in the delivery of workshops, as well as all participants, both students and staff, who attended our workshops in 2017/18.

Interested in hearing more?

If you’re interested in hearing more about the project and/or service, content is available on the service wiki and project’s website. We also have a mailing list. If you would like to be added to this, or have further questions, please get in touch.

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