An online university required the development of a suite of online admissions tools for web and mobile to improve overall market conversions by enhancing the prospective student registration process. These tools aimed to assist students with determining a course of study, assess the cost of tuition, and provide real-time transfer credit evaluations.
Selecting the right program is critical to helping students start or continue on the right career path. The university's wide range of programs provides myriad options, yet due to the breath of program information and lack of decision-making tools, selecting the best course of study can be very difficult for prospective students. Of additional importance is understanding the transfer value of previous study credits and finally, a clear understanding of the financial burden to the student.
How do we create a tool that would allow students to compare potential avenues of study that would hold into consideration past work experience and studies (if applicable), and offer comparative information on program requirements, time to completion, and the financial costs of the program? Additionally, how do we improve conversion funnel performance and cycle time?
Create a way for prospective students to compare up to three programs at a time
Present program outlines with abbreviated information that offers the most important information for decision-making
Create a way to save/email comparison results
Create a way to request contact by an advisor
Enhanced search capabilities that allow drill-down criteria
Organized degree levels
Clear and concise program labels
Simple search and filter capabilities
Simplified views and decluttering of information
Highlight the most important info in a high-level format for easy scanning
A Program Comparison tool that enables the side-by-side comparison of key information on multiple academic programs that will aid students in selecting the best fit for their background and career aspirations.
These enhancements improved online student experiences allowing prospective students to choose programs that were more closely matched to their career paths, as well as providing transparency from the beginning for time-to-completion of a program and transfer credits. There was an overall decrease in customer service calls in the areas of transfer credit inquiries, program requirements and prerequisites, and an overall increase in market conversions by over 30%.
UX Design, Requirements Development, User Stories, User Research
Requirements Analysis, Persona Development, Task Analysis, User Journeys and Flows, Sketching, Wireframes, contextual research and analysis, A/B testing, Web Analytics, Rapid Prototyping and Usability Testing, Low and High-Fidelity Mockups
Sketch, Balsamiq, Axure, UserTesting.com, Excel
Initial user RESEARCH & COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS
Initial usability testing occurred between December 2 and December 7, 2016. Testing was unmoderated and conducted remotely by UserZoom with audio/video/screen recording. Participants were given three or more tasks and asked to think aloud while completing them. Each task included follow-up questions. Participants were asked to score tasks after completion on a scale of 1-7, with 1 being negative and 7 being positive.
Purpose: Determine design inconsistencies and usability problem areas.
Comparison Tools Tested: Capella University, American Military University, Discover Card Degree Comparison
The online comparison concept is familiar
A degree comparison tool will help with the decision-making process
There were no military-specific issues or suggestions
Degree levels and program titles must be clear and concise
Search and Filter features are important. The immersive approach should also be intuitive
Use a side-by-side page layout. This is the most simple and effective way to visually compare
Include Search functionality
Recommended categories for comparison: (a.) Program Description, (b.) Core Courses, (c.) Total Tuition and (d.) Total Program Credits
Use succinct and descriptive titles and descriptions
Use consistent rates for program costs (ie. Tuition per credit, Tuition per quarter, etc.)
Key Performance Indicators
Based on our competitive analysis and initial user research, we defined our key performance indicators for which we would base our designs and measure success for the business and prospective students.
The university college has two main student types, new students with transferring credits who work a full or part-time job, and new students without transferring credits who work a full or part-time job.
USER Process FLOWs
Prospective students enter the tool through three entry points: browsing academic programs, internal link from other program pages, and links from pre-selected program comparisons combinations. They are able to filter and compare up to three programs at a time.
After a first round of feedback, students identified a need to be able to save their results as well as submit a form to have an advisor contact them to further discuss their results and program options. This option also supported marketing interests by increasing conversions from prospective student to enrolled student, as we could see a direct effect on enrollment rates between prospective students who requested help vs those who did not.
In the third version, prospective students are now able to add and change programs within the screen to make a variety of comparisons. We also added the capability to email results so that they may be reviewed again without having to revisit the program comparison tool and go through the entire process again.
In developing the solution, I began with very low-fidelity sketches in Balsamiq. After three feedback sessions, the final wires successfully incorporated the main pain points users identified in our interviews. A major pain point was the need to be able to compare programs simultaneously. Competitive research also revealed to us that other academic institutions provided this very helpful feature to prospective students.
Program Selection and Comparison
Understanding the student journey, we identified that the first step in the process of the student journey was to browse programs.
When browsing programs, students are able to filter various parameters to narrow down the selection to more relevant paths.
Now they are able to make selections based on the chosen parameters and compare up to three of them.
The selected programs in a side-by-side comparison for easy comparative review. If less than three were selected initially, the student is able to add an additional third program for comparison.
And finally, they are able to submit a request to have an advisor contact them for more information on any of the selected programs.
Wireframes - Tablet
PROTOTYPING & USABILITY TESTING
We designed a web prototype in order to begin usability testing of the site with low-fidelity wireframes. Testing was moderated and conducted in-person with audio/video/screen recording.
Ten participants were given three or more tasks and asked to think aloud while completing them. Each task included follow-up questions. Participants were then asked to score tasks after completion on a scale of 1-7 with 1 being negative and 7 being positive. They were given branded swag for their time.
Round 1: Findings Summary
All participants were successful in finding programs in the Project Management field of study.
Most participants thought the All Programs page was too long.
One participant didn’t use the filter. This participant scrolled down the list of programs instead.
Confusing long list of degrees.
Round 2: Findings Summary
Alphabetized list of degrees and filtering options were great.
A lot of scrolling.
Most participants were able to compare programs.
One participant missed the Compare button and did not compare programs. This participant clicked on the program title instead.
The system should keep original comparison results if the user has to navigate back to “All Programs” to add more programs to the comparison.
Include the option to remove a program from the comparison results page.
Provide content-specific inquiry forms.
Provide options to Save and/or Email comparisons and/or individual programs.
high fidelity mockups
Comparison Tool - Filter Page - Desktop
Comparison Tool - Filter Page - Tablet
Comparison Tool - Results Page - Desktop
Comparison Tool - Results Page - Tablet
Comparison Tool - Results Page - Mobile
Program Comparison Tool Is Temporarily Unavailable
Maximum Number of Programs Selected
Filters Not Available
Filter Selection Did Not Match Any Academic Programs
Program Info Not Available