- Client: UR Turn
- Timeline: August 14, 2017 - August 18, 2017
- Team members: Ben Dustman, Erica Lee, and Josh Kaeding.
- We worked with our client to improve UR Turn, an existing web application.
- The purpose of UR Turn is to help high schoolers track their academic progress and plan their future.
It’s difficult for students to prioritize their big picture goals (like going to college) because they are often bogged down by day to day tasks and assignments. The current state of the UR Turn application attempts to guide students to set and work towards their long term goals. However, students currently have little incentive to log in to view their goal statements. Furthermore, the students’ goals are presented under low visibility and is often hidden from view.
I incorporated personalized features that could be used by the students on a daily bases. Because of this, the application is useful for setting both short term and long term goals. This encourages students to log in and use the application every day. In addition, I increased the visibility of the students' goal statements and clarified the process of updating this information.
- Conduct stakeholder meeting with Angie Eilers (creator of UR Turn).
- Interview and complete a contextual inquiry with the target user groups (students and academic counselors).
- Redesign the existing application that could be adopted by schools and integrated within existing systems.
- Demo the prototype by walking through the new and redesigned application features.
Understanding the client
We worked with Angie Eilers, the creator of an web application called UR Turn. This tool guides students so they can reach their post high school goals. Its mission is to set a roadmap for the students by involving their parents, teachers, and counselors on their academic journey.
To determine how easy or difficult certain user tasks would be to complete, I conducted a cognitive walkthrough with the UR Turn application. 
After completing the cognitive walkthrough, several issues became apparent. I identified the tasks that were difficult to complete and ranked them by severity.
User Interview and Contextual Inquiry
We interviewed one student who was going into 9th grade. This session did not end up being a pure contextual inquiry because the participant was a first time user. However, the meeting gave us a lot of insight on the technologies he currently uses at school. We also received some feedback on how easy or difficult it was to perform common student tasks. Thee other participants were interviewed by our classmates. This included another student going into 11th grade and two school counselors. We shared our findings and evaluated the results in a report. 
From the findings report, several themes and usability issues became apparent. The following were the main takeaways:
...more focused on day to day tasks (e.g. checking their grades and assignments).
...not concerned with "big" tests like the ACT on a daily bases.
... are interested in visualizing their future (i.e. GPA graph).
...interested in personalization (e.g. style and color of their page).
...interested in seeing an improved and more intuitive sort and filter function.
...not satisfied with the confusing interface of the student search function.
...interested in seeing the data behind the statistics.
Since the ultimate purpose of UR Turn is to help students succeed, I prioritized the redesign of the student interface. After evaluating and organizing the data, I came up with the following strategy before diving into prototyping:
Per our client, this website will be a tool for students to achieve their big-picture goals (i.e. post-high school plans). However, through our research it was clear that the students, no matter how proactive they were, would be bogged down by day to day tasks and assignments. The goal is to bridge this gap between the student's short term goals and long term goals.
The big picture goal (e.g. go to a two year community college) is not very visible in the original site. Since this goal determines other goals (like GPA, ACT/SAT scores), it's important to make this a focus of the site and continuously remind students.
No matter how helpful this site is, students will not utilize it to it's full extent if they don't frequently login. This is where personalization and visual appeal becomes important. Personalizing the site via banner, calendar, email features, appointments, and task list will make the site more useful to the student for day to day tasks. Making it visually appealing is also a key for getting students to login.
#1 | Bridge the Gap
I added the calendar feature into the dashboard page to tie in the day to day tasks of students. The calendar could be used as a planner for students, prompting them to frequently login to manage their daily activities. Right above this calendar would be the long term progress chart. Incorporating both of these features into the dashboard page bridges the gap between short term and long term goals.
#2 | Elevate the Big Picture Goal
To focus attention on the big picture goal, I clearly displayed the chosen goal statement on every page. This way students will be reminded of their overarching goal at all times.
#3 | Get Students to Login
As explained under the first strategy, the calendar and email functions were added to incorporate the student's day to day activities into the application. This is also a feature that will prompt students to login more often. In addition, the banner and to-do list were added to personalize the application. Increased personalization will prompt students to login more often. This also ties into the importance of making this aesthetically pleasing. Per our research, many students enjoy visually appealing applications that are colorful and fun.
The final part of this project was showing a demo of our prototype to the class. It was a great way to practice concisely presenting proposed application features. 
The next step would be to run usability tests on this prototype by recruiting more students. There was one feedback we received from a student that I was unable to address in the current prototype; they wanted to be able to store and record resume related information on their profile (e.g. volunteer hours, certificates, etc). This would be something I would like to include in any future iterations.
It was very exciting to work with Angie on her web application, UR Turn. It was interesting to work with a fully developed application and provide additional suggestions based on student and counselor's feedback.