Reimagining a University’s Digital Enrolment System — A UX Case Study

How I applied insights from UX research and user testing to improve Curtin University’s online enrolment system.

The challenge

Curtin University (http://www.curtin.edu.au) is a major tertiary education provider in Perth, Western Australia. Curtin courses in a variety of areas such as Business, Health Sciences, Engineering and Humanities. The organisation currently utilises a web-based enrolment system called ‘eStudent’ to let students enrol and withdraw from units, as well as plan their timetable and register for classes.

So, I performed user research and testing to find out how the current system could be improved in a meaningful way to better serve its users.

This project was part of my Bachelor of Mass Communication (Digital Design & Web Media) degree I completed at Curtin University in July 2017.

Current unit enrolment screen on ‘eStudent’

Constraints

The only major requirement for this project was that the new and improved enrolment system must be an iPad application that could be used on a stationary kiosk system on-campus, as well as downloaded on a students’ personal device.


My role

As the project was not a group project, all work — including research, user testing, and interface design - was done by myself.


Developing hypotheses and assumptions

To start off my research, I first compiled a number questions that would help me learn more about the current use of the system, its users, pain points and possible solutions.

  • Who is using the current online enrolment, timetabling and class register features?
  • When (at which point in their studies) do users come into contact with the system most?
  • Where and in which context (at home, on-the-go etc.) do users use the online enrolment, timetabling and class register features?
  • What works well and what doesn’t work so well with the current system (pain points)?
  • Why do users use the features provided and which goals are they hereby trying to achieve?
  • How can the current system be improved, without compromising well-working features and functions?

I then developed the following hypotheses and assumptions:

  • System is used frequently by first year, as well as re-enrolling students.
  • The enrolment system is difficult to understand and use — especially for first year students.
  • Timetabling and class register features face usability issues which prevent students from using them most efficiently and reaching their goals as quickly as possible.

Interviewing users to fill knowledge gaps

I chose user interviews (accompanied by a set of preliminary interviews) as the most suitable method for filling current knowledge gaps and conducted interviews in person whenever possible — otherwise I arranged phone interviews.

For the interviews I wanted focus on two main user groups: mature age students and 18–25 year old students at Curtin University who wanted to enrol or re-enrol in units, plan their timetable and register for classes.

All in all I interviewed 8 users, who were asked 10 core questions each (plus 5 preliminary questions).

The interviews uncovered five main pain points or issues users had with the current system:

  • Little to no information about unit contents available at time of enrolment
  • Annoying separation of (convoluted) timetabling and class registration screen
  • Help provided for unit enrolment process is ineffective
  • Unit enrolment process is confusing and difficult to navigate
  • Locating classroom on campus for the first time is very difficult

I then considered possible implications and design solutions, some of which can be seen below.

One of the five key pain points uncovered in the user interviews

According to user interview data, I determined the following user goals:

  • User wants to easily enrol or withdraw from units (core units, electives, optional units etc.)
  • User wants to plan his timetable for the upcoming semester
  • User wants to register for classes for upcoming semester
  • User wants to locate their on-campus classroom quickly
  • User wants to learn more about a unit’s content before enrolling

Creating personas, scenarios, user journeys and taskflow diagrams

I created four personas (2 mature age and 2 younger students as per main target groups) and developed a scenario for each of them. A journey map was created for two of these personas. Below you can see one of the personas (and accompanying scenario & journey map) I crafted for this project.

Persona #1 (‘Julia’)

Scenario: Enrolling in units for the first time (Persona: Julia)

Julia is just about to start the very first semester of her Nursing degree at Curtin University. She has come straight from high school and is now quite excited — but also a bit scared — about this new chapter in her life.

The young nursing student has logged into her Oasis account and after some searching found the unit enrolment screen. She scans the page with all the different units and feels quite a bit overwhelmed. Which of these units can or should she enrol in? Some of the units say ‘planned’ — does this mean she has already been enrolled in those?

She reads to some of the eStudent online help text but emerges even more confused, as she doesn’t think it has been worded very well. After aimlessly selecting and deselecting various options, she gives up for now and shuts down the computer for the day.

The next day she asks her older sister — a Film & TV student at Curtin University — for help and they sit at the computer together to complete the enrolment process.

User journey map for ‘Julia’

Taskflow diagram for the class registration screen

Prototyping & user testing

Next, it was time to start prototyping. In this phase I analysed my finding and created paper prototypes before using Balsamic Mockups and InVision to develop digital low fidelity prototypes. These prototypes were then user tested (5 students) using InVision. This was an process that allowed me to steadily improve the UX and UI and make changes as necessary.

Below you can see the evolution of the app’s ‘class registration’ feature.

A. First version that only included a class registration feature with no calendar or timetabling ability.
B. This version already includes a timetabling feature but does not allow students to easily display each tutorial or lecture on its own. Also the layout is quite cramped.
C. Another version of the same screen which is trying trying to achieve a better outcome for the layout.
D. A fourth version of the same page playing with the layout of the calendar and re-organising the view of the class register list. The page now requires the user to scroll downwards more in order to see all available content.
E. An amended version of the class registration pages features an updated calendar layout, as well as the ability to display each class on the calendar independently.
F. Final version (and high fidelity prototype) of the class registration screen with updated UI and branding.

After the user tests were completed, I implemented further changes and created a high fidelity prototype using Sketch. Some of the final screens can be seen below.

Update 26/09/2017: I adjusted some of the colours used on the main screen (screen c and d) enabling increased readability of the main menu copy and icons.

a. Start screen
b. Login screen
Main Menu
Main Menu w/t slide-out navigation
e. Unit enrolment screen
f. Classroom locator screen
g. Timetabling and class registration screen
h. Help Screen (Selection)

Thanks for reading!