Academic Reporting Tools
The Academic Reporting Tools platform helps students learn more about courses and instructors at the University of Michigan.
Registering for classes at the University of Michigan is a stressful process for students. It’s difficult to decide which courses to take without access to meaningful information about who has taken the course in the past and what they got out of it. We’re solving this problem by giving the students’ data back to them. The Academic Reporting Tools platform visualizes information for students about who has taught a course, what types of students have taken it, what those students said about the course, and then what they went on to do afterward.
As the UX lead on the project, I’m responsible for conducting user research and identifying new features for the tool that will improve the student experience. I also prototype and design new functionality, implement some of the front end code, and manage the interns. Dana Demsky, my graphic design intern on the project, created many of the platform's illustrations and graphics.
My favorite part of the process was putting myself in my users' shoes by imagining myself using this tool when I was in college. Students in my usability tests have really opened up to me once they realize I went through the exact same registration process at Michigan. That being said, students are starting to use new technologies to research courses and instructors in higher ed, so I've had to keep an open mind to better understand how the Academic Reporting Tools will fit into my users' workflows.
Course registration is a complicated process. Students are required to interact with several different interfaces to submit their final decisions, but before they even get that far, they typically pull up a half dozen research websites like RateMyProfessors. To better understand what they’re going through, I sat down with several users and created journey maps about their experiences. Paired with personas, these helped us visualize a student’s process and gauge the appropriate place for our platform to fit in.
Mobile Data Visualization
One of the challenges in the Academic Reporting Tools is displaying data visualizations intuitively and conveniently on mobile screens. In this example, I sketched out different ways to portray evaluation data about professors for small viewports.
Universal design is especially important to me in my career and personal life. I’ve always been interested in understanding users’ unique situations and designing applications that meet their needs. I’ve worked hard to incorporate accessibility into this project from the beginning and continue to meet regularly with the University’s assistive technology experts to validate the success of the product.
I pay special attention to semantic markup, compatibility with screen readers, and color contrast requirements to make the application as usable as possible. One specific challenge I’m still facing in ART 2.0 is the interactivity of the data visualizations for non-mouse users. For now we’re providing the option to download a copy of the data and interact with it in whichever application you find most convenient.
We recently released Major Metrics, a feature that allows students to research undergraduate degree programs across the university. Our first iteration of this tool shows enrollment trends over the past ten years as well as information about common co-majors and minors that student declare. Our goal for the next iteration is to start showing information about the careers that students typically pursue after declaring a particular major.
New landing page
I recently redesigned the ART 2.0 landing page to present the product’s value statement to students in a more visually intuitive way. I wanted the page to promote our newly added functionality without distracting the user too much from our primary entry point (the search box).