UCSD 4-Year Planner Redesign

Giving students agency over their
academic career.

You hear about it all the time. People are concerned about UC students not graduating within four years. Three teammates and I created a prototype of a tool that allows students to effectively plan out their coursework and graduate in four years.

01. How Might We Empower Students?
College is a time to open your mind to new ideas, and your coursework is a part of that. Personally, the thought of expanding my horizons by exploring a variety of subjects excites me. In fact, I'm someone who reads the course catalog in my free time. But not all students share my enthusiasm. Many others feel locked into an educational system in which their academic career consists of a simple checklist and jumping through hoops. My team and I reflected on this, and our project expanded. It wasn't just about graduating in four years; it was about giving students agency over their academic career.

Graduation. Is it still possible in 4 years?
Surveys for research + needfinding
Manually crunching the data

02. Interviewing the Stakeholders 
By interviewing with different stakeholders, we gained insight into students' patterns, frustrations, and goals. Throughout our initial interviews, we heard students repeatedly express sentiments like this one:

"Four year plans are difficult to make, but they give me a sense of security."

With findings like this, we knew we had uncovered a problem space, so we proceeded by collecting survey data. We crafted survey questions that would delve further into our problem space and inform our product's design.

Emergent Questions:
  • What challenges do students face in making 4 year plans?
  • What information is required to make a 4 year plan?
  • What are current methods and tools for students to make a 4 year plan?

03. Design Objectives + Challenges
Through our needfinding and survey data collection, we came up with three main design goals:

Challenge: Allow students to easily keep track of requirements.

We found that keeping track of course requirements across different requirement categories (like major, minor, electives, and general education) presents a challenge for many students. How could we consolidate all this information into a digestible format? Additionally, how might we ensure that students fulfill all of their prerequisites?

Challenge: Give students flexibility

We found that students are constantly changing their 4 year plans. But the school's current tool for making a 4 year plan provided zero flexibility. How do we make changing a plan simple and stress-free?

Challenge: Inform students about course offerings

Some classes are offered ever quarter, others only once a year. Students need to know when specific classes are offered to plan effectively. 

We used our survey data and research findings to inform our design goals.
Sketch Prototype #1
Sketch Prototype #3

05. Prototyping & Testing 
We put our paper prototypes in front of people and probed them with questions to check for understanding. After collecting their feedback and a few design iterations, we developed medium fidelity clickable prototypes with Sketch + InVision. Finally, we tested the effectiveness of our design by giving the users a task to accomplish on our prototype and observing how they went about doing it. Through user testing, we discovered which layouts were most efficient and which symbols or UI elements most effectively communicated the information and affordances provided by our design. If you would like to know more about the project, please read our project blog linked below:

Project Blog
User testing with paper prototypes.
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