Postsecondary enrolments are increasing in Canada, but accessing and completing post-secondary education (PSE) is difficult for many students. Students who are first-generation, Indigenous, from remote regions, or socio-economically disadvantaged are less likely to graduate high school and go on to pursue and complete PSE as they face a number of social, cultural, emotional, and financial barriers.
Some students that identify within a visible minority group don’t have an inclusive environment to ask questions related to post-secondary education. They do not want to post on social media such as Facebook as these social groups are sometimes insensitive when they ask for help or they just want to stay anonymous. These students also don’t want to go to staff or faculty for help as they don’t answer their question or direct them to someone else most of the time.
How might we enable and/ or create greater opportunities for underrepresented students in the post-secondary environment? As well as, how can we create an inclusive and positive community for students to communicate and help them through challenges?
Using these research questions, we set off to create a minimal viable product (MVP) canvas with our mentors to create an overview of the project.
We decided to do user research interviews in the GTA to further identify their wants, needs, and difficulties in their everyday school experience. Students who participated were in post-secondary education in Ontario that were our identified primary users (visible minorities: POC, Indigenous people, LGBTQ+).
Through user research and observations, our goal was to create a communication tool that was informal and allows comfortability to ask questions to go through challenges.
We continued to research on existing products out in the market that students are currently using. These popular products included: Kik, Yik Yak, and Facebook anonymous groups (e.g., Confessions at [school name]).
The most suitable and realistic communication tool was to design an app as it the phone was the most accessible device to post-secondary students.
Things that we considered:
• Anonymity by using initials
• Tutorial videos after sign-up
• Availability vs. offline
• Video and voice messages
• Ways to filter groups (e.g., classes, year of graduation)
Between every iteration of Peer Up, there were user testing sessions with its intended users. Through the feedback that we received, Connie and I would make design decisions.
Examples of Peer Up version 1
Prototype of Peer Up version 3
Feedback from user testers:
• Anonymous should be an option
• Class filtering was important
• Font (conversations) was too small to read
This is the final prototype of Peer Up. We decided to add an engaging home page where the student union of respective post-secondaries were able to submit upcoming events. This is because we felt that it lacked the sense of community that many commuter schools wanted.
I took this project on the summer before my thesis. It was a really great experience as I got to familiarize myself with other prototyping tools and to get more exposure with the design process of UX/UI from the beginning (user research) to end (final MVP). I am extremely grateful for this opportunity as it continued into my final year of my undergrad because it enabled me to be a better organizer and communicator, especially in the professional field.
Looking back at this project, my next steps for Peer Up would to further develop the prototype so that it is web accessible as it currently does not pass colour contrast or visual accessibility.