The Student Centred Portal Pilot Project

In August, the Student Administration & Support and Digital Transformation teams engaged with a number of students in order to investigate and identify the particular difficulties our students experience using our systems.

This exercise was part of the Student Centred Portal Pilot project, an initiative designed to demonstrate the functional and technical requirements necessary to create a single, personalised, point of access for all the information a student needs from matriculation to graduation.

A series of 1:1 live testing sessions were held with eight students, representing a broad cross-section of academic study.

The focus of these sessions was to investigate user experience issues while they were happening, and record the process and narratives as the students were asked to perform four specific tasks, including:

  • Accessing course information
  • Finding learning materials for a course they are already taking
  • Submitting an assessment for a course in which they are already enrolled, and
  • Viewing the results of their assessment and any associated feedback.

The exercise revealed that:

  • Students from all areas of academic study were experiencing a number of similar user experience-related challenges across these tasks.
  • The process of submitting assessments was made even more difficult through inconsistencies in approach to the placement of submission links in folder structures.
  • Students also acknowledged complicated and inconsistent submission procedures and instructions.

The knock-on effect was additional time spent double-checking information, and the possibility of further layers of administration being added if uncertainty led students to e-mail Course Organisers for further assistance.

These problems were exacerbated for those completing degrees and studying in more than one School, where learning materials in the Learn environment are often stored differently from one School to the next.

This inconsistency of approach means a deeper level of understanding is currently required on the part of the student for “how each organiser thinks” in order to effectively access what they need.

By example, some of the students highlighted how information between various sources, like Path, Degree Regulations & Programmes of Study (DRPS), and the Course Handbook, was not always consistent. What should be a straightforward task for students becomes a case of hunting for what they need and then cross-checking what they find.

This exercise has allowed the Project team to identify those user experience system issues that can be fixed right away, and those that will feed into user requirements for future work.

Further details about the Student Centred Portal Pilot Project can be found on the Service Excellence Programme website here.


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