My Role

Co-Lead Researcher

Team

  • Anik Ahmed
  • Venisha Henry

Preface

Me & my classmate wanted to improve our school's email

Timeline

  • Project Start: September 2019
  • Preliminary Research: September to December
  • Advanced Research: January to March
  • Project End: April 2020

Problem


So to define the problem that I and my colleague to tackle we decided we wanted to improve the college's way of communicating with its students and faculty, but we were limited in scope as we were trying to do a realistic approach to this.

Therefore we had consulted our faculty advisor, interviewed 2 different students in order pinpoint the main focus/scope of our project.  

With this in mind, we decided that our problem should be "How to Improve our School's Email System"

This led me and my colleague to break down our entire process into three different goals:


Concerns


As I and my colleague were looking to improve our school's email system there was a number of concerns we were worried about prior to our research starting:


.

Preliminary Insights


The preliminary insights are early-stage interviews that we had conducted in order to understand the core problem that our students & staff have.


Preliminary insights
Student: Sophmore

Interviews with the 1st student resulted in learning his habits when it comes to York's announcements & specific pain-points with the email system. The main thing that we had learned was that he didn't keep up with the school's academic calendar & preferred learning information through word of mouth.

Preliminary insights
Student: Graduating Senior

The 2nd student was with a female student who was a graduating senior. Her main complaint was towards her credit requirements not being clear for classes & announcements regarding her classes registration. She also wished that major requirements were more clear.

Preliminary insights
Staff Member - Tenured Professor

When it came to interviewing a staff member, their criticisms of the school's email system was more straight forward. The main critique was how so many emails that were not applicable to them were being forwarding to the staff & students.

It cluttered the entire inbox & just made finding announcements harder. The disorganization of how the school communicated events & announcements to students & staff was not appreciated.

Research Methods


Online Surveys
Research

When conducting online surveys we used 3 different iterations of the survey. The surveys focused upon college/university email systems.

One on One Interviews
Research

Previously we conducted interviews with 2 students - well we decided that we are going to interview more students in order to learn more from our desired demographic.

Card-Sorting Exercise
Research

Card-Sorting was a huge boon to our research. As it allowed us to conduct similar research with the interviews but allowed our participants being more honest with their critiques.

By printing out email topics, we let participants sort each card from most important to least important & asked why they sorted the cards in that specific way.

Research

Conclusions

Our students are checking their mail via multiple platforms but the most common is Web browser. ​

More people have said they always use their phone app and web browser versus using a desktop application.

We also learned that students are frustrated with the college's excessive emails that do not pertain to anything they need or want. It only makes it harder to know what they need to know in terms of important information.
Research- Conclusions
1

76.6%

Of people stated that they would rather have emails of Academic/Financial Aid related the most
2

Direct Impact

Students wanted emails that affected their lives directly instead of events/clubs. They want to see emails that directly impacted them - be it academic or financially.
3

30 Events/ 5-7 Emails

Through our research we've learned that York College hosts about 30 events per month & sends about 5-7 emails about news & announcements per week

Solutions With Limited Resources

With all of our data collected from our research we decided to move on to the solution stage where we discussed potential solutions to help us fix the problem of bringing the most wanted information to the students/staff through revamping the email system. We came up with 3 different solutions.

Create a app
Solution 1

The 1st solution that we came up with was potentially creating a new app to help sift through emails but we realized we wouldn't have the bandwidth to actually create something from scratch.

Design a mockup to propose for what the new email system should be like
Solution 2

The problem with this solution is that while it was feasible for us to do this - our college actually is using Microsoft outlook as it's current way to use emails. So there was no way we can design something completely new.

Create a newsletter to lessen the amount of emails sent & have important announcements viewed easier
Solution 3


So our original goal was to help students/staff quickly get the information they need whilst filtering out the information they do not need.

We decided that the newsletter would include things such as school events, announcements, and news related to the administration that students can quickly glance at, receive fewer emails regarding these events and make their lives a little bit easier when scrolling down their inbox.​

Thus we settled on creating a newsletter that would put out the 'unwanted' information for both the students and staff.    

Results & Conclusions

Overall our research and impact regarding the school's communication system is something that we're happy to work on.  

The fact that we were able to make a difference no matter how small or large it is, is something that we're extremely proud of.  

This case study helped develop the research skills that will inevitably help us in the future, and although we would've liked a better design of the newsletter (we did not design it), it does it's a job well & that's all you can ask for in UX.
Results
1

16.4%

Open Rate of the digest during it's 1st week of circulation.
2

25% Spike

On March 13th due to Covid-19 concerns we gained a 25% increase in it's open-rate because students wanted to know of what is going to happen to the school.
3

Students are Grateful

One Student states: “Thank you, you’ve prevented me from receiving  30 separate emails”