The period between when a student accepts a course offer and arrives at the university for the Orientation can be just as overwhelming as Orientation Week itself. Finding relevant information amongst the bombardment of emails, being aware of important events coming up and developing friendships prior to the main week can be a serious challenge for First Year Students, and as each year comes around, new steps should be taken to ease the upcoming cohort into their studies in a positive and stress-free way. Transitioning from last week’s focus – how to make Orientation Week more effective and engaging – my group and I re-evaluated our previous ideas to develop a strong, appealing and easy-to-use solution.
Last week we collectively concluded that an E-book with campus maps, contact information, O-Week timetables and simplified information for each course/faculty would be a viable, affordable and accessible option. However, a significant flaw that this idea held was that it was not effective in terms of introducing friendships or involving First Year Students in a fun, engaging experience. As a result, for this week’s mini charrette, our main focus was to build upon this and enable students to build friendships prior to Orientation.
The task this week was to “come up with an innovative concept for engagement, create its brand, forms and experiences, and plan a campaign to promote them”. Inspired by programs such Club Penguin, The Sims, Habbo, Facebook and Twitter, we merged their most desirable features along with those of our E-book idea, to form an interactive and social space for new students, without the pressures of connecting in face-to-face. By combining the social, customised, simulated aspects of these virtual programs – appropriate for the young, technology-obsessed target audience – with the simplified information and campus maps within the E-book, we were able to create ‘Hello, World!’, the app.
The aim of this proposal would be for First Year Students to find like-minded peers with similar interests, or who are enrolled in the same course, through a fun, engaging and interactive way. QUT students could walk around the virtual campuses, play games or check in at locations to win ‘freebies’ during Orientation week, and communicate with any other online players to make Orientation less of a daunting experience. This program, while focusing on building stress-free connections between students, would also provide students with the following opportunities:
- Gain an understanding of the QUT locations
- Feel encouraged to come in to O-week, knowing they are already part of the community
- Access information about each and every course, building, classroom and store through pop-ups or specific information areas
- Find clubs that they are interested in and test them out via games or interactive simulations of events, before signing up during O-week
- Chance for Final Year Creative Industries Students to be involved in the creation process.
Evident in the preliminary visuals above, each student can create a character and profile for themselves, and share their degree, interests and the clubs they intend to join, to create points of discussion between like-minded users.The aim for our home page was for it to be easy to navigate, unlike the current QUT Blackboard website. Drawing from consumer feedback about Blackboard, we chose to construct a very simple and straight forward layout of headings that could transfer the user to one of the options displayed in the visual example above.
However, as with all initial ideas, there are several issues with this idea, noted from feedback on these basic prototypes, which need to be considered and improved upon:
- Challenges with costs of/funding for the app
- Difficulties with student attention/awareness of the app
- Finding Final Year Students willing to volunteer in the creation process
- Level of complexity
Reflecting on this advice, I came up with the potential solutions below:
- Simplify to focus on less aspects (e.g. the game only, rather than the information side)
- Advertise prizes for students involved in the designing/creating process
- Fundraisers for funding
- Charging a low price that students pay to download the app
- Use ‘freebies’ that the app provides as incentive for students
- Advertise app via E-Mail notification, Facebook, Blackboard, QUT Virtual, QUT Official Website, etc.
From this taste test of our upcoming Design Charrette, I found time management, by far, to be the biggest challenge. As a group of 5, we were able to divide each individual section – two working on the visuals and presentation, and three brainstorming campaign ideas/recording the video – to ensure that time would not interfere with our presentation. However, within the given time frame, we were unable to produce high quality visual representations, prototypes or come to any refined conclusions for our proposal.
Upon reflection, it was clear that our group needed to delve much deeper into researching the target audience and their needs/wants, as well as the successes and failures of previous solutions similar to ours’. Further investigation should include interviews of consumers, surveys, an analysis of data and reviews, observations of the people around us, and research about costing and functionality. Due to the time limit, we also fell into the trap of choosing our very first idea – the safest, easiest and most obvious – in this case, an app. For our future assessment, thinking outside of the box is a must, and there needs to be a much greater focus on ideation, adaption, evaluation and refinement. Self-critiquing – questioning “how could I improve?” or “which area needs more attention?”, and repeatedly asking “why?” – is specifically necessary prior to showcasing prototypes and concepts for outsider feedback.
As our Design Charrette acts as a form of pitch or advertisement for our idea, the presentation is also a major component that will need far more preparation – the presentation itself needs to undergo a design process, just as the product does. Creating interest, utilising props and visuals, developing a suitable environment, showcasing extensions of the concept, engaging and interacting with the audience, making use of space, speaking with passion and enthusiasm and knowing your content are particularly crucial when it comes to performing a successful pitch. While we failed to do this in the mini charrette, there also must be a detailed discussion of the design process and the steps taken, to evidence originality and to provide the audience with a variety of unfinished ideas that can be pinpointed as to where we went wrong/what we should continue to develop.
Prior to receiving the practice brief, we were profusely encouraged to make mistakes, fail and come up with an unsuccessful design – and, at first, this was particularly intimidating. However, after hearing the wise words of James Joyce in our most recent lecture, it suddenly all made sense:
“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”
When the final charrette comes around, we will have this trial to look back on and be able to utilise the mistakes we made to learn from and improve upon. By reflecting on our challenges and failures now, our abilities as designers and presenters can only grow stronger from here.
Froukje Sleeswijk Visser. (29 March, 2005). Contextmapping: experiences from practice. Accessed April 29, 2016, from idStudioLab: http://studiolab.io.tudelft.nl/manila/gems/sleeswijkvisser/Codesign2005sleeswijk.pdf