Designing College Student Experiences From Their Perspective

Often times we map out the process that a user experiences to discover where there are inefficiencies in our process– which is valuable, but incomplete.

Ever wonder what an interaction with your office feels like from your student’s point of view?

That’s the question that journey maps, a tool used in design thinking (and often service design in particular) to depict a user’s experience by outlining a set of major milestones alongside their thoughts, actions, and emotional experience, aim to accomplish.

Importantly, it goes beyond just outlining the process to getting beneath student’s reactions and emotional experience. In fact, it sets out to better understand the current “user experience” of your campus.

Journey maps are used to refocus your work, your thought process, and your approach towards the person that will come into contact with an experience towards considering ways to rethink the emotional pain points that result from the process. It serves as the starting point to begin to consider ways that the process might be re-envisioned to better meet student’s needs while still accomplishing the core goals of the organization.

Ready to get started on your first journey map?

Here are tips I put together to help you get you started:

Ground your work in the user

Before completing a journey map, it’s important to ground your work with a student persona in mind; in design, we often build personas to ground our understanding of an ‘archetype’ or student profile that grounds their unique experience (considering examples like non-traditional students, commuters, transfer students, or high or low campus involvement will help to ground your thinking). You might consider spend time interviewing students or using an empathy map to deepen your understanding of both what students are trying to accomplish as well as what they see, hear, think, and feel.

Determine the journey

Once you’ve built your persona, it’s time to consider what current state journey you’re trying to map. Maybe your journey should focus on the steps for registering a new student organization, the set of workshops offered for organizations renewing their charter, or another particular service that your office delivers.

Map the milestones

Start by thinking about the major milestones that a student navigates to complete a particular interaction with your office. When determining your journey consider how someone navigates the major phases before and after a journey.

For instance, a journey map about someone using public transit might be built around a commuter might need to include the activities that they might engage in the morning, on their way to public transit, their experience on the commute, through their arrival at their final destination. By thinking about what entices users towards the service, how they enter the service, what engaging the service looks like, what their exit looks like and how that experience extends into something they’re trying to accomplish, you’ve probably got a great starting point for milestones.

Consider the experience and emotions

Once you have the milestones mapped, consider what the user is doing and feeling at each milestone. These will create a written and visual journey with the experience.

Look for insights

Next, spend some time thinking or learning more about the current state of your student experience. Where are there areas of unmet needs, or particular pain points? Where are the reactions to the experience particularly positive and why are they produce these results? All of these insights will be valuable in considering ways that you can now better understand where the challenges in your students’ experience, and serve as the start of productive, focused brainstorming around how the experience might be improved.

For a full explanation for running a session around personas, empathy and journey maps, check out this post on running an empathy mapping workshop.

Your Thoughts!

I’m wondering… what other design thinking tools might be helpful in your summer planning toolkit?

Check out this post about design tools where my colleague share some of their favorite resources to center your journey mapping practice practice around your student.

I’d love to hear from you. Give me a shout at @BrianFLeDuc on Twitter and share this article with a colleague!

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Brian LeDuc

About the author: Brian helps design education for the future of work with Education Design Lab. Follow him on Twitter @BrianFLeDuc! Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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