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OVERVIEW

University and College students are often stressed due to a lack of good time management, and increased responsibilities which cover a variety of aspects. From increased workload to having to manage to live on your own. Changes in eating and sleeping habits along with not taking sufficient breaks or caring for oneself is also another major contributor to the stress a student deals with. Sometimes a student’s stress even comes from a lack of a social life. Perhaps they were popular during high school and were always hanging around with a group of friends, but those friends went to different universities or colleges. A lack of balance between academic and social life causes stress and anxiety among many university and college students. Having a form of chronic stress can interfere with your studying or even class attendance as it can cause you to feel unwell and as such unable to make it to class. Well what if I were to say there was an application out there that can help mitigate all of this? 

ROLES & RESPONSIBILTIES

This project took place between September 2022 to November 2022 and was a collaborative project with three other designers. 

Roles were divided up into 3 different parts; we had Researchers, Prototyper, and a Project Manager. 

 

I was responsible for data collection, along with conducting our usability test. I also conducted the interviews and Wizard of Oz experiments with our users. I was also the lead proofreader and ensured that all the tests were conducted properly and worded appropriately to ensure easy testing for our users. The medium fidelity prototype was conducted collaboratively between all members, to ensure that the prototype was completed efficiently and in a timely manner. 

 

I was also responsible for analyzing the data from the usability test that and made and making new changes to ensure a simplistic, easy to use application, and worked collaboratively on the improved medium fidelity prototype. 

PROBLEM

As university students, we are keenly aware of the problem related to the amount of stress that university students encounter in their day-to-day lives. As such, we knew it was critical to create an application that can help deal with this stress and reduce it.

     

 

  • To find a way to help students improve their time management

  • To provide students with a method to access many of their responsibilities/goals in one central place, eliminating wasted time looking for them

  • To allow students to focus on physical well-being by allowing them to set their exercise and diet goals in the same app, as well as track these goals

  • To help manage stress instead of neglecting it

GOALS

USERS & AUDIENCE

We interviewed a variety of users - male and female university students, that were pursuing a variety of degrees. We interviewed some that were within a UXD program, and others that were within a Business program.

The three critical questions we had to ask were: 

Are you more stressed before or after class and why?

Describe the last time that you were stressed and how you handled it

What do you like the most about university and why?

EMPATHY

We interviewed a variety of users - male and female university students, that were pursuing a variety of degrees. We interviewed some that were within a UXD program, and others that were within a Business program. Once we interviewed them, the next step was getting to them better

We concentrated on one main target user - students who are hard workers and do not have enough time for leisure and are having difficulties balancing their social and academic lives. 

we then wanted to try and understand how students feel and what they value. In order to so, we created an empathy map that goes through the day-to-day of a University student. We created a map that captures the aspects that go into living the life of a University student.

We wanted to capture that change in emotion throughout our users day, this would help gear our application towards creating a positive emotion throughout our users day. In order to so, we wanted to capture the process and journey of a university student.

DEFINE & IDEATE

In order to delve deeper into our users, to understand them and know what they value we decided to use an iterative interrogative technique called the Five Whys. Essentially the purpose is to find the underlying problems, and to determine the root cause of a problem; the problem in this case being what causes so much stress to students and how do you mitigate that? 

Our ideas were heavily based on our initial research but not so much on our user research. This is proven to change later, where we establish a more concrete idea. We wanted to build a foundation of what we must include within our solution

PAPER PROTOTYPE

We created a paper prototype to test our idea with our users using an application called “Mockup”. Although paper prototyping may seem quite simplistic, it posed a huge benefit to us. The paper prototype allowed us to test out the navigation system within our application, and allowed us to create a rough layout of the idea we had in mind.

WIZARD OF OZ EXPERIMENT

I was responsible for carrying out the Wizard of Oz experiment as noted before. I requested the participants to speak out loud while performing their tasks. This allowed me to observe our users' reactions and thoughts on different aspects within our application. One of the recorded responses to the Wizard of Oz experiment is linked below: 

INTERACTIVE PROTOTYPE

The results of our testing and experiments were looked at collaboratively as a group, and after we analyzed our test results we used PowerPoint to create a new iteration of our prototype that included our findings. We ensured that the prototype below was interactive, in order to do so we ensured everything was properly linked. Below is a fully functional interactive version of our medium fidelity prototype. 

USABILITY TESTING

The majority of our testing was conducted in-person on the Laurier Brantford campus, however approximately 40% was done via Zoom. In order to easily reference and study our testing, we recorded notes when conducting our test. This allowed us to look back and understand user difficulties that occur within our application. Prior to the usability test we conducted, we informed our participants about the product, and the goal our product is meant to achieve. This allowed us to see and understand if that goal is met based on the thoughts of our users. 

USABILITY TEST FINDINGS

Overall, the testing went smoothly when navigating back and forth between the different icons. However, there is room for improvement within the other parts of the application, such as the ability to share a post, functionality for changing personal information, and going back to a previous page. Users seemed to take over 2 minutes on average in order to figure out those parts of the application, therefore signaling room for improvement.

The main areas of improvement were to:

 

  • Revise ‘back’ button on specific pages (e.x. back button on home page not necessary) ​

  • Revise settings menu to an expanded drop-down hamburger menu with additional options ​

  • Additional customization needed (user can change; info, password, and block users) ​

  • Pop-up menu for when user wants to share a post​

IMPROVED PROTOTYPE

Changes made 

 

  • Addition of a ‘back’ button on certain pages.

  • Settings menu changed to hamburger menu

  • More customization options to the account details page (change name, birthday, & password) 

  • Share button - pop-up menu that helps users share more easily.

 A fully interactive improved medium fidelity prototype is attached below:

My Angle

How students are affected by stress differs among students [2]. Small amounts of stress for short periods of time can be healthy; it can help as a motivator to get something done. The problem is when stress occurs for an extended period of time, when you are constantly stressed out. Having a form of chronic stress can interfere with your studying or even class attendance as it can cause you to feel unwell and as such unable to make it to class. High levels of stress also damages concentration levels; it makes it difficult to concentrate on something when you are extremely stressed out. High stress levels can also physically affect you through causing high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and even heart disease [1]. 

Stress is a major contributor to many physical illnesses and health issues. This is why I believed it was vitally important to know how to manage or reduce stress. One keyway to reduce stress is to be able to manage your time. Research shows that students who are able to efficiently manage their time are less likely to feel stressed. However, managing your time becomes difficult when you are living on your own for the first time and juggling so many responsibilities. Using a weekly planner, or some sort of chart or calendar to organize all your assignments, quizzes, and tests can be a great way to assist you in managing such a huge workload.

 

One way to help reduce stress levels is by engaging in some form of leisurely activity. Wheatear it is eating, sleeping, reading, or socializing, a student needs to be able to take a break to do something that they enjoy. It can be as simple as grabbing a snack or going for a walk; a break is needed for any student. It is also critically important to have self-care and self-compassion. Often when a student does badly on a test or an assignment they get hard on themselves, and they start to feel that they are a failure. Combining leisure and social activities in your day is a great way to take care of yourself, and for you to remember that you did your best; having an open mind will assist in self-compassion. Simple things like eating healthy, engaging in physical activity and getting enough sleep also assists in combating stress. In fact, research shows that sufficient sleep (7 – 9 hours) assists with memory recall, increased learning capability, increased energy, muscle growth, and tissue repair. Something as simple as sleep can assist in reducing stress, and if combined with time management is an excellent and efficient way to reduce stress levels [1]. 

Overall, it is evident that is vital to work towards a solution that can battle or mitigate stress within students. Stress is something that will never go away, so we should at least try and help battle it. 

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