Commuter students at UNT report lower satisfaction with socialization as well their ability to attend on campus events. This is troubling because campus engagement has been linked to higher student satisfaction, retention, and degree attainment. UNT is a school with high commuter rates, therefore improving the commuter experience is integral to the wellbeing of both the school and the diverse student body.
How might we create an equitable college experience for commuter students?
Students can find events that match their interests and schedules with ease. Attending paid events is made easy with the option to buy tickets in app.
Students can create their own events on or off campus, in person or virtually, and make new friends along the way.
Students can find events currently happening near them and follow their favorite organizers. Perfect for students with downtime in between classes.
“Commuting provides its challenges. I think not having the same ability to socialize and attend extra-curricular activities as an on-campus student is the hardest part.”
My survey received 100 responses. I discovered significant differences in commuter and non-commuter responses for "making new friendships and connections". 60% of non-commuter students reported levels of satisfaction average to above, compared to only 33.3% of commuter students.
I also learned that commuters felt they were most negatively affected by commuting in regards to socialization and attending on campus events.
I discovered commuters often have schedules that require them to leave campus as soon as their classes are over. Additionally, many find it difficult to commute to campus outside of class.
My interviewees mentioned that UNT has an organization called Off-Campus Student Services (OCSS), but they hadn't found it helpful. The OCSS has hosted a variety of events for commuter students; yet, according to my survey, commuter students felt alienated from the rest of campus.
This led me to ask a primary research question that would lead me into the exploratory phase of my research:
"Our biggest challenge is to reach them. How do we get in there and say, hey, we're here for you."
-Chris Dickson, OCSS Coordinator
I contacted the OCSS and spoke with its coordinator, Chris Dickson. After my interview, I was able to answer my research question:
1. Commuters don’t know what’s offered to them, and what is offered can be difficult for them to attend.
2. Many of the events offered do not promote the socialization of commuter students with their peers.
I now understood the scope of the problem and the gaps I needed to fill on UNT's end.
Based on my interviews, I created three archetypes: the worker, the lonely undergrad, and the home racer.
These archetypes encapsulated the three distinct types of commuter students I identified through my analysis. Each persona embodied the most prevalent UNT commuter behaviors and frustrations. My personas painted a clear image of the three branches of my user group and the needs of each that I needed to address.
I came up with four concepts to test amongst my users.
Concept 1: UNT Union kiosks
Concept 2: Commuter Bubbles
Concept 1: Events Map
Concept 1: Virtual Events Kit
After using a survey to gather feedback from 20 students, I decided to proceed with an amalgamation of each concept's most liked features.
Students were split on concepts, however, each had a winning feature that users really responded to. I decided to take these standouts and amalgamate them into one digital app that focuses on events. Based on my users' feedback on each concept, I chose to take the map from Concept 3, the ability to reserve tickets from Concept 1, and the ability to create events- both in-person in virtual from Concept 2 and 4.
Discover Events & Buy Tickets
RSVP to Events & Chat with other Students
Use the Map to Find Events in Real Time
Create Your Own Events
My users felt that my app was easy to use, and would fulfill their needs. However, I had to make several small improvements.
1. A few of my users were confused when trying to navigate from an event to it's groupchat after RSVPing, so I added the ability to navigate to the groupchat from the event's page, and also provided user feedback to let them know their RSVP was successful.
2. One of my users group's issues was having to visit each UNT organization's various social media accounts, so I added the ability for an organization to centralize their social media presence.
3. Users expressed that they wanted more interests options to choose when onboarding, so I added more options, and made visual changes to make the process fun and enjoyable.
Iterate fast, keep your personas close, and be mindful of feature creep.
1. Iterate fast.
Don't spend too much time on beautifying your prototypes until the very end. The more you can cycle through iterations and getting feedback, the closer your app will to be to fulfilling your users needs, and the easier it will be to make changes.
2. Keep your personas close
I learned to print paper copies of my personas and constantly revisit them to make sure I'm still empathizing with my users' needs and wants. Well researched personas are especially valuable in the ideation process.
3. Feature creep
During usability testing, one of my users mentioned to me that they would've liked to see the ability to create study groups, however I felt that it might take away from the core of the app, so noted it as something to revisit later with a survey. However, it did give me the idea to include the ability to create clubs in a future version of the app, where students could create interest based groups and easily invite other students to recurring events. This would help my users to socialize and form friends.