An app created for students to find the best study spaces.
Study Pod is a personal project that addresses the problem that many university students are currently facing with virtual learning due to the coronavirus pandemic. : due to the pandemic, many students are learning from home which is not always a very conducive environment.
UX/UI Designer & Researcher
Due to the pandemic, many students are learning from home which is not always a very conducive environment. They have to deal with many issues such as poor access to vital equipment like printers & scanners, slow Wi-fi, lack of motivation and poor mental health. As a student myself, it’s a total nightmare having to learn in the same location for hours. Amidst other global challenges, this school year would be very tough for students. Something had to be done to change that.
To understand if this assumed solution was great for students, I gathered data from surveys, diary studies, social media and informal conversations with friends. I streamlined my results into three core problems that students struggled with which were:
- How might we provide students with the resources/tools required to learn effectively?
- How might we give students a conducive learning atmosphere?
- How might we improve the social interaction between students to maintain good well-being with the onset of virtual learning?
I created potential feature ideas on wireframes and tested them out on my target audience.
I designed an application that helps students access and book study spaces e.g cafes, libraries near them which can be personalised according to their needs by selecting options within a filter. For example, through the app, a student can book a space in a library with a charging port and wifi. They could also select to bring along a study partner if needed.
I had written down some assumptions on why this app could be a good idea and some were:
💭 People may hate studying at home because it could be unproductive but they just can’t find the right study space.
💭 Staying at home can affect students’ wellbeing e.g can increase depression and anxiety.
However, some things I needed to find out were:
❓ If students would be interested in learning within other spaces e,g cafes, libraries other than their homes.
❓ How students feel about going into university libraries, campuses etc
❓ The concerns and worries about virtual learning for students at this time.
To discover if my assumptions were true and to find answers to questions I didn’t know, I carried out research using user surveys, diary studies and social media (Twitter).
Findings and Insight Statements
1. They lack access to essential spaces such as art studios, computer labs e.t.c 🖥
- students study practical subjects such as science or art which need to be seen/experienced before it is properly understood.
- They don’t have the specialist tools they need to learn which these spaces may have.
2. They lack access to vital learning tools (i.e laptops, printers, scanners. good wi-fi connection) 🌐
- People can’t afford to buy laptops, printers, scanners for the work they need to do.
- There may be books they require which they can’t afford to buy or find online.
- People may not have access to wifi so can’t access learning materials.
3. Unsuitable atmosphere i.e too many distractions
- People can’t concentrate properly if they are distracted
4. Students are not disciplined so they lose motivation or focus easily. 📱
- There is less of a study environment so they become easily distracted via phones etc
5. They crave social interaction.👫🤷🏾♀️
- Young people like to socialise, it may cost them their mental health if they can’t find community in such tough times.
- They might not feel motivated to do work/ could procrastinate for longer due to feeling isolated which affects their academic performance negatively.
6. They find it hard to understand online material.🤷🏾♀️
- There is no immediate help/available if they are struggling with school work.
- They may have issues comprehending what the lecturer is saying.
From these insight statements above, I created HMW ( How Might We) questions to refine my problem statement. Although I created six HMW questions, I chose three which had the biggest problem-solving potential.
🤔 How might we provide students with the resources/tools required to learn effectively?
🤔 How might we give students a conducive learning atmosphere?
🤔 How might we improve the social interaction between students to maintain good well-being with the onset of virtual learning?
After crafting the problem statements, I condensed my findings into personas, then used that to sketch some lo-fi wireframes.
User Testing of Lo-fi wireframes
Before executing any UI designs on the app, I did a testing round in order to reveal possible usability problems. There were significant issues my users highlighted which I offered solutions. I made some reiterations and the solutions were implemented in the second set of lo-fi wireframes.
- The three questions before the pod is booked do not highlight all the user might need in a study space. For example, what if a student needs a spot with a charging spot, wifi, printers and scanners? How do you cater for that?
Create a filter feature with categories that are necessary based on user research. This way, users can comfortably select options and the homepage recommendations wold be refined to match their selections.
- To arrive at the study pod chosen, there are four proposed means (not listed in wireframes): walking, taxi, train and cycling. How do I access the taxi, e.g Uber for example?
This direction feature is not a necessary functionality. it would be best to leave this out for now and focus on the real problem.
Inspiration from apps with a similar feature
After realising that a filter feature for easy personalisation would be very useful on the app. I started to look at other applications that used the filter concept. I identified apps like Deliveroo, Airbnb and Breather for inspiration. This is because they personalise their service to a user’s needs and match it to their location of choice.
Final iteration of wireframes
🤔 How might we provide students with the resources/tools required to learn effectively?
- According to my user research, students stated they would like a variety of spaces where they could study, Especially those who study practical subjects like arts, sciences etc.
Hence, the homepage gives a recommendation for various study spaces. e.g cafes, libraries based on their location.
2. To solve this problem, I created a filter feature where students are able to customise their study space needs. For example, students who struggle with slow wifi at home could tick “free wifi” as an option. Then, the homepage recommendations would be refined according to their filter selections.
🤔 How might we give students a conducive learning atmosphere? / How might we improve the social interaction between students to maintain good well-being with the onset of virtual learning?
3. From my research findings, I found that students were worried about their mental health because some were isolated. To revive social interaction, I added this feature where they are able to bring their friends* along for group study.
*not less than six following the Covid-19 guidelines in the UK.
4. Also, still following covid guidelines, I introduced a booking feature which would help maintain order and ensure health and safety- this was a big concern for students. To avoid too many walk-ins and for students who require certain types of spaces for group work, for example, this booking feature would be useful.
What did I learn?
In the end, this was a very challenging project because it was done from scratch. I have learnt that user research is the most important phase and I need to spend more time doing research. For example, I would have done my diary study for longer than a week. Perhaps, I would have seen more interesting patterns that would have changed the outcome of the app.
What will I do differently?
Next time, I would use more qualitative methods such as interviews because this type of project demands in-depth user insight to build something that suits the users’ needs.
I also learnt that it is very important to be more observant of the applications that I use in my daily life. As a product designer, it would help me understand how the designers who work on these apps solve similar problems.
Overall, this is a project that I would love to develop into a real app. Based on feedback from testing, I think it would be extremely useful for students in the UK. I might be wrong but I think that the days of face-to-face learning are gradually coming to an end. Blended learning, if not full virtual learning would be the norm within universities, necessitating the use of this app.
Thank you for reading!
Click the link below to see the full case study and some other projects I’ve worked on —