Enabling students to discover and connect with mentors within campus
Role: Exploratory Research, User Interview, User Journey Map, Persona, Information Architecture, Wireframing, Prototyping, User Testing
"Your school wants to strengthen the community by encouraging experienced students to connect with new students and help them adjust to campus life. Design an experience that allows mentors and mentees to discover each other. Consider the needs of both mentors and mentees, including how someone may become a mentor and how to connect mentors to mentees."
Understanding the Prompt
"Design an experience that allows mentors and mentees to discover each other. Consider the needs of both mentors and mentees, including how someone may become a mentor and how to connect mentors to mentees."
Through identifying the major objectives in the prompt, I decided to frame my research questions based on two user groups: Mentors & Mentees. And I reframed the prompt into a HMW statement:
How might we create an experience that allows students to
become a mentor: encourage senior students to participate and contribute in the community
discover: provide an easy way for mentors and mentees to find others who share similar interest/background
connect: enable mentees to reach out to mentors they think are the right fit, and allow them to build relationships
within their community.
Framing Research Questions
To better understand the problem, I decided to use the school I currently attend, The School of Visual Arts, as the campus and community to conduct research. The questions I listed out below provided a framework for both my online research and user interviews.
Through 11 interviews with students at SVA, I was able to empathize and understand the journey and pain points for both user groups: Mentors & Mentees. I recorded the interviews and took verbatim notes for each one, analyzed the major problem areas for each person, then I mapped out 2 user journey maps for each user group with opportunity areas corresponding to each pain point. Below are the demographics that I interviewed:
User Journey Map
Current touchpoint to find the right fit is inefficient
and efficiency is crucial
The mentorship relationship is mutual
It's about building relationships
Why do mentors connect with mentees?
Mentors want to help new students because
- They've been through the similar experience in the past, and they would like to provide useful insights and suggestions to help mentees.
- They want to give back. When they were the new students, their mentors provided constructive feedback, and they want to pass the lessons along to the 'next generation.'
- They want to connect and learn from mentees as well. There are always new things to learn from everyone no matter even if he/she is junior level.
- They enjoy helping people, and want to be recognized and valued as mentors. Giving help and seeing positive outcomes makes them feel accomplished and rewarded as well.
What are the major pain points for mentors?
- Time Management: Hope to have more efficient conversation and interaction to save time due to mentors' busy schedules.
i.e. Texting messages to answer questions are time consuming.
i.e. Filling in personal information or telling stories repetitive is time consuming.
- Don't want to receive too many general questions which others can answer. Hope to receive questions that are more specific and target towards their personal strength and interests.
- Sometimes after answering questions, the mentees won't provide updates and feedback back to mentors. But mentors want to learn if the suggestions are helpful or not.
What are the major pain points for mentees?
- Sometimes on certain topics, mentees prefer to gather feedback from several sources. Keep initiating conversations separately with each mentor could be time consuming.
- If the department has a large number of students in it, mentees could have difficulties to discover and connect the mentors that they look for
-Mentees want to build and maintain more personal relationships with mentors, instead of merely asking for professional related questions.
I started rapid sketching some ideas after synthesizing the insights from user interviews. And I considered the on boarding process, different views of homepage and different functions in personal dashboard. As I sketched more versions for each page, I started to narrow down the possibilities and kept the ones I believe might be more intuitive to the users, and made them into low fidelity prototypes.
Low Fidelity Prototpye
Onboarding: Signing Up
The product campus connect will be integrated with school systems, which enables students to sign up with their school email during the onboarding process.
Based on the account information registered with the school email address, the system will auto fill the basic information of the student, including names, school, major and year.
Onboarding: Creating Profile
In the user research, specifically the interviews with mentors/senior students, I learned that mentors value their time commitment and efficiency.
More than half of the group I interviewed mentioned that:
- They don't enjoy filling out personal information and project/work experience repetitively.
- In terms of the communication method, they prefer talk face to face or video chat than texting to save time.
In response, I designed the feature to allow users to connect their account with LinkedIn to auto fill their experience. Another feature during onboarding process is communication preference. Both mentors and mentees will select their preference, which will be associated with the account, and be directly displayed once users get connected.
The home page is the main portal for students to check important notifications, as well as discover people and explore topics within their community.
For Mentees, they'll be able to see the upcoming events , such as meetings with mentors, on the top of the homepage.
For Mentors, the notifications on the top will be the connect requests they received from potential mentees. They can preview the basic information and messages, and choose to review the whole request or accept the request directly from the homepage, providing a shortcut for mentors' main action.
Top discussions within the community where the user belongs will also be on the homepage, creating a preview for both mentors and mentees to explore what other students are currently discussing.
The Top Mentors and Articles section provide a way for mentees to discover the active mentors in their community. At the same time, being featured on the homepage could be a recognition and incentive for mentors to actively engage and involve more.
Profile View and Sending Request
From the top mentors section, or mentor's articles featured on the homepage, or answers in community posted by mentors, mentees will be able to discover the mentors and view the mentors' profiles. The profile will include mentor's basic information such as major, year, experiences, which is imported from mentor's school system and LinkedIn profile.
Based on the interview with both mentors and mentees, I discovered that the major topics that are often discussed in the mentorship conversation are courses, professional strengths and interests.
The activities section on mentor's profile allow mentees to see what this mentor recently commented and topics/articles they posted. The "Ask Me" and "Class taken" sections will help the mentee to gain a better understanding of the mentor and help decide if he/she would be a right fit to ask certain topics.
Once the mentee decide to initiate conversation with a mentor, he/she can send connection request to the mentor by filling in the blanks shown on the left.
More than half of the mentors I interviewed mentioned a common pain point they had when receiving inquiry and requests from mentees: A lot of the mentees don't specify their personal interest and goals when they first initiate conversation.
The questions and ares within the request form for mentees to fill in then helps them to think about their intention more thoroughly before reaching out the mentors, making the initial process more efficient and effective for both user groups.
In the personal dashboard page, mentors can manage their activities and upcoming events, checking back at people, discussions and articles they saved, as well as edit personal profile information.
Besides discovering and connecting with mentees, one of the main actions for mentors is to manage their schedules and availability.
It allows them to set their schedules prior to connecting with any mentees. Once they get connected, the mentor can easily share the available schedule for mentees to book, which saves time and efforts for them to discuss meeting times with each mentee.
Community & Discussions
The Community and Discussion panel is where mentees and mentors can have open discussions on questions raised by anyone within the community. By allowing an open discussions, mentees can gather more feedback on certain topics that they hope to learn more. At the same time, mentees can discover mentors through their replies below various open discussions and find the right person to send private request to connect.
Both mentors and mentees are allowed to answer questions in the discussion panel. They can always follow the discussions and check back at their bookmarks to receive updates.
In order to validate my design, I tested with 5 users, including 2 mentors and 3 mentees, from the group of students I interviewed with. During the testing, I provided tasks for each user group to complete.
The testing was really inspiring for me to reconsider some potential tweaks that could be applied to navigation, layout, visual hierarchy and certain features. In response to the feedback I received, I decided to make the following changes below:
Changing name of "Community" tab to "Forum", and make the homepage "mentor centric", meaning moving the featured mentors and top articles to the homepage, making it a space where mentors get the chance to receive recognition, and mentees are able to explore active mentors to find a potential fit as well.
Adding the "Following" tab that was missing in the first iteration on to the homepage. So that both mentors and mentees can choose to view either recommendations or what/who they followed.
Making part of questions in the connect request optional and provide suggestions for mentees to fill out to help them frame the request better, as well as providing the information mentors want to learn from mentees.
Changing "Activity" tab on dashboard to "Agenda". The feedback I got from user was that they hope to have better ways to manage schedules. Since there's the following function under homepage, and saved feature within dashboard as well, there is no need to see repetitive messages and activity status anymore.
Adding a calendar view for setting availability instead of only listing time and dates, providing a more visual way for both mentors and mentees to view, select and management time schedules.
Adding badge feature to create an incentive for mentors to engage and involve in the platform.
If I had more time
Finish the High Fidelity for availability calendar view. Finish the follow up reminder to suggest mentees to provide feedback after their meeting/conversation is over.
Conduct another round of user testing with both mentor and mentee group using high fidelity iteration to gather feedback and validate the design assumptions
Keep brainstorming ideas on differentiating different user groups on boarding process, the mentor referral function, layout and overall user flow
Rethink and iterate the onboarding flow for different user groups. Considering adding a different flow for mentors if they are invited/referred, and reduce one step for them to choose mentor/mentee preference.
Keep designing the flow and wireframe of mentor sending availability via chat