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Course Scheduling: Reducing Steps

Friday, November 30th, 2012 | Posted by Kylie Jack

After the last iteration of the course scheduler wireframes, I was given the feedback to be boring: focus on “simple, clean, and easy to use.” This is the latest result, both in an interactive Flash prototype, and in PDF format.

At the beginning of this iteration, I went in search of college degree plans mainly for content to use (since one goal of wireframes is to use real content, not just lorem ipsum). What I found is that in traditional undergraduate degree programs, students don’t actually have a lot of choice. At least half of a typical program is satisfying fairly specific requirements, and once you factor in prerequisites for electives, there’s a fairly prescribed path.

The process of figuring out a degree usually involves checklists from advisors, and in my experience, managing your plan in Excel. So in this round of wireframes, I’ve flipped the problem around. Rather than giving someone a blank schedule and letting them figure out what they need to do, they are given that degree requirement checklist. Picking a requirements brings up a list of related courses. Even in a large university with a ton of classes, most requirements aren’t going to have a huge list of options within a specific semester. For example, this is a degree checklist for a BA in Comp Sci at UT. The largest set of course options will be upper-division electives for computer science, but this is not a huge list and certainly doesn’t require lots of filtering or search options.

After picking the course, then the student is given a list of sections and some key factors through which to compare them: date and time, professor, and location. At any time, the student can switch from the degree plan view to the weekly schedule to see how it’s all shaking out.

By making the key starting point of the interface the degree plan, the application complexity is significantly reduced. That said, user testing revealed two main flaws: the schedule view is small and hard to read. The schedule view is where you can currently drop a course or change sections, but several users wanted to do this from the degree plan area. Also, the planned courses in the degree plan should move into another area, as currently the user must scroll a lot to get to it, and may not see newly added classes. Overall though, I feel this is a much stronger direction than the first two iterations.

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