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Understanding the Graduate Student Experience


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Presentation by Rebecca Blakiston and Gardie Lueders at the AzLA 2018 Annual Conference in Mesa, AZ.

Libraries provide a lot of valuable services to graduate students, but how can we make these services more useful and impactful? Learn how the University of Arizona Libraries is studying the graduate student experience to better serve this user group. We will discuss how we gathered data through experience mapping, user interviews, and environmental scanning. We'll also discuss how the user experience (UX) team collaborated with research and learning librarians and the marketing manager to uncover insights and generate solutions.

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Understanding the Graduate Student Experience

  1. 1. Challenges, Highlights, and Pivotal Moments: Understanding the Graduate Student Experience October 25, 2018 AzLA Annual Conference Rebecca Blakiston & Gardie Lueders University of Arizona Libraries
  2. 2. I am Rebecca Blakiston User Experience Strategist at UA Libraries You can find me at @blakistonr Hello! 2
  3. 3. I am Gardie Lueders Research Program Coordinator at UA Libraries, Research & Learning Department You can find me at Hello! 3
  4. 4. A brief introduction User Experience
  5. 5. “ User experience (UX) focuses on having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations. -
  6. 6. The graduate student audience ◉ Students ◉ Instructors ◉ Researchers ◉ Future faculty members
  7. 7. “ A persona is a user archetype you can use to help guide decisions about product features, navigation, interactions, and even visual design. - Kim Goodwin User Interface Engineering
  8. 8. Goals ------------------------------ Complete course assignments Finish degree Get a good job Behaviors ------------------------------ Attends library instruction Gets help from a librarian Studies with classmates Constraints ------------------------------ Not having a sense of community Experiencing financial stress Navigating the many campus resources Linda the student
  9. 9. Goals ------------------------------ Create curriculum See students succeed Inspire students Behaviors ------------------------------ Collaborates with librarians Directs students to library resources Meets with students in the library Constraints ------------------------------ Balancing commitments Teaching students who lack critical thinking Supporting struggling students Tom the teaching assistant
  10. 10. Sam the emerging scholar Goals ------------------------------ Secure funding Share research with the world Obtain a faculty position Behaviors ------------------------------ Uses databases, journals, and interlibrary loan Manages citations Consults with their librarian Constraints ------------------------------ Getting access quickly Managing research data Balancing competing priorities
  11. 11. “ Design thinking is an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding. - Rikke Dam & Teo Siang Interaction Design Foundation
  12. 12. The what, when, and why Project Beginnings
  13. 13. Why this project? ◉ Interest among research and learning librarians ◉ Mix of interest and expertise ◉ Focus area within strategic map
  14. 14. “ In collaboration with campus partners, develop a comprehensive plan for delivering instructional, consulting, and research services that support graduate and professional student success. - UAL Strategic Map
  15. 15. The study Understanding the Graduate Student Experience
  16. 16. What did we already know? ◉ Research, Teaching, and Learning Task Force Recommendations ◉ Library Design-thinking Project 2018 - Strategic Directions and Commitments
  17. 17. Goal 1 Identify ways to improve library services to graduate students by: ○ Collecting data on their experiences ○ Learning about their awareness of library services ○ Identifying their points of need
  18. 18. Goal 2 Identify which library services are most valuable and useful for grads.
  19. 19. Goal 3 Identify opportunities of new services or variations of current services to grad students.
  20. 20. Designing our study
  21. 21. Data collection methods ◉ Small group interviews, experience mapping, and discussion o Box Notes ◉ Survey - o AirTable
  22. 22. Recruitment plan ◉ March 2 – 9, 2018... ○ Use existing database to email grads to get participants. ○ Prepare questions and interview method. ◉ March 16, 2018... Hold four sessions of small group interviews of graduate students from a range of disciplines.
  23. 23. Survey ?
  24. 24. AirTable
  25. 25. Session in action
  26. 26. Timeline ◉ Early ◉ Mid-program ◉ Near graduation
  27. 27. Mapping their grad experiences
  28. 28. Interview questions Think about your path so far as a grad student here at the UA. Go all the way to the beginning, think of all the things that happened up until today. Identify significant moments on your path. Identify your feelings. Think about times you interacted with the library and note those moments as well. What were the challenges or obstacles that you encountered along the way? High points and highlights?
  29. 29. Interview questions With the most significant things that happened along the way, what happened before or after that helped you decide on a direction or prepared you for a future position? What things did you learn along the way that you wished that you had known earlier? What, if any, person(s) or opportunities did you encounter that helped you succeed along the way to your degree? How did you discover the person/opportunity?
  30. 30. An Experience Map
  31. 31. Findings
  32. 32. Theme: Access to books & journals "[The] most important thing for preparing for oral comprehensive exams was reading a lot of papers. The library has a lot of databases for physics, like Physics Review. All of those I can download free, which is very good. Downside is when I try to borrow books. For example, Quantum Mechanics - some of them are really old. Versions are really old. Some we don't have in the library...[example] spatial topics in physics. I'm surprised because I started in China for undergrad and I can access those English books there, but not here. “ - Physics PhD Student
  33. 33. Theme: Access to technology "Recently I wanted to borrow a camera ... I noticed first of all no cameras left at Main or Science-Engineering Library. And I couldn't see online - it said 0 or 10 - but no way to see when the next one is due or reserve it online. I wish for technology you could see online when the next one is available or request it. And if there was maybe a preference for something important - I needed a camera just for an hour for a paper - some kind of priority. Make this more flexible and give people a "rapid checkout" option or something? - Optical Sciences PhD Student
  34. 34. Theme: Access to technology “Another thing about the software - on the Macs, you have a lot of software that otherwise you have to pay for - Mathematica, Matlab, etc. One idea is to have a virtual connection so even if the library is closed, we have remote access to software (Mathematica). You're not always able to physically be here. I've used Matlab for maybe 80% of my research.“ - Optical Sciences PhD Student
  35. 35. Theme: Rooms & spaces "When librarians do presentations, it would be good to hear about rooms - getting them around comps. " - Art History PhD Student "I heard about this thing that they were going to start letting people take naps. I actually bike home a lot and take a nap - helps me work longer in the afternoon. Might be logistically tough, maybe against our culture, may take time for people to accept. But I'm all for taking naps in the afternoon.“ - Physics PhD Student
  36. 36. Theme: Librarian liaisons "It would be nice to have our college's librarian be more proactive and come to our departments, maybe do something with each particular college. Like social sciences - have some kind of presentation or round table, develop some kind of connection, specifically for graduate students. I don't think I've ever really talked to the person, but I met them in Special Collections - it would be nice to meet them sooner.“ - History PhD Student
  37. 37. Theme: Training & workshops "Sometimes it’s hard to edit my resume, edit my CV. We have that service in Think Center but those are undergrad students with different majors. They look at my CV and say "Woah cool - fancy research!" If we could have some more specific feedback from a physics related person." - Physics PhD Student "If it's for your thesis or dissertation, formatting, citing - I didn't even know there were resources for that. I tried using one of the citation softwares on my own - Mendeley - it was complicated, so I let it go.“ - Optical Science PhD Student
  38. 38. Study outcomes ◉ Spreadsheet of ideas ◉ Focus on themes ◉ Touchpoints and tactics based on student activities
  39. 39. Quick wins
  40. 40. Survey results
  41. 41. What I’m working on now ◉ UA Library Research and Learning study on disciplinary discourse
  42. 42. Lightweight UX methods Getting started
  43. 43. UX no matter your setting  Academic libraries  Public libraries  Archives and museums  Special libraries
  44. 44. Creating personas ◉ Use existing data about your users ◉ Try segmenting your audience by purpose ◉ Focus on goals, behaviors, and constraints
  45. 45. Goals ------------------------------ Learn things applicable to his work Meet future collaborators Feel welcome Behaviors ------------------------------ Registers for the conference Browses the conference schedule Books a hotel room Constraints ------------------------------ Accessing the schedule from his phone Remembering the names of colleagues Finding gluten free food I love coming to AzLA to meet colleagues, learn about others’ work, and get out of the office for a couple of days.“ ” Craig the conference goer
  46. 46. Mapping the experience ◉ Bring together staff or recruit people from your audience ◉ Put aside assumptions ◉ Select a mapping tool that will be most useful
  47. 47. Talking to your users o Intercept recruitment o User interviews o Impression and 5-second tests o Lightweight, iterative methods
  48. 48. Questions & discussion