Background

Undergraduate students at Rutgers University have access to a degree tracking tool called Degree Navigator. This system gives students the ability to view where they are in their degree journey, in addition to searching and planning for future courses. However, graduate students in the Master of Library and Information Science program do not have access to this tool. So a team and I investigated how graduate students in the masters program tracked their degree progress to understand if an alternative would be more efficient. 

My Role

As the only researcher on the team, I approached the project by investigating how graduate students in the masters program currently track their degree progress. The team and I proposed recommendations to Rutgers University after the research and testing was complete.

Methods

The key methods that enabled the team and I to learn how masters students track their degree process were the following:

  • Surveys

  • Moderated usability tests

Results

We learned that graduate students currently don't have a central tool or system to track their degree progress. They could benefit greatly from a degree tracking tool. When usability testing our prototype, participants completed 100% of our task in less than 10 seconds, aggregating a 100% usability score. This study proved how effective, efficient and useful a degree tracking tool like Degree Navigator could be for graduate students. The team and I presented our findings and recommendations to the Dean of Students in the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers. Shortly after, graduate students were granted access to the existing tracking tool, Degree Navigator.

The Process

Surveys

We approached the project by first defining our goals. The goals for the study were to 1) understand the pain points graduate students face when tracking their degree progress, 2) understand how graduate students currently track their degree progress, and 3) gauge the level of interest for a degree tracking tool. ​

After defining the goals for our study, we created an online survey consisting of 10 questions aligned to our goals while also collecting demographic information. The survey was created with password encryption and protection, and circulated to students in the Masters of Information program.

We analyzed the survey results and found that tracking degree progress was a major pain point for the students. Majority of students were also interested in a degree tracking tool, which confirmed our hypothesis that students would be willing to use such a tool. The survey results indicate that having access to a system for tracking degree progress could positively benefit the students. With our assumptions validated, we discussed how to best design a system that would allow students to achieve their goals. As a team we decided that we didn't need to reinvent the wheel, since a degree tracking tool already exists at the university. Our lead designer created a prototype of the degree tracking tool undergraduates have access to, with a few enhancements.

Original design of Rutgers Degree Navigator

(You can hover the laptop to scroll through the page)

(You can hover the laptop to scroll through the page)

Our Prototype of Rutgers Degree Navigator

Usability Tests

We finished our prototype and followed up with five participants who took the survey to recruit for moderated remote usability tests. The study contained six tasks.​

1) Find your GPA

2) Find your graduate electives

3) Find your course summary

4) How many more semesters will it take to complete your degree?

5) How many electives do you have left to take to complete the program?

6) Locate your concentration?

Results

We were really pleased with the results of the usability sessions conducted.

  • 100% of user tasks were completed in under 10 seconds.

  • 100% of users found the design useful.

  • Task 6 took the most amount of time for all users to complete.

Seeing It Happen

The research and data we presented to the university could not be ignored. Rutgers granted access to Degree Navigator for all graduate students less than one month later.