IMPROVING DIVERSITY IN ONLINE GRADUATE EDUCATION

Time Frame: August - December 2018

Direct Team Members: Suyash Thakare, Dillon Weeks, Domino Weir, myself

My Role: UX researcher

BACKGROUND

This study was conducted for a class project. The data gathered by each sub-team was pooled in order to provide the correct analysis and proposed solutions.

OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this study was to collect empirical research on how online graduate CS programs should be structured to increase diversity and improve learning.

RESEARCH

Our team conducted one participatory design session alongside four interviews and observation sessions.

PARTICIPATORY

DESIGN

ARTIFACTS

TOP:

PARTICIPANT 1

BOTTOM:

PARTICIPANT 2

MY CONTRIBUTIONS

My contributions during research was the recruitment of half of the participants and facilitation of the participatory design session. In addition to that, I conducted an interview and observation session.

For data analysis, I transcribed and coded an interview and observation session. Furthermore, I assisted in the data processing to produce potential solutions.

WHAT I LEARNED

Throughout the study, I realized that even though this was a controlled environment in which certain factors were maintained, conducting research was still chaotic. Whether it's having participants dropping out at the last minute or having to readjust deadlines, I learned that the best traits a researcher can have is patience and adaptability.

After watching all of the sub-teams present their key findings and possible solutions, I also realized that not all solutions are unique. Yes, there are variations to each implementation of the solution, but the underlying solution remained the same.

KEY FINDINGS

Once data processing was completed by the entire class, my team and I sat down and starting coming up with potential solutions using personas.

Persona.png

IMPORTANT ISSUES

Needs

Participants displayed a desire for:

  • Specialized knowledge that may be hindered by the available specializations offered in the online program

  • Acquiring leadership and interpersonal skills that the program doesn't provide with its current curriculum

  • Accessibility of course material in multiple forms besides the usual pre-corded lectures

  • One on one interactions with the professor and/or teaching assistants

  • Mentorship from the online program's alum about struggles that are specific to the program

Tensions

​From our analysis, we discovered areas of interest that deal with:

  • The trade-off between the resources available for the program and the cost of the degree

  • The desire to meet student needs and program logistics, as seen with time-zones

  • Program inclusiveness and program quality

PROPOSED DESIGN DIRECTIONS

We as a team hope that our proposed solution will be implemented in some capacity so that diversity can be improved within the online program.​

  1. Providing a trial period that would allow students to understand just how the program works

  2. Offering more specializations

  3. Provide access to personal attention and mentorship

    • Implementing a video chat/live chat during class​

    • Professors and teaching assistants should be expected to be present for video chats rather than discussion forums that have a history of slow reply rates

  4. Allow students to take undergraduate courses if they're missing part of the foundation, which could attract more women

    • Add a communications requirement​