Choosing A Major

This design research project involves redesigning the process that Ohio State University students go through in the university's Explorations program in order to find the area of study that best suits them. The team for this project included four interior designers and one visual communication designer.

 

Problem

It is becoming more and more typical that students have to spend over four years in their undergraduate education, typically due to switching majors and having no choice but to complete new required courses. This causes students to accrue more student loans and creates an environment that is not conducive to exploration in education.

 

Solution

Through working with students and faculty, researching known statistics on undergraduate education, and implementing relevant design research tools, our team developed a replacement system in which students could choose a more accurate major for their career path in less time.

Research Methods

Secondary Research

Our secondary research involved graduation rates of students who switch majors, when students choose their college major in their academic timeline, and the correlation between degrees that students graduate with and the jobs they pursue.

 

Student Survey

We surveyed 78 current Ohio State students and asked them a variety of questions about their studies, future careers, why they chose the major they did and when, and people in their lives who influence these choices.

Advisor Discussions

Next, we had casual discussions with several Ohio State advisors in different departments, along with advisors in the Explorations department, who manage the academic careers of undecided students.

Semi-Structured Interviews

Diving further into the student experience after reviewing our survey results, we each met with a few students each to discuss their paths in finding an area of study or career, and what factors affected their decisions. Many of them had very specific items that they felt could have helped them along the way.

Make Sessions

Finally, informed by our previous research, we conducted 3 separate student make sessions. There were 11 students total, with 3-5 students participating per session. The process included a pre-session personality test and survey along with 3 in-session activities. The activities included: a journey map of past career goals and interests, a bullseye of mapped career interests vs. career paths from their personality test, and a final activity that combined a post-high school journey map and the target from activity two. The combination of past and future activities at the end helps students make connections about what factors contributed to where they are now.

 

Our objective was to analyze the relationship between participants’ general interests and career interests, and to see how that relates to their dream job and their current steps towards that dream. Below you can view our overall findings.

Insights

Creating Categories

After analyzing what each student created and said during the sessions, we found 3 distinct groups that the 11 students could be placed into. This included the confident students who have had a straight path in interests, students who have changed their path and are now confident in their direction, and students who are reluctant going into the field they are and half already changed the direction of their path two or more times.

Student Personas

Taking these three groups that we created from our participants, we outlined three specific users that we hoped to focus on moving forward. Student A: "The Straight Shot" needs the least amount of help from our design solution. They are very confident and do not need assistance from the Ohio State Explorations program. Student B: "Testing the Waters" make up the largest group in our sample. They are currently confident later in their academic career, but in the past they had two or more changes in their area of study. Finally, Student C: "Still Wandering" is in most need of assistance. These students are pretty lost in the system and are not sure if the path they are currently on is the correct one, and they've already changed directions multiple times.

Moving forward, we had this main focus: What solution can we propose that would help turn more B's and C's into A's?

My Role

Note Taking and Organization

During this process, I had a major role in taking observational notes during interviews and make sessions, along with organizing all of our notes and findings from all of our research and summarizing it for group analysis. This included pulling out key stats and making connections between points expressed by students. After this was done, it was easy for the team to pull out problem areas that needed to be addressed in our solution.

Research Documentation

While conducting research and brainstorming with the team, I documented the process through notes, as mentioned before, photos, and videos. These files were key in going back and referencing points made during sessions, and allowed us to pull out insights that we otherwise might have missed.

Visualizing our Findings

As the only visual communication designer in our group, I was solely responsible in visually representing our ideas, findings, and proposal in our presentations and documentation. This not only included vector graphics and icons that help bolster our points, but also organizing the information in general into smaller, easier to digest pieces. You can view the design opportunities section of our presentation below

Proposal

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