NIC students get hands-on learning opportunity to inform new college website

Instructor Claire Guiot (left) goes over work with students on a project that will help NIC refresh the college website.

NIC is in the process of revitalizing its website, and it has been looking for ideas right on campus to make the online experience better.

Three classes of UX/UI (user experience/user interface) students have been working on assignments that have helped to inform how NIC’s Marketing and Future Students (MFS) team re-designs the site. In turn, the students get a real-world opportunity to work behind the scenes on a web re-design as well as gain experience in a team environment.

"The project was a win-win for everyone involved,” said instructor Claire Guiot. “Students tackled a genuine project using real market research and their own experiences to identify website pain points and anticipate future student needs. Discussing their ideas with the college's marketing team was invaluable, particularly since the department’s Associate Director Erin Kenny is a program graduate. It checked all the boxes of hands-on, relevant education, and it showed in the high level of student engagement.”

For the work, using a “persona” model of a student wishing to apply for nursing, the students in Guiot and instructor Michelle Simms’ classes focused on the NIC homepage and how easily it connects to the program page, and within that, connections with a specific program page—in this case, nursing. Their aim was to assess the value and layout of the content and what could make navigation easier for potential students, taking advantage of their perspective as students with a range of backgrounds.

“People are coming into this with all sorts of experience,” Simms said.

The students started with research and then drew low-fi wireframes—essentially basic blueprints for web pages and app screens—to determine where content can go and how it can be arranged to make the experience smoother. They tested their solutions on real users and improved their work until they had produced fully finished prototypes of what the final pages would look like and what interactivity they would include.

“You kind of get to do, start to finish, designing the webpage,” student Mark Corfield said. “It gives you a fulsome idea of what the UX/UI design process is.”

One of the important site features the students mentioned was the need to find course costs more easily. Recently, members of the MFS team visited the classes, and they agreed site accessibility is one of the most crucial parts of the user experience.

The MFS team also talked to small break-out groups about their work so far on the project and what they feel should be highlighted. Some students mapped out news, program or scholarship information on different parts of the home page. Others highlighted finding out about one’s “dream” course as a portal into program information.

“Interacting with the marketing team was really illuminating. Along with the project, we were able to learn from their real-life and industry experience that was really valuable,” said student Abin Tom Sebastian. “We got to understand what we could be expecting in the field, what working in the real-life world could be, especially working in this industry.”

For information, check out DIGITAL Design + Development under NIC programs.

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