Year: 2019 Duration: 18 weeks Role: Product design lead, front-end developer Awarded: Spark! Demo Day Best Design
problem + context
How can we help BU students better plan out their academic curriculum while keeping it compliant with the new HUB system?
Boston University recently launched a new general education system called the BU HUB, replacing the old system that separated gen ed requirements into four clear cut disciplines with no credit overlaps. It is now six more abstract categories, each divided into more subcategories, where one class can count as multiple HUB areas but students may only choose one to fulfill their HUB. BU has not done much in response to this new curriculum. Students are often frustrated and unable to maximize BU resources in their academic career.
solution + product info
A web application that enables students to easily plan, register for classes, and contact their advisors, eliminating analysis paralysis and clarifying individual HUB requirements through a tailored system.
This project was created for the 2019 Spark! Innovation Fellowship and received the Spark! Innovation Fellowship Demo Day Best Design Award.
Existing solutions have many pain points. There are currently two ways to learn about courses at BU: the official Student Link, and through word of mouth (Facebook groups). However, word of mouth information is difficult to remember, and the reliability of the recommendation could be questionable. The Student Link only lets users search by course code, section, professor, and so on, making it unintuitive and not comprehensive because the user is asked to provide some sort of information first. There is no way to search by category and the HUB is not present. The full list of courses could be overwhelming to the user, putting them in a state of analysis paralysis.
Google campaign validation
TASK 01: FIND A COURSE THAT FULFILLS THE COMMUNICATIONS AREA AND ADD IT TO YOUR PLANNER
TASK 02: ADD A SAVED COURSE TO YOUR PLANNER, THEN GRAPH YOUR SCHEDULE
interactive prototype (click on logo to begin)
As Hub Helper is only available for BU students under FERPA to protect student information, I will not be able to show the actual product. Here is a clickable prototype I created with mock information. Feel free to click around!
With a broad scope for the project and a tight timeline of only four months, we realized early on that our project was more ambitious than practical. In order to produce a MVP by demo day, we had to make the following modifications:
• We had to cut many planned additions such as Kerberos, a planner, advisor view, course suggestions, and major/minor tracking, due to lacking time.
• We wanted to use the University’s database, but due to it being from an unwilling third-party, we had to switch to relying on user input.
• We wanted a database to store classes originally, but realized that the courses were inside a spreadsheet that was available. We then also realized we can get more recent results by scraping the course search.
• We decided against our original plan of using Angular. It’s too time consuming to learn and understand.
• We decided against using a relational database since we already had an understanding of MongoDB.
A major issue to consider with HubHelper is student privacy. Tracking and storing student information comes into direct contact with The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a US Federal law that protects the privacy of student records and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a European Union regulation on data protection and privacy. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations can result in massive legal issues and the risk of student information being leaked.
conclusion + next steps
My experience at the Spark! UXD Innovation Fellowship was a long but rewarding journey. It was an honor to be able to work with a team of such ambitious, passionate and highly skilled people. The comprehensive skills in product development and insights about the start up business I learned here helped me develop both professionally and personally, and I am more sure than ever that product design in the tech industry is the career path I want to pursue.
This project was the start of a journey that will eventually include: a checklist for your HUB requirements, a course search and schedule maker which can produce and update the checklist with pending credits, and a better organized UI than student link currently has. We hope that teams in the future can expand on these proposed features and work closely with the University in order to improve the ability of students to plan their education with ease.
A huge thank you to Boston University, our mentors, peers, the Spark! program, and the best teammates for making all of this possible!
For all requests, collaborations, and questions, please reach out to: