2019 Conference Usability

Weird Science: Using Psychology and Human Factors to Enhance the Student Digital Journey SNT4

The very format of the “Weird Science” captured the spirit of the case study the presenters shared: teamwork.

The quintet from Flagler College included Holly Hill and Mike Horn from the marketing and communications area, psychology professor Tracy Litzinger, and two students, Ray Van Allen and Christine Ketner. The group shared their process and results of a user journey research project tied to a web redesign.

Holly started the presentation with an enthusiastic plug for using your office as a “living classroom” for students. In this case, after Tracy took some of her psychology students to a website town hall, she was inspired to approach her marketing colleagues about a collaboration. Tracy said during the presentation she first wanted to attend the town hall because “it was a good opp for my students to see research in action.” They ended up being part of that action.

As a human factors psychologist, Tracy’s area of expertise is in how humans think and behave and about their limits and capabilities related to systems and designs. So, a user’s website experience was of great interest. Couple that with students interested in undergraduate research, and you get a project that benefits many.

The idea behind this additional research was, as Holly put it, “you can be accessible, but not equitable.” So using the initial work from the school’s web development partner (iFactory), as well as an accessibility scan from Siteimprove, Tracy and the students dove deeper into the the Flagler website. The goal: improve the user journey.

One unique aspect of this project was that since it was academic research — and research involving human subjects — is that the study had to go through the IRB (instiutional review board) process. Since the marketing and communications team would also be involved with the research, Holly and Mike were required to complete IRB ethics training. So, while this might be more complicated than typical market research, it allowed for a faculty-staff-student/academic-administration collaboration.

Tracy added that this project — which also served as Ray’s honors thesis — is an example of a high-impact learning practice. This type of learning, she said, aids in student retention.

The end result of this project included reworking the Admitted Students page, among others — but the real gem of this presentation was to show how various functions across colleges and universities can work together for the mutual good.


Image: Robert Couse-Baker

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By Donna Talarico

Donna Talarico, a Red-Stapler-winning HighEdWeb presenter and volunteer editor for Link, is an independent writer and content strategist. She is the marketing columnist for Wiley's Recruiting and Retaining Adult Learners, and her work has also been published in CASE Currents, The Guardian Higher Education Network, and elsewhere. From 2010 to 2015, she told the Elizabethtown College story as part of an award-winning marketing and communications team. Always a storyteller, before higher ed she worked in print and broadcast media, and for a leading eCommerce company. She is the founder and publisher of Hippocampus Magazine, a bimonthly creative nonfiction journal and small press. She loves road trips, board games, greasy spoon diners, and words.