The task was to build a calculator that enables prospective students to find information on course tuition fees, receive guidance around living costs and check the availability of government funding they may be eligible to receive. A number of universities have this functionality, both in the UK and in the US, so it was easy to review how we thought we wanted our calculator to work (and how we didn’t!).
A challenging schedule
The challenge was to do this within six weeks – and over the Christmas / New Year period. Complex funding arrangements; different modes of study e.g. flexible credits or full or part time enrolment, different rules for funding based on location e.g. whether in the UK or abroad, age factors as well as different course costs made building the calculator an intellectually challenging activity for all involved. In order to deliver the calculator quickly a third party supplier, Reading Room, was contracted to assist. There was still a heavy requirement on UAL staff to provide the much needed data to build the code and the project team were grateful for all the assistance they were given along the way.
Alongside extensive User Acceptance Testing, we did some guerrilla user testing downstairs in the Student Union Café and bribed some London College of Fashion students with chocolate to get their feedback. This was a really useful test for the calculator, particularly around the terminology we used on each of the form fields (we think we can do some more work in this area making the wording easier to understand whilst still keeping our legal team happy!)
Aligning with launch of Scholarships
Go lives for most projects can often be down to the wire – and given the tight delivery timetable this was certainly the case for the Fees and Funding Calculator. When the date for go live arrived the calculator was built but there were certainly improvements that could be made. While the University was comfortable to provide a calculator for students’ immediate use it was felt it would be a better product if it was linked to the launch of the Vice Chancellor’s Post Graduate Scholarship – resulting in a postponement of one week. This meant each time a Post Grad student used the calculator not only would they get information on their fees and the availability of government funding, they would be prompted to apply for the Vice Chancellor’s Post Graduate Scholarship (if eligible).
The work continues
The Fees and Funding Calculator is now online, but we are looking at ways to improve the students experience further by showing them all the UAL funding opportunities available (through our various scholarships, bursaries and awards), and developing more simple digital processes to support the funding application process itself (currently they are bombarded with a plethora of word or pdf documents they have to fill in. If they want to apply for multiple funding opportunities, they give us their details multiple times through multiple word documents…!)
Keep an eye on this one as we develop the functionality of the calculator over the next couple of months. If you have any feedback please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org