Key problems to address in our research
The iSchool is poorly understood, even by students studying adjacent fields. InfoSci is known as a “discovery” major, with over 70% of students transferring in after hearing about it from a class or word of mouth.
In a group setting, we worked to identify how the program is perceived by students throughout their four years, both in and outside the iSchool. Our findings led to significant changes in how the program is marketed.
We conducted user interviews during our research to build new personas and inform the design. Together with the team, we prepared an interview script with open-ended questions, focusing on our target audience’s values, motivations, and daily routines. We referenced the user interview findings throughout the entire design process.
While we went to the interview with a general structure, we adjusted the interview flow based on the participants’ responses. A contextual interview allowed us to interpret more than just their responses because we could observe other visual or auditory cues.
Interpretation sessions and data analysis
Our team held interpretation sessions after the interviews to fully understand their context. We then combined all data and mapped it out using the affinity diagram method.
We crafted some students' identities based on the data we collected. The identities were divided into three sections based on who they were, what they wanted, and what they liked.
We also created the relationship model. This model outlines the internal and external relationships of the students with various aspects of the program and beyond. We divided this into three sections. The relationships with themselves, their program, and the rest of the world. The high-level scope provided an extensive overview of their decision-making process within the program.
Our affinity diagram led to four key groups of findings, and the first is the idea that most people do not understand the true value of InfoSci as a field. This lack of understanding can manifest itself socially, where iSchool students feel like they are occasionally looked down upon compared to their CompSci peers. But in reality, CompSci and InfoSci are both valuable in different ways. If people understood that the two fields provide different skill sets that can be used to solve different problems (or the same problem from different angles), then they could be considered contemporaries and collaborators rather than unequal relatives. Students identify that because of this lack of understanding, they feel akin to the pioneers of InfoSci.
Second, our participants noted that wider knowledge about InfoSci would lead to more informed decision making. Despite its popularity as a major, most people do not know about InfoSci in and outside of UMD. Students traced their own journey, stating that it was difficult to discover the major, although that difficulty paid off in the end. The discovery is not a problem in of itself, and many people value that process, so rather view it as a problem, the iSchool should perceive it as a strength and simply provide more avenues of discovery. While some students had help in uncovering InfoSci, in the end, most believed that they stumbled upon the field through their own will and a bit of happenstance, and that moment is a key part of their journey.
Last, participants described InfoSci as having a more holistic approach to academics than its contemporaries. Students coming from other majors often felt too stressed out in their original program, whereas InfoSci works to cultivate a more balanced offering. The major does not force you to focus on one specific thing, making it unlikely you’ll be railroaded into doing something you don’t enjoy or don’t feel equipped to handle. The program also feels more like a community, and this framework lends itself to forming interpersonal relationships, which matches well with InfoSci’s people-centric approach.