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Linkedin Design Exercise: Connecting students online & in-person

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LinkedIn is a place where people can connect to people they know, in order to share professional experience and opportunities. Professional networking can begin at any point, even in school. Increasingly, students are relying on their mobile address book, and not their email address book, to manage their contacts.

Spring 2018 - 1 week SOLO work

UX Research, Ideation, UX Design, Prototyping

Task : Design an experience that helps college students discover and connect to their classmates, without relying on email.

 

Solution Overview

 

To fully understand the task, I start by writing down some keywords, and my immediate thoughts on them.  Based on the results, I developed some main questions to investigate for research: 

  1. What does “connect with classmates” mean to college students? 
  2. What are the main methods for students to discover and connect with their classmates? And is there a difference for connecting with current students vs alumni?
  3. What are the main goals when college students want to connect with classmates?  
  4. What LinkedIn features do students use currently to discover and connect with classmates? Are those effective?

Understanding the Problem

 

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To get a general idea of what students think of "connect with classmates" and the methods they use to connect with classmates, I created a survey and received 46 responses.  Then I conducted in-depth interview with 6 students of different majors and schools to get more insights.

Research : Survey + Interview

 

What does "connection" mean to you ? 

The majority of students think of "connection" with professional connotations. Interact with the chart to see more insights. 

 

 

How do you currently connect with your classmates professionally?

Facebook messenger and Linkedin are the most common methods.

 

What methods do you find the most effective or pleasant to connect with your classmates professionally?

It is quite interesting to see how the percentages of "In Person" & "Phone Call" raise for this question. It seems that many students do not use those methods often to connect with classmates, but find them effective/pleasant when they do use them.

In-depth Interview + Insights

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What does "connection" mean to students? How do students develop connection with their classmates?

The majority of students think of "connection" with professional connotations and associate words with formality.

A few students consider social connection first. When asked about professional connection, they mention that they feel most comfortable to connect professionally with their friends or mutual friends.  

Students typically develop connection with classmates naturally through team projects instead of direct, intentional reaching out / networking. They learn from their teammates along the collaboration experiences.

 

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What do students value of their connections with classmates? What are the main goals when they try to connect with classmates?

Students are interested in how their peers land on an internship or job, specifically their previous experiences, relevant skills, coursework and past projects

Similarly, many students mention that they want to know what their friends are doing at school or at work to help figure out what themselves should be doing. 

Students value the information sharing with their classmates about on campus opportunities such as research projects and a popular course.

 

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What are the main methods for students to discover and connect with their classmates? How do students use Linkedin to connect?

Based on both the survey and interview, here are the ways students connect with their classmates and the pros and cons:

Many use Facebook messenger to connect with classmates because of convenience and general usage. However, some concern that messenger is too informal and personal and is afraid of being associated with "stalking." 

Linkedin is a useful tool for students to look for connection. Students mainly use Linkedin to see classmate's profiles, with an emphasize on professional experiences and skills. However, only a few reach out directly from Linkedin because they think it is too formal to connect with classmates.

Students feel most comfortable reach out if there is personal connection such as mutual friend. Although only a few connect through phone call or in person, most indicate that they find such methods efficient and pleasant. Also, many students are willing to meet in person for new connection if time and space permitted. 

 

Design Opportunity

Keeping in mind the survey and in-depth interview results, I identified my design opportunities to improve college students connection experience. I focus on my stakeholder's values and goals when they connect with their classmates. Specifically,  here are 3 design goals:

  1. Help students discover and connect with classmates through projects.
  2. Facilitate in person meeting  for students to connect with efficiently.
  3. Revise and simplify the content of student Linkedin profile to highlight skills, course and projects that leads to professional experiences, as well as mutual friend suggestion. 

Persona Based User Scenario

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Problem : Olivia finds it hard to know about projects and events on campus because there is so much going on. It's also difficult to approach classmates she does not know for advice or collaboration. 

Opportunity : She wants to be involved with projects and events of her career interest, and learn from the people she collaborate with. 

Potential Entry Point : She looks at her classmates' profiles on Linkedin to see how her skills and experience compare to them for a certain internship.

 
 

Based on my design goals and user persona, I proposed a potential user flow. I explored the current flow of Linkedin app and build my user flow from there to give users a familiar context, but also add new, student-targeted features to help my stakeholder Olivia to achieve her goals. 

User Flow

 

Based on the needs of the user persona and my defined opportunity areas, I sketched out quick thumbnails of screens to help me further understand the user flow and overall structure.  The 8 screens roughly cover the 3 key features I want to design to achieve my 3 design goals mentioned in Design Opportunity.

Wireframing

 

Final Design 

After iterations on wireframes and brief user testing by paper sketches,  I reached my final design solution : Linkedin Classmate.  Linkedin Classmate is a feature that aims to bring current students of a university together both online and in person.  Specifically, Linkedin Classmate has 3 key features to do so, and these key features confirm my 3 design goals based on research and user persona.

 
Key Feature 1 - Project Page

Key Feature 1 - Project Page

The Project Page helps students discover and connect with classmates through on campus event and project opportunities. Students meet and learn from their classmates from collaboration experiences, thus naturally develop solid connection with each other.

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Key Feature 2 - Student Specific Profile

Key Feature 2 - Student Specific Profile

Revised, simplified content of College Student Linkedin profile to highlight coursework and projects that leads to professional experiences, as well as mutual friend and classes suggestion. Hit "View full profile" to see complete Linkedin profile.

Key Feature 3 - Powerful Messenger

Key Feature 3 - Powerful Messenger

The messenger for Linkedin Classmate assists students to connect with their classmates in a simple and efficient way.

1) It facilitates in person meeting for students to establish personal connection. The messenger parse the thread conversation, and highlights time & location related items. Students can quickly set up reminder by tapping the items.

2) The messenger provides suggestion for place to meet on campus with detail info on location and business hour.

3) Messenger gives general recommendation on conversation starter, referral request and in person meeting suggestion.

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