UniConnect is a service idea that engages with students, understands them and helps them make friends even before they join university. It involves 3 key touchpoints/interventions.
1. Introduce and match
UniConnect engages with students before they join university. This could be in the form of an email, a video and through student stories. The service leverages the excitement and anticipation of students joining the university to submit a fun questionnaire. The questions will be based on hobbies, interests and university plans, with a mix of deeper personality questions. UniConnect will use AI to analyse the responses and then match 3 to 5 students in a group. We suggest this matching should also give users some autonomy to choose their group mates or give preferences.
2. Meet your group and choose the challenge
Once students join the campus, they are given a fun activity to reveal their group mates and meet in person. We believe, knowing that the groups are made on the basis of their own responses will give a sense of belonging and compatibility to the group members. Once they meet, each group is given some time-based activities. We suggest students should have the option to choose the activity they feel using some guidelines by UniConnect. These activities will be a mix of group based and individual. We realised that our users are of two key archetypes "Social Butterfly" and "Personal Growth Seeker"; thus the activities by UniConnect should be designed accordingly.
At this point we also strongly recommend a "my-time" - a dedicated time slot in the university course calendars. Students will use this time and space for the activities. We believe this will not only help with time pressure on students, but also make universities care and share responsibility for their students' wellbeing. Also, it will help students perceive their university with more positive attitude.
"It makes me feel that my university cares about me" - Student
3. Reflect and encourage
Post every activity, the groups will be asked to reflect and share. This area is still to be detailed out. We know that we do not want to use any reward system or hook models here, but would rather like to try and identify any internal motivations for this.
After a certain time, the groups would be shuffled. We suggest to shuffle only a few group members depending on the level of satisfaction with the group. After this, the groups will again get new challenges. Unlike freshers weeks and other freshers activities, we foresee UniConnect to be a campus companion that stays with our users throughout their university journey.
To come up with some more ideas, we brought together a group of 15 designers to critique and brainstorm on various ways to develop the service. This took the form of a 3-hour workshop conducted by us at the RCA campus. In these 3 hours, attendees were given various tasks including critiquing our ideas, building on our ideas and thinking outside the box.
Additional key features that we recommend to support the service:
- Dedicated time slot in the university calendar
- A non-clinical 'mood test' that will help students and groups to reflect on their emotions and normalise them by sharing similar emotions
- Integration with university resources and communities
- Knowledge hub for common problems like budgeting, time management, personal habits, relationships etc.