5 Day Design Sprint

Mentors@GT

Challenge: Design an experience to connect mentors and mentees together on campus.

1. Discovery

Although I have been enrolled in two universities throughout my undergraduate and graduate careers, I have never participated in a mentorship program, so I knew I needed to become well acquainted with the subject before beginning the research phase of this design. To begin, there were several questions I needed to understand about problem before moving forward:

  • What are some of the reasons students seek out to be mentors or mentees?
  • How long do mentor relationships typically last?
  • Do students maintain contact after mentorship program has ended?
  • What qualifications are needed to become a mentor? Can any student become a mentor?
  • Are there resources available to assist student mentors?
  • What are some challenges that students face in mentor programs?
  • Timely/commitment challenges? What about incompatibility?


2. Research

Competitive Analysis
Following the initial discoverability research and key questions, I sought out to research current mentorship programs at my school, Georgia Institute of Technology. By doing a competitive analysis, I hope to gather important information about how mentorship programs are currently structured and their criteria in order to be better informed on what features would be most useful for new and existing students. Since Georgia Tech has quite a few mentorship programs for students only, I decided to focus on three that seemed to be the most recognized among students:

1. KNIT Mentorship Program is a mentorship program design for new students. In this program, students are paired with “successful” upperclassmen.
Some of my key insights and takeaways from this program include:

  • Application required to become a mentor
  • Mentorships are not one-on-one, but with small groups
  • Each group of several first year and/or transfer students with one mentor
  • Groups consist of students from all colleges and majors
  • Since it is group mentoring, all students are required to meet at the same time with their group, making time coordination difficult

2. College of Computing Mentoring Program is a cohort peer mentorship program designed for first year students in the College of Computing. Some of my key insights and takeaways from this program include:

  • Students are paired in groups of 2-44
  • How are mentees grouped? It seems that the grouping is random and depends on the number of first year CS students
  • How effective is this mentorship since group sizes can be so large?
  • Application is required to become a mentor and mentors must have been enrolled for at least 2 semesters to apply and have a minimum GPA of 2.75
  • Mentors must serve as TAs and commit to 3 hours during fall semesters and receive monthly training
  • 3. Excel Mentorship Program is a part of the Excel Program, a four year college program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). Some of my key insights and takeaways from this program include:

    • They offer different mentors, including general mentors, academic mentors and coach
    • Required to meet at least two times a week
    • Match students based on interests, like hobbies (for general mentors only)
    • Mentors and mentees from all colleges and majors
    • Since it is group mentoring, all students are required to meet at the same time with their group, making time coordination difficult

    Based on the three current programs I researched, I noticed some trends that may be deterring students from becoming involved and getting the full benefits possible from a mentor/mentee relationship. From these trends, I focused on the long, complex and selective application process, rigid time commitments with little to no flexibility, lack of personalization in matching, and how large groups tend to deter students from opening up and asking questions. I used these takeaways as a guide of how to design a better experience for students of all backgrounds and years.


    User Interviews
    To get more of an insight into mentorship programs, I interviewed seven students who are enrolled in three different universities. Of the seven interviewed, four of them are Georgia Tech undergraduate students and one is a PhD student. The remaining two students attend Kennesaw State University and University of Georgia and are undergraduate and masters students, respectively. Only two of seven students had never participated in a mentorship program. I asked all students the same set of questions but went into more detail with a select few who had more experience with mentorship programs. Some of the topics discussed included: Benefits from participating in mentorship program or if they didn't participate, why they chose not to, their application and pairing process, the effectiveness of participating and what aspect they would change if they could.

    Key insights from interviews:

    • Students need flexibility because of their constantly changing busy schedules
    • Students do not want to spend a lot of time on the application process to become a mentor or mentee
    • Some believe that there should be some prerequisites on becoming mentor
    • Students do not want to be paired up randomly
    • They don’t want to waste time with a random mentor who has nothing in common with them
    • Prefer to pass on or gain knowledge directly from someone who is or has been going through same program and experiences of that program
    • Students are looking for fast and efficient matching experience

    From the insights and research analyzed, I decided to focus on several key issues to address with my design. The problems Mentors@GT seeks to solve include: Efficient and simple sign-up process with matching that is based on user's profile Giving user agency in choosing their mentor Allow mentees to find mentors in specific programs and organizations Flexibility built into program to allow for better matching

    3. Ideate

    Key features to implement

    • Communication preferences
      - In-person, video chat, phone call
      - With this feature, those who do not want to, or are not able to meet in person have other options that still allow them to take advantage of the program
    • Filter option
      - Filtering through mentors to see only those with selected profile
    • Language display on profiles
      - Allow both international students and those who speak a different language (or even want to learn said language!) the option to find students who are fluent in listed language
    • Page that displays campus clubs and organizations
      Providing students a way to explore and get more information about what is available
    • Calendar display within app to keep track of meetups


    Sketches

    After laying out the flow and features, I sketched the different pages of the app and began incorporating some interaction ideas to ensure that the experience is seamless and easy to consume. My goal was to keep text and content minimal on each screen so that the user would not have to spend too much time or effort to get around the app. It’s also memorable in the sense that it doesn’t require the user to relearn where they need to navigate to each time they are using it.

    4. Prototype

    Low-fidelity prototype


    5. User Testing

    After creating the low-fidelity prototype, I conducted four in person user testings with current college students, some of whom were interviewed earlier for the user interviews. Feedbacks included:

    • Option to remove mentor
    • Sometimes only need to request a mentor to speak about a specific, potentially one-time thing so there should be a way to remove a mentor when needed
    • Several users were confused by the meaning of the term “classification” while setting up their profile. They prefer a more general term, like year
    • All users were excited about the filter option
    • They felt that with this feature, they wouldn’t have to waste time scrolling through hundreds of available mentors


    6. Reiterate

    Taking the user feedback into account, I made a few changes to the previous prototype. The biggest change includes a remove option for “current mentors and mentees.” This way students have more agency in choosing how long they want to be connected with a mentor or mentee.

    High-fidelity prototype


    Branding & Style Guide

    Since I designed the app for Georgia Tech, I wanted to keep the familiar school colors present throughout the app.

    For the font, I selected Avenir because it is a clean sans serif font that has a more “relaxed” feel to it, which is what I want to user to feel when they are using this app.

    Moving Forward

    I truly enjoyed working on this challenge! I believe Mentors@GT has a real potential to help all students with not just adjusting to campus, but finding the best resources for anything they may need through pairing with mentors. While this app has several distinct features, there are a few that could also be implemented if I were to continue working on this design project.
    Some of those ideas include:

    • Allowing users the option to link their social media accounts
    • History page of previous mentors/mentees to keep track of connections
    • Partnering with current university mentorship programs and transitioning programs to utilize this app
    I'm also currently working on enhancing the visual design of the prototype and incorporating more microinteractions. Stay tuned for updates!