Graduate students at Georgia Tech face difficulties in finding an assistantship position on the campus. These highly coveted assistantship positions allow students to work in academic research projects or teach classes. In addition to this, they offer financial assistance (up to 75% reduction in tuition fees) and added benefits.
Currently, finding Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA) and Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA) is often an arduous and tedious process with high chances of unpredictability and failure. Our problem statement is defined as:
“How might we simplify the process of finding graduate assistantships at Georgia Tech?”
We want to make it easier for Graduate students to acquire assistantship positions (GRA and GTA) on the campus. As of now, the process of searching for these positions, applying for them and then successfully getting one appears to be extremely tedious and hard. Currently, students have to go through a lot of cold emailing, setting up appointments and meetings with professors and facing rejections for acquiring a GTA or GRA position.
Designing a Mobile App
We designed “Waggle” - a mobile application that helps graduate students in finding an assistantship position by simplifying the application procedure, reducing the time and effort required for applying for a position.
Planning our Research and Design
Online Survey Interviews
Divergent Designs Storyboards
Low Fidelity High Fidelity
Expert based Testing User based Testing
Understanding our Users and their needs
We used an online survey to gather data from a large number of graduate students to get a general idea about what the process of finding graduate assistantships is perceived and/or experienced by the students. Over three days, we received 51 responses from students who were currently in an assistantship position, students who were interested in these positions, and students who were looking for these positions.
We found that most students wanted the hiring process for these assistantships to be a bit less tedious and expected clear guidelines about who to contact, the timelines, and clear information about the kind of ongoing work in different labs and the available positions. Students also expect clear information about what kind of skill sets are required in each lab for the different kinds of roles available in the lab.
Here are some of the pain points we found through the survey:
Based on the survey responses we decided to seek out additional data through semistructured interviews. These were 30-45 minutes in duration with current Georgia Tech students. Students were recruited through the survey response. In some cases, students were asked to demonstrate a search for a GRA/GTA position.
These students declined to have the screens recorded, but the interviewer was able to take note of their process. We interviewed 10 people in total and asked questions about how they found these assistantship positions, who they contacted, and details about the timeline of the application process. Further, we using affinity maps to understand and analyze this information.
We found 5 major themes from the results of our interviews:
Coming up with viable solutions
After surveys and several interviews, the primary pain points of graduate students searching for positions were assessed. We aim to inform students of available positions, connect them with Ph.D. students and professors, encourage seminar attendances, and ease their participation in labs. The results of these methods were analyzed in several meetings where divergent brainstorming was favored to produce unique designs.
We came up with 3 designs that could be easily implemented with existing and available technologies, and quickly to meet the needs of students and professors as quickly as possible. The designs were also app-based, making them accessible to most on campus.
Design 1: Job Board
Our first design incorporates a job board that allows applicants to easily search for and apply for a Graduate Research Assistant and Graduate Teaching Assistant positions. We came to this solution through our primary and secondary research after finding that there wasn’t a centralized repository for jobs and information about these jobs.
Students create a profile using their Georgia Tech student IDs and upload relevant documents and information in their profile tab. There are two points of entry into the application - one as a student and the other as a faculty. The student has access to the job board, the same way the professor has access to student applications board.
Design 2: Peer to Peer
The second design incorporates a peer-to-peer connecting platform that allows applicants to easily search for and apply for assistantship positions based on their skill. We incorporated a simpler way to apply to jobs by just swiping. We came to this solution after finding that students wanted an easier way to apply to positions within three clicks.
The second feature of this design is called “Ghost-to-Ghost” digitizes Word-of-Mouth communication and allows for a student to send a message or notify his or her peers. Also, the peers will forward the message to three of their peers, who will, in turn, forward it to three of their peers. As the cycle continues, there will be an endpoint wherein the message will be forwarded either to the professor or a student currently working under that Professor.
Design 3: GTCourses
The third design incorporates a familiar platform that allows applicants to take up courses before applying for assistantship positions. Our research showed that students often face a trade-off between interest and skill set. Faculty can upload resources such as courses, assignments, and quizzes online that allow students to learn on-the-go. The students learn course material and take up a final quiz. Based on the quiz results, the professor can shortlist some students who have high scores or who he/she feels to be a correct fit for the lab and have interviews.
Designing our Product
We had a poster session in which we received feedback from our peers and experts on each of our designs. We received valuable feedback which showed us which features our users liked and which features our users did not like. We also conducted surveys which asked the users which of the three design ideas they liked, and which features of the design ideas they liked.
The design that we settled on after evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of each of the three designs is “Waggle”. To restate, Waggle, in a nutshell, is a platform that simplifies the process of finding assistantships for graduate students of the Georgia Institute of Technology.
The final system prototype that we came up with is a combination of our second and third divergent ideas. Our second divergent idea incorporated the use of gesture-based input - via swiping right to apply for jobs and swiping left to hide jobs. It reduces the complexity of applying for a job and enables students to apply for jobs/assistantships on the go.
The onboarding process allows the user to become familiar with the functionality of the application.
The user can login using his/her Georgia Tech credentials. The backend of the application uses Georgia Tech's servers (Buzzport, Oscar) and Canvas to fetch student data.
Exploring New Jobs
The Explore Screen showcases the jobs in a card-based format. The cards display information pertaining to the lab, the faculty who is in charge of or heading the lab, and the responsibilities of the candidate for the job. There are tags in the card which are keywords that represent the different skills pertaining to the lab.
The students can apply to jobs either by tapping on the “Apply” button or swiping right on the card. Similarly, the students can hide jobs by tapping on the “Hide” button or swiping left. The students can also save the jobs.
A common problem that students face is that they see a job posting that they seem to be a fit for, but often find it hard to apply for the job at that current moment since they might not have the resources and appropriate documents to apply for the job.
The “Saved Jobs” screen mitigates this problem by allowing the user to see the different jobs that he/she has saved, based on his/her interests.