Student life at a large institution like University of California, Berkeley, is challenging in many ways. Along with the often extreme academic demands, students must discover and navigate numerous services while simultaneously integrating themselves into formal and informal campus communities. Historically, core student services were delivered in a piecemeal and disjointed way via a dozen or more websites. A large investment in a Student Information Systems (SIS) replacement project has since unified these service experiences through CalCentral, a Berkeley-developed service portal, and created with a significant focus on user experience design.
While significant strides have been made to improve and simplify how services are delivered to students, the design team has been challenged to push their vision of the service ecosystem further, to “humanize the institution.” The vision goes through the SIS project and beyond, by first switching mindsets from service producers to service providers, and second by looking at how deeper relationships can be created digitally between students and the institution. The research, with students and different stakeholder groups, shows that beyond usability and learnability, there are greater opportunities through service design to contribute to students’ senses of agency, inclusion, connectedness and wellbeing. The design team is codifying new design principles and developing prototype experiences that look more closely at tone, behavior and contributing to a positive emotional state of mind. The service delivery through CalCentral is humanized and augmented in affirming ways, to use language that is accessible, and to guide students through complex paths.