Yesterday I met with Kristin, Todd, Mary M, and Brian to work on improving faculty workflows in Ares, our Course Reserve software. The Course Reserves team is bogged down with lots and lots of manual requests to enter content and classes, and we need to do something to improve the situation. We did a user journey exercise, which involves walking through every step in a user’s attempts to complete a task, exploring confusing labeling and instructions, and what happens when you click something unexpected. We didn’t get very many post-its up on the board before we were drowing in issues to work on.
The biggest take-away for us is updating all of our instructions across all of our various systems, which still encourage faculty to print out paper forms and turn them in to the Course Reserves folks (!). Back in 2012 I redesigned Ares’ Instructor tools to make it super easy for faculty to add their own courses and items, as well as clone courses for upcoming semesters. But our messaging has lagged behind.
In addition to working on improving our instructions by updating our instructional content to promote the self-service features of Ares, we identified a number of small pain points in the Ares user interface that we addressed to make the process of adding content easier. Yesterday I made the following changes to the website:
- We added an “Add New Course” button below the existing courses table to make it easier to add new courses if you already have at least one course in the system. To balance the design, I moved the other two buttons over a bit.
- When creating a course, the Faculty members’ name is prepopulated with the name of the logged-in user.
- If Course Reserve isn’t waiting for any items from a faculty member, we hide “Awaiting Supply by Instructor” table on the home screen.
- I added new styles for table captions (an accessibility feature they’ve recently added).
- Changed the link to see more information about a course to just be the Course Name. (Before there was a separate column with the repetitive link “Course Home” for each course, which is both a poor design choice and a bad ready of how to properly enact accessibility guidelines.)
- Fixed a positioning issue for the save button when creating a new class with a password. Before, it would suddenly move off to the right side of the screen when the password field was shown.
- I added a descriptive note about what the URL is for in the Create Class screen, since it was a bit unclear what the URL was for.
- I fixed an issue when cloning a class to ensure that any previously-set URL was brought over into the new class.
- I added language on both the Add Items screen and the upload page about scan quality, so that faculty uploading their own items don’t submit illegible content (see below).
(Interested? You can browse the recent changes to the code on our Github page.)
We have some other ideas to improve things for Course Reserve, too, that will be coming in the next few months. Items I’ll be working on are:
- Activating Ares’ OpenURL functionality to make it easier to add items right from Summon or the Library Catalog results screens.
- Redesigning the editing links when Instructors look at a list of all items in their courses. It’s super cluttered and confusing now.
- Creating help pages specific to faculty using Course Reserve, along with short video tutorials on adding courses, items, and moving a class to a future semester.
- Running some usability tests with faculty later this summer.
- Bringing the ability to move a course to a future semester out to the home screen so it isn’t so buried and confusing, in a sub-menu behind system jargon (“Clone Course”).
There will also be some training sessions and a lot of content updates, so stay tuned for more updates! If you have suggestions from your faculty for Course Reserves, pass them along, I’d love to hear new ideas.