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Talking to People in Highfield – Rayna’s Weekly Intern Blog #2


Last week was my first week as an intern. I spent most of it learning Laravel from scratch. I also planned my requirements gathering for my project, which would involve 2 focus groups with students and interviews with as many lecturers as possible. These were meant to be done this week.

My project was going to be a system for asking questions anonymously in lectures, which addresses the intimidation of raising a hand in a lecture to ask a potentially dumb question.

Focus Groups – gathering info from students

Focus Group 1

My first focus group had 3 students from archaeology, English-and-film and computer science respectively. We brought pizza as an incentive for the students to participate.

We learned the following things:

  • Students are, in fact, intimidated and not likely to ask questions by raising their hand in a lecture
  • Another problem is when lecturers ask students a question – students are too scared to answer for fear of being dumb
  • Therefore, students would like to be able to ask or answer questions anonymously online during a lecture
  • Another useful feature would be to indicate that they don’t understand at a certain point
  • Paying attention in a lecture is crucial, so a distracting app might do more harm than good
  • The key features that students value are anonymity and getting answers from the lecturer

The full notes of what they said can be found here, and the report (which includes their wireframes) can be found here.

Focus Group 2

The second focus group had 4 students all from computer science, all Bulgarians – it was a Bulgarian programmer pizza party.

They provided the following extra information:

  • They too never ask or answer questions by raising a hand (with small exceptions)
  • They agreed with all the previous points, except the below point
  • They thought in-class quizzes were unfeasible because they’re extra effort for lecturers that they don’t need to put in currently
  • As computer scientists, they were leaning towards a Stack Overflow style question and answer platform, where students can answer and upvote questions and answers
  • They suggested that students shouldn’t be able to downvote questions, as there is no reason to discourage people from asking questions

Full notes of focus group 2report of focus group 2

Discovering that an app like this already exists

It had been said to me by some students that an app similar to what I’m planning to make is already available on the MySouthampton app, called Meetoo. I kept that in the back of my mind with the intention of researching it later.

Well, maybe I should have researched it earlier because once I looked into it, I discovered that it had 90% of the main features people asked me about:

  • People can ask questions (potentially anonymously) during a lecture
  • People can upvote questions to push them to the top
  • The lecturer can launch a poll with a question and people can vote anonymously on their phones
  • Stats from the poll can then be displayed immediately afterwards

They even had a video on YouTube of Southampton students praising the app! Ugh!

With this in mind, I went to do my lecturer interviews with a somewhat reduced level of confidence.

Interviews – gathering opinions from lecturers

It’s not that I didn’t try to find any lecturers from outside of ECS – the 6 lecturers that I emailed just didn’t reply to me. I don’t blame them – they have no connection to this so they probably wouldn’t prioritise it over other tasks etc.

I interviewed 3 lecturers from ECS – Nick Gibbins, Kirk Martinez and Klaus-Peter Zauner. I showed them wireframes for 3 different ideas for systems:

  1. A system for asking questions anonymously during lectures (like the one that already exists, sigh)
  2. A system for asking questions anytime anonymously online (like Stack Overflow but simplified and mobile friendly)
  3. A system which only has a button which says “I don’t understand”

All wireframes of the system can be found in the report linked at the end of this section.

The opinions were pretty consistent and can be summarised to this:

  • It is hard to see how System 1 can be done in a way that’s convenient for the lecturer
  • It is preferred that the students ask questions by raising a hand
  • System 2 seems like a good idea if executed correctly
  • It should encourage students to answer each other’s questions
  • System 3 could be useful but faces some of the challenges of System 1, mainly having to adjust the lecture flow to fit it
  • System 3 might put too much pressure on the lecturer & give too much control to the students that might not know what’s best for them

I could not get a definitive answer of whether System 2 is worth implementing, but the general opinion of it was positive.

The detailed report of the lecturer interviews can be found here.

Conclusions from the data gathering

  • The initial idea exists and is provided by the university (Meetoo) and is satisfactory as it is
  • There is some interest in the idea of anonymous questions anytime with written answers (stack overflow style)
  • I’m not sure if I need with more data gathering

I’ve learned a lot but I am confused. Maybe this is what wisdom feels like.

Bonus – Accessibility workshop!

The team went to an accessibility workshop in Highfield, where they taught us some stuff about accessibility. Yay!

I learned that there are some handy guides for accessibility online, there is incoming legislation which will make it more mandatory, and that there is no way to 100% assess accessibility in an automated way, although tools exist for it.

Next week

I’m not really sure what I’ll do next week. Possibilities include:

  • Another focus group with students with a focus on the stack overflow idea
  • More interviews with lecturers, hopefully from outside ECS
  • Writing up requirements properly
  • Trying to make a Hello World in Exchange Web Services
  • None of the above

Have a nice weekend!



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