Advancing Higher Ed Through Technology

When it comes to advancing higher education through the use of information technology, EDUCAUSE is the organization at the forefront of the movement — so much so that they’re chartered by the Federal Government to exclusively manage the .EDU domain. Adding to that, EDUCAUSE hosts the top annual conference for college and university Chief Information Officers and also administers the Core Data Service (CDS) annual survey, an indispensable resource for helping schools make the right investments in information technology and their digital ecosystem. 

CDS Portal Redesign

By participating in the CDS survey, institutions submit data about their IT staffing, financials, and services. The data is fed into a reporting tool that participating institutions can use to benchmark their IT organization and compare it against other institutions. The tool is vital in helping schools make the business case for new technology. In order to improve the CDS survey and portal, EDUCAUSE conducted a search for a UX and digital product development firm and selected Spire Digital for the role.

Getting Educated

We kicked off our research efforts by attending the national EDUCAUSE conference where we conducted nearly 20 user interviews. Our goal was to understand how CDS users navigate the portal, pull reports, and ultimately what they’re trying to achieve with the data and downloadable reports.

Through our research, we uncovered a significant gap between the way an average CDS user conceptualizes data and the data science-esque way it’s displayed in the CDS portal. Drawing on our research and the results from several rounds of prototype testing, we created a modular design that’s easy to navigate and significantly reduces the amount of time it takes a user to find meaningful insights. 

Navigating technical constraints

One of the most challenging aspects of this project was designing around a complex third-party application that’s difficult and costly to customize. We worked closely with both the EDUCAUSE internal development team and their external contractor to ensure we were designing within the confines of technical feasibility and budgetary considerations. Our team produced practical designs and an intuitive UI that can easily accommodate changes.

Building a Partnership

The experience of working together led to Spire’s becoming EDUCAUSE’s go-to UX and digital product development partner. We’re engaged on a number of additional projects. We are honored to be working with an organization dedicated to advancing higher ed through modern user-centered technology.

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