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Introducing an app to support you on your journey

Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance

UX/UI Research Project 

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ONNSFA

Preface

* Update 4/22': The idea is being pitched to the MIT Solve Challenge- Indigenous Fellowship. Updates on design and research to follow shortly!

* It is my dream to bring this app to life in order to help The office of Nation Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance (ONNSFA) and the students of the Navajo Nation, it is not currently funded or officially affiliated with ONNSFA.

 

As a designer I love using my skillset to help the Indigenous community and thought that this would be a great chance to explore and showcase the power of design. The context of this project is meant to highlight how an existing process can be modified based on existing user research. There is no ill will against anyone within ONNSFA or the Navajo Nation government. This project is strictly dedicated to exploring solutions and is a passion project to show my respect and dedication to the community I love.

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Image: Prototype designed by Brittany Gene

ONNSFA Background Information

The Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance (ONNSFA) is housed in the department of education within the Navajo Nation government. ONNSFA is responsible for awarding and distributing financial aid and scholarship to eligible, enrolled Navajo tribal members who apply for aid. Funds come from the Higher Education Grant, Navajo Nation funds, trust funds, and other corporate and government contributions. ONNSFA supports students from 4 and 2 year accredited institutions and vocational institutions chartered by the Navajo Nation.​

Opportunity & Challenges

The procedure for applying to ONNSFA for funding opportunities has not changed much over the past decade. The organization strives to do its best and help thousands of students with funding assistance. However, the application process is somewhat outdated, lacks in transparency for users and at times relies on older technology (i.e fax machines) to complete tasks. There are however, opportunities for the procedure to updated in order to be quicker and more transparent for users.

The goal of this project is to research the steps in the application process and identify ways to streamline the process and better the communication between the ONNSFA staff and students. After having researched and experienced the process first hand, my solution is to develop an app to house student information and complete the application process. Below are my research highlights, methods, and prototype. While the prototype is not complete, it serves to give a visual of what an app might look like for ONNSFA.

2018 ONNSFA Annual Report - scholarship applicant information

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The research was taken from the 2018 ONNSFA annual report.

* As of 4/1/2022 the annual reports for 2019,2020 and 2022 have not been uploaded online.

To see the report in it's entirety click the link and a new window will open with the report.

Process Mapping - ONNSFA Applicant Experiences

The charts below were designed and developed using information from the ONNSFA website/annual report, interviews, and my own first hand experience as a student applying. Please note some procedures may vary due to unique scenarios and situations. The information presented is meant to represent an overview of the entire general process.

PDF Version:

Applicant Process Maps

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"There are 500 callers ahead of you..."

Journey Mapping: 

User Experience

- ASU Financial Aid Automated Operator

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Supporting documents & visual sliding gallery

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Interviews - small subject study

A series of interviews regarding the ONNSFA application process was completed. The study was based on 14 subjects, two subjects overlapped between the conversational and formal interviews. Formal interviews were based off a script and treated a question and answer format. Below are some of the highlights and findings from the interviews. 

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Based on 20 subjects

Ideations & Wireframes

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Bridging the gap

I was wireframing, I was most interested in using culture to connect with Diné people.

Prototype - Figma

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User testing on prototype

I created two testing platforms for student to interact with. I had 4 users review the prototypes and below are some highlights and feedback.

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Feedback adjustments

I was able to get a better grasp of what the users might need in an app. Below is a more detailed version of what an app for ONNSFA might look like. The app is not complete but has some key components built into the prototype.

Documented Goals

  • Having the app request all documents.

  • App saves important student information in a secure way.

  • App houses previous documents so student doesn't have to worry about resending documents.

  • Make the language more interactive with the student.

  • Option of paperless push notifications

  • Make the over all process more transparent to the users.

  • Less paper work to sift through for ONNSFA employees

  • Communicate through the app so the student knows ONNSFA is always there to support them. This also means less phone calls to the office, clearing up time for ONNSFA employees.

  • Incorporate a mental health check or wellness check with students from ONNSFA.

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Benefits of app development - present and future

Present

  • Makes financial aid opportunities more accessible to all students applying to higher education.

  • Better communication between scholars and ONNSFA staff.

  • Overall, quicker process for students and staff.

  • Safer documentation of personal information.

  • Less paper management means less storage space.

  • Staff can access information safely and remotely in case they are not allowed into the office. (e.g COVID-19 lockdown) As to not stall the process of awarding and distributing funds.

  • Increase in opportunities for tech jobs on the reservation for graduates.

  • Increase data collection to understand alterative ways ONNSFA can support student success.

  • Better transparency and accountability for students and staff.

  • Understanding that some may not want to use technology-- it allows the analogue process to move quicker as well.

Future

  • Testing personal information documentation on a smaller scale with a group of people that are more tech savvy.

  • Extend digital documentation to all tribal members to better serve the people and provide access to resources.

  • Gain more direct knowledge and data from people. This can help guide where resources are allocated when creating policy and programs.

  • More tech and tech related jobs opening up on the reservation.

  • Preparing the the next generation.

Summation

This was a short project but I believe in the potential it has to help ONNSFA and Navajo Nation tribal members. I would like to do more refinement of the prototype-- however, due to time limitations, that process is on hold. Ultimately, I would like the app to become a tool for students to reach their goals in their careers. I also think incorporating a mental health aspect/check for a student would be another way ONNSFA can assist students.

Outside of the students, the app could help the ONNSFA staff by removing some outdated practices and making remote work possible. Further more developing an app could open up more STEM and tech jobs and projects on the reservation for Navajo graduates. In the scheme of things, helping ONNSFA is only the tip of the iceberg. This process could benefit the Navajo Nation government by acting as study to see how technology information management can help Navajo people.

Big thank you to the students and professionals who shared the stories and insights. My dream is to use our collective knowledge to create a better tomorrow for our community.