Whether online or face-to-face, it can be difficult to find the right persons for your study goals, but with our concept StudyMeet, it could now be easier to find a perfect study group!
This project was carried out as part of the TechLabs “Digital Shaper Program” in Dortmund (summer term 2021).
In a nutshell:
StudyMeet comprises a website design that intends to make it easy for users to create and find study groups. The platform provides a well-thought, cut-to-the-chase layout that can easily be implemented and is based on data through our survey. It consists of a landing page with instructions, the group overview [Fig. 1], a (quick) search function [Fig. 2], and the group chat [Fig. 3]. The main idea is to have specific group types that intuitively show the purpose of the meetup while making sure the location and topics fit. For this, the groups’ main identity contains group type, degree course, and location/university.
The pandemic showed us how difficult it could be to find people to learn with online.
Even though there are so many platforms where students can interact with each other, there isn’t really one particularly made to create study groups.
But we also thought about how unlikely it can be on campus to find the right people that have the same learning behavior as you do!
Not everyone likes to participate in lectures where professors do most of the talking. Not everyone learns well in a library. There are a lot of people who prefer to learn alone in silence. But those people also need some way of interaction with other students about the topics once in a while. How can you make those connections when you are not around lectures or on campus? Sure, you could get out of your comfort zone and search for like-minded students, but what if these students didn’t go out at the same time as you? Instead of having such an unpleasant experience, why isn’t there anything to help?
What if you already have a nice study group and there is a course you really want to participate in, but none of your fellow students want to? Suddenly, you don’t have anybody for this one course. You attend lectures and feel like everybody has a group already. Not everyone is capable of approaching a whole group of strangers.
These are some of the scenarios we discussed during the initial project phase. There aren’t easy solutions for these problems yet. Platforms like Studydrive can give you material to learn with; you can ask questions on a lot of social media platforms in some way, but finding people to talk to in a dialogue or even chit-chatting? You can’t do that in online groups of hundreds of students.
So in our project, we decided to design a platform that solves these problems and also attempted the implementation of some components. Here, we want to mention that our team composition made it hard to complete the coding part of the project, but the main idea should become clear at the end of this article.
At the beginning of our journey, we gathered opinions about study groups by creating a survey that was shared mostly with students. The survey was about the usage of study groups, how they were formed by whom and what the purpose was.
We used the results for creating scenarios/personas and getting general assumptions so we could communicate and find ideas. We also analyzed existing and commonly used platforms that provide some way of creating study groups, including solutions from universities we are a part of.
Going through several drafts, we eventually defined a foundation that got slowly conceptualized in Figma.
By evaluating the survey results, we came to the conclusion that our platform has to give users independence on how they search and decide for a group.
We also had people mentioning that our platform could potentially be a waste when online studying stops. This comes from the fact that students usually meet and get to know each other face to face.
So the question we had to ask ourselves was: ‘What is the purpose of the platform in the long run? What is the value of it besides the online environment?’
That is when we realized that the platform could not be just another place to gather students randomly who eventually stop talking to each other after the initial link-up.
We came up with an idea of specific purposes for study groups and went through scenarios where students had to find certain persons.
Remember that if you talk to strangers at the campus, it is not guaranteed that you share the same goals; with StudyMeet, the chance is potentially higher.
Dating apps as inspiration? An abandoned idea
While going through our ideas, at one time, we had a concept of a platform that assigns users to each other to create groups. This is done by user inputs to their learning behavior, location, degree course, and possibly more. An algorithm should then find the perfect match(es).
But as we stated already, we wanted to give the users freedom in how they find a group. Having an algorithm do that part is one step closer to the randomness that is present in approaching strangers on campus. We wanted to differentiate our platform from this, especially after we’ve read concerns about it in our survey.
The main prototype component is our Figma draft. We designed relevant functions while consistently trying to keep it simple and with a decent amount of information. It is important to make the groups purposeful, but the navigation had to be fast and easy too.
We then implemented the following: A landing page with HTML and CSS, which contains content to make the website as appealing as possible for students. A chat prototype based on React and a MySQL database with related Python backend and REST API will give the opportunity to implement user profiles where group participation and other settings can be saved. We also started coding the filtering, but it didn’t come to an end.
To give our study groups a purpose, we created group types. Group types should make clear why you want to meet other persons. We decided on six types: Motivation, subject-based exchange, get to know, learn together online, homework together, and freshmen.
‘Motivational’ groups are meant for people who can’t stay motivated alone. Having someone always looking for you is something that all of us might have missed during the pandemic. But since you are always very anonymous in university, you might miss it since the beginning of your university time!
‘Subject-based exchange’ can be seen as the most usual type of study group. Here, students look for fellow students to ask questions about their courses. While social media and study platforms already allow students to ask questions, sometimes you are too embarrassed to ask in a bigger round. So this group type is more for people that prefer to ask just a few students. And you can still be anonymous if you want to!
‘Get to know’ groups are meant to meet new people. Sometimes your degree course contains a subsidiary subject, and even though you don’t really need help, you might want to meet someone that knows about that subject. But in general, it is up to you why and how you want to meet new people. Just put your intentions into the description, and you might find someone!
The other three types should be self-explanatory. ‘Learn together online’ groups are for people that might not live near the university but still seek someone to learn with. ‘Homework together’ groups are for students that search for partners for doing mandatory homework. Finally, we have ‘freshmen’ groups that hopefully won’t be used that often because there is usually enough possibility to meet new people as a freshman. But sometimes, you can’t attend those events or don’t want to, so we give you an opportunity to do it on the platform as well!
Other significant attributes for study groups
Besides the group type, groups always need to include their degree course and location. We tried to include every degree course in some way and made some broader than others. For the location, we mainly use the universities but also give the opportunity to look for people all around Germany.
Our survey has shown that most people want to have a study group of two to six people since bigger groups can make it hard to keep the focus on studying. It is also very important that everyone in the group can participate. Therefore, we included a general meeting time. We didn’t try to make it detailed since meetings between students can be very flexible depending on the individual member. Finally, we included the language because we want to give international students the opportunity to find people in a similar situation.
Our result contains the survey results about study groups, a design for the platform idea StudyMeet in Figma and the initial implementation of a database with related Python backend and REST API for the registration and login processes, the first code parts for the filtering, the implementation of the chatrooms and the frontend of the landing page.
The survey results can be used as a base for different approaches to a study group-centered platform.
Our results can be found on our Figma file and our GitHub repository. We tried to include not only the code but also everything else via screenshots.
Since this project didn’t reach its potential end, we can still continue with implementing the complete website and eventually publish the platform. However, we are sure that our pure design already has an impact on the readers’ view of study platforms.
Data Science (Python):
- Sara Eckenbach [https://www.linkedin.com/in/sara-eckenbach-a7aa2a211/]
Data Science (R):
- Saskia Obermann [https://www.linkedin.com/in/saskia-obermann-ba9694219/]
User Experience Design:
- Hoang Bach [https://www.linkedin.com/in/hoang-bach/]
- Hendrik Hallerbach [https://www.linkedin.com/in/hendrikhallerbach/]
Web Development (Frontend):
- Hendrik Hallerbach [https://www.linkedin.com/in/hendrikhallerbach/]
- Patrick Böllhoff [https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-b%C3%B6llhoff-45190a149/]
- Milan Niehaus, Project Manager TechLabs
- Nils Jannasch, Web Development Mentor
- Miguel Krause, Artificial Intelligence Mentor
- Philipp Clasen, Data Science & Artificial Intelligence Mentor
- Saumya Bhatt, User Experience Design Mentor
- Essential UI by figmaland: https://www.figma.com/community/file/883657911603554993
- Fast API: https://fastapi.tiangolo.com/de/tutorial/
- SQL with Python: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrNHkRgWzTI
- Connect Python with SQL: https://www.freecodecamp.org/news/connect-python-with-sql/
- Customizing authentication: https://docs.djangoproject.com/en/3.2/topics/auth/customizing/
- Python backend with Django: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBzwzrDvZ18
- Django registration: https://django-registration.readthedocs.io/en/2.0/quickstart.html
- Django login: https://www.ordinarycoders.com/blog/article/django-user-register-login-logout
- Chatengine: https://chatengine.io/
- React chat engine: https://www.npmjs.com/package/react-chat-engine
- Robohash: https://robohash.org