September - December 2017
(Updated November 2018)

Wesley Slade, Timmy Chu, Jordan Akin

Tools Used
Adobe Illustrator, Adobe XD, Adobe Photoshop

Project Manager, Visual Designer, User Research

Sheridan College requires a better online system of recruiting and enrolling international students. In 2017, the college received 13,564 non-unique applications for this September intake. In a calendar year, this number exceeds 25,000 applications from more than 100 countries.

Sheridan International Centre wants to create a better online system to streamline their application system for international students who are unfamiliar with the application process. Students who have experience with the process have given feedback that highlights the following problems: language barriers, confusing interfaces and trouble comprehending micro and macro instructions given to them by the process.

Users experiencing these pain points become frustrated and confused with the system. This both negatively impacts the reputation of Sheridan College and makes it harder for students to successfully complete an application to attend Sheridan.

Design Challenge
How might we design Sheridan College's International application system to increase usability and efficiency for those who are unfamiliar with the Canadian application process?

The Solution

A web form that features multi-language support, program comparison tool, and helps agents manage their students efficiently.

student journey
agent journey

Project Process Overview

Understanding the User

From our research, we found that many international students who didn't have a solid grasp on English had difficulty with the application. To combat this issue, they hired agents to help them with their applications. Additionally, we found that some students were completely overwhelmed by the application process and gave up after looking at the first page. The text-heavy appearance of the application portal also scared users off and there were many outdated and useless features on the current application that were completely unnecessary.

"Since my English wasn't too good, I chose to get an agent."
- Interviewee
"I want to go outside in the world and experience a different life."
- Interviewee

We spoke with international students who came from different countries and did a semi-structured interview with each of them. We learned that each student was very intelligent, but when it came to completing their applications, some had more trouble than others. Specifically, they had difficulty with some of the words on the applications and were afraid of how many steps were required to complete it. Additionally, very few applicants conducted extensive research prior to the actual application process.

By the end of our interviews, we established 5 different primary personas: 3 student types and 2 agent types. We also supplemented our persona development with 2 secondary personas: the Sheridan International Center employee and the parents. We were able to learn more about the needs of the students and how we could help them accomplish their goals of getting accepted into their ideal programs.

Defining User Goals

After we created our personas, we refined our context scenarios and synthesized all of the features from our user goals into the product requirements document.

This involved writing up the ideal state for how we expected the users to navigate the system and their thought process as they go through the system. With each context scenario, we peer reviewed them and using our research insights, critiqued where they could be more relevant.


We rapidly restructured the user journey flow of the application process to accurately reflect the full student experience of applying to a school abroad.

As a team, we sketched out the wireframes of what our application would look like from our design requirements document. We then created low-fidelity grey wireframes to map out 1 student journey and 1 agent journey. This was so that we could display the proof of concept for our new application process design.


A walkthrough of the new Sheridan International Application Portal's features to help international students applying for programs at Sheridan College do better.

Student Application Management

Streamlined Client Applications

For the agents who are helping out international students do their applications, there's an extra layer of help provided by the new system. They can now manager every student's application in one place and check the status at a glance, providing quick updates easily.

Accessible Assistance

Chat with Sheridan representatives

Moving to a new country is daunting and there are many things that an international student needs to prepare for prior to their arrival. These questions can be answered easily with the help of the chat feature which connects students to Sheridan representatives during business hours.

Portfolio Tracker

A simple checklist for your portfolio

With many of Sheridan College's programs, a portfolio is required. With the portfolio tracker, you can keep a running checklist of everything you need to submit for an award-winning portfolio.

Application Tracker

Users can leave and save their progress

Often times, students will not fill out their application in one sitting. This is why an application tracker is important - especially for forms as important as which school and program you will attend in the future.

Bookmarking Programs

Instantly compare different programs

For many students, they don't know what they exactly want to study. When it comes to choosing your schooling, factors such as price, number of years, course material, and portfolio requirements matter. By bookmarking programs, they can compare these programs at a glance.

Extra Assistance

Built-in tips for enhanced accessibility

For many international students, english isn't their first language. Sometimes, they need a hint when they don't completely understand a portion of the application. This will be provided to them in the form of a hint, which allows them to get they help they need with the click of a button.

Reflection & Learnings

To date, this is still one of my favourite design projects that I've worked on. It has given me the opportunity to think about how to create a complex system that impacts thousands of user's lives and how I can make their life easier with a better product. It was the project that helped me fall in love with system design and find out where my passions lied. One of the biggest takeaways I had from this project was how useful behavioural mapping and context scenarios were.

It was also where I began religiously keeping a project tracker for every group assignment. I piloted out this method in this semester-long project, which proved to be a useful tool. This helped keep everyone accountable for the deliverables, as well as serving as a method to show the instructor the percentage of work contributed by each member.

If I was given more time, I would have loved to add some more illustrations to the application in order to help fully embrace the culture that international students' would be immersing themselves into if they were to attend Sheridan College.

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