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To help inform the development of the Key Information Sets (KISs), HEFCE commissioned Pure Usability to undertake research and user testing with prospective students to explore the most effective ways of presenting the KIS data items on the KIS.

The work considered the ways in which prospective students would like to receive information: for example whether they preferred pie charts, bar graphs or written text. This part of the development work also looked at issues of presentation, including branding, to ensure that the 'end product' is as engaging as possible for users. It aimed to develop a distinctive identity, design and language suited to potential and current HE students. It also aimed to establish a clear solution for the best possible way in which the KIS can be integrated with institutional web-sites.

To achieve this, Pure Usability adopted a 'user-centred design' approach to iteratively design and test different approaches to the treatment of KISs. This report presents the findings of this user testing.

The report proposes a solution with three main elements to the 'KIS ecosystem':

  • The KIS web-site. This is a web-site, independent of institutional web-sites, where all KIS content is primarily hosted. A simple search mechanism on this site allows students and institutional staff to locate KISs for specific course/institution combinations.
  • The KIS detail page. This is an information-rich page, highlighting the key information about a course under the headings 'student satisfaction', 'graduate employment', 'financial', 'learning and assessment' and 'Student Union'. To encourage student engagement, the presentation of these data is very visual, using information graphics and progressive layering of data where appropriate.
  • The KIS widget. Institutions will be able to embed a 'widget' (information box) on their course web-pages using code that they can retrieve from the main KIS site. This widget is clearly and consistently branded (to facilitate recognition of the KIS across many sites), and contains the three high-level statistics. The widget also contains a clear link through to more information at the KIS detail page.

This report forms one element of a wider programme of research and development that has been undertaken regarding the KISs.

The Higher Education Public Information Steering Group (HEPISG), Chaired by Janet Beer (Vice Chancellor of Oxford Brooks) oversees this work and will consider these proposals in the context of the other research and development work mentioned above. Further details are available in 'Provision of information about higher education: Outcomes of consultation and next steps' (HEFCE 2011/18).