This blog post is based on my presentation at the Georgetown Innovation Summit which begins at 2:53:00.
To most people, hacking represents something negative. But I prefer to think of it as designing a workaround to achieve a desired result. By paying attention to these hacks, Higher Ed can gain all sorts of inisights to improve the overall student experience.
How Facebook learns from user hacking
In 2004, Facebook was growing, fast. Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the team needed to decide what feature to build next. They had to consider not only the time it would take to build the feature, but also the additional support costs.
One of the features being considered was the ability to upload photos besides your profile photo. Yes, there was actually a time when you could not upload your photo album to Facebook and tag all of your friends. It seems obvious to us now, however at the time it was not quite as clear that this was a feature that users wanted.
When the Facebook team looked at how people were using the site, they noticed users were changing their profile photo multiple times each day. Users wanted to show off their new photos and they came up with this 'hack' as a way to achieve their goal.
Hacking the roommate assignments process
In 2003 B.F. (before Facebook), students would receive the name, email and phone number of their assigned roommate and give them a call. It never occurred to them to look that person up online because there was nowhere to look.
By 2005 A.F., more than 85% of college students were on Facebook; each wanting to know everything they could about their new roommate to be sure that the next year of their life would not be spent in agony (desired result). The hack that students across the country constructed was to research their roommate on Facebook and if they did not like what they saw, call into the housing office and ask for a new roommate.
I have spoken with hundreds of people who work in on-campus housing and 99.9% of them experience some level of Facebook related roommate calls. The only department that did not experience them simply decided to withhold the names of assigned roommates until the students meet on the first day of classes.
So there is the hack. Now, how do you fix the process by incorporating the hack? Our clients achieve this through RoomSync because we empower students to search for roommates on Facebook. They are given access to all potential roommates before the assignments are made. The result? Users who want to be in control of the matching process are happy and housing departments do not receive any calls about Facebook.
How are students hacking your processes? Are they hacking their room like this Berkeley freshman? Try re-examining and thinking of ways to incorporate these hacks to improve the overall student experience. Do you have examples of hacks in Higher Ed? Leave a comment below!