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Enhancing career educational tools

Could a custom program management tool improve efficiency and scalability?
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The Challenge

The Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP) at MIT excels at helping students pursue the career they want. Along with providing standard services, like resume and interviewing help, students partner with industry leaders who act as mentors.

Increased enrollment and program enhancements were creating problems for the staff. Decades-old technology could not keep up with demands, and an increasing number of tasks had to be handled manually—taking resources away from students.

UPOP technology was no longer meeting the needs of its current and future users: students, staff and mentors.

UPOP needed a new tool, and they needed it quickly. It was late March, and students would need to start applying to the program in early August.

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The Solution

UPOP partnered with Stellar Elements to realize this new product with such an aggressive timeline.

Starting with a few wireframes and a general direction, Stellar Elements and UPOP knew there was only one way to meet the deadline: Kickoff full development on day 1.

Teams worked in parallel, planning, wireframing, and designing alongside development. While engineers built out one feature set, Stellar Elements’ strategists worked closely with UPOP to plan the next one.

The approach worked: define, wireframe, design, build, repeat. By the first week of July, development was complete and the tool was ready to undergo rigorous testing.

For a live launch like the UPOP tool, testing is as important as development. Finishing development in July allowed the tool to undergo a month of rigorous quality assurance to ensure that it was airtight for students.

The Results

The new system identifies and closes experience gaps in service and scalability.

UPOP’s program management tool makes just about every process more efficient. From helping staff review student applications to monitoring student job search progress, the tool reduces workloads and helps staff shift their attention back to students.

The tool also helps students. Students can use the tool to RSVP to events, track their progress via a dynamic milestone tracker, communicate directly with staff, and submit important documents for review. Industry mentors also use the tool to communicate with students.

While a challenge, the successful completion of the project in such a tight time frame enabled the UPOP community to realize the benefits from day one.

Building for resiliency also means building for growth. As UPOP continues to grow, the program management tool is built to grow alongside them.

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