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User research with first Apply candidates

We asked each user who submitted an application if they’d be happy to take part in research. With those who were, we conducted interviews. They used the service as launched.

Key issues

  • Problems signing in
  • Confusion around our eligibility questions
  • Candidates wanted to apply again after submitting their first application
  • ‘Apply for teacher training’ was seen as the only place to apply, rather than this service, this is good in the long run but troublesome during dual running
  • Qualifications were sparsely completed, “I didn’t put in [all my qualifications] because I assumed it was only the highest degree needed”
  • Trouble entering self employment into work history
  • Trouble describing working patterns for part time jobs (we added this feature)

Candidate 1

Research audio on Lookback

  • “I saw that I could apply through Apply. I looked into them both over Christmas, the Apply one looked much easier than UCAS and did seem a lot more straightforward at the time. Apply would’ve been my first choice in any case. You still had to put the same detail - eg personal statement - in both applications. The layout seemed more straightforward and I’m used to filling out forms as I’ve been self employed too. Has a nice flow to it. I just found it a bit more to-the-point. UCAS one seems fussier!”
  • They found out about Apply through the provider’s Twitter as they had posted about being part of the Apply trial
  • “UCAS was longer, they ask a lot more in depth information too, like exactly which parts of the degree I took and credits etc. I ended up spending £50 having to request these details from my Uni about this, whereas in Apply I didn’t”
  • They didn’t put in any “Other relevant qualifications” such as their level 3 teaching assistant, first aid training or GCSEs/A Levels. They didn’t see this as mandatory, so didn’t fill it in. Whilst we were talking, they stated they probably wished they had put them in, but didn’t think it fitted in this section.
  • They understood the status their application was in correctly. They wanted to know if they would get emails if the status of their application changed at any point. They would like this.
  • They owned their own business and had to write ‘Myself’ in the employer name box. They didn’t say this was a problem as such, but we might want to think about a re-design for this for data purposes.
  • Found all the content and guidance throughout the application super helpful - especially around the personal statement and splitting it out into 2 sections.
  • They understood about logging in and out via emails - but was a bit wary about this. They expected a normal password/log in. They said it was fine, but was annoying having to go back to the welcome email every time. They tried Googling Apply multiple times but couldn’t find the link.

Candidate 2

Research audio on Lookback

  • Found the Apply service through the provider website, which links to Apply rather than UCAS
    “I did debate whether going through UCAS would be better because it’s tried and tested and I’ve used it before. But then I thought, if there’s a new system in place it’s probably for a reason and that is what [the provider] links to, so I thought I’d try the new service and started and just carried on using that”
  • They didn’t remember what the guidance said around the benefit of using Apply over UCAS. Feedback in the survey said:
    “I’d like more clarity on the difference/affects of using this against UCAS”
  • “Very easy, very simple, I remember UCAS being a lengthy and daunting process. I found the GOV one a lot more simply put. The sections and questions were easy and comprehensible. Just found it very simple yet effective”
  • Found logging in and out pretty easy. There was however an issue when clicking the log in link which took the candidate back to the sign-up page rather than straight to logging in.
  • Someone who didn’t put in all qualifications, only the ones they deemed relevant. Do we have a steer from providers whether they want all GCSEs/A Levels at this point? Is this enough?
  • They stated it would’ve been useful to say how many hours their part time work was, especially the one involving working with children.
  • They liked the personal statement as well as the content guidance.
    “Makes it much less daunting rather than seeing a big 2,500 word box with no help”
  • They gave interview preferences for dates they couldn’t do, but wasn’t sure if the Provider would accommodate these or not. They stated “it would’ve been helpful to have a calendar to pick dates I’m not free”.

Candidate 3

Research audio on Lookback

  • A career changer who lived abroad and was looking to move back to the UK and start their PGCE course.
  • Chose the provider based on good reputation and as it was their first choice. Only applied through DfE Apply, and didn’t know UCAS existed.
  • She wanted to be able to submit her 1st choice course, and submit further applications at a later date once she had done more research into further providers “I wanted to finish the one application and then go onto the next later”
  • She liked the fact it gave her an option to edit - “I have a bad habit of not proof reading properly, so even after I’ve submitted it, it still gives me the option to edit within seven days, so that was great. I changed some of the wording of how I came across”
  • She only thought she needed to put in the most relevant qualifications, so her relevant degree, relevant GCSEs etc. She did not put in the full breadth of her qualifications - “I didn’t want to put in any other qualifications because obviously the degree is the highest [qualification] so that’s the only one that should matter”
  • She had done a lot of contractual work for short periods of time and found it a bit repetitive putting in all the contracts in the work history.
  • Found the personal statement guidance very useful and used it to tweak some content she already had prepared.

Candidate 4

Research audio on Lookback

  • Applied to PE through UCAS and DfE. Started on UCAS first, then did the DfE one too after changing from Primary to Secondary. Was intrigued by the new system.
  • “It was well set out, easy to understand, nothing was confusing or nothing I didn’t understand. I feel like no one would struggle. It’s better step by step rather than the one long list of questions on UCAS”
  • Expected a normal password and email, “It’s just easier to have your own password and log in and out. A couple of times when I was filling in, I had a break and did something else, and it’s a bit annoying having to go through my emails again”
  • He favourited the Apply link in the browser
  • This user didn’t put in any other qualifications at all, “It said GCSEs and degree you could put in, it didn’t specify any other requirements or qualifications to put in, so I didn’t”
  • Good feedback on personal statement “The starter bullet points were good and made sure I didn’t miss anything out, I used them lots”
  • Needed a space to write that he “worked weekday evenings and less than 30 hours a week” and it was “quite important” to fill this in.