SI 501: Contextual Inquiry and User Needs Assessment (Winter term)

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • “We have channels for distributing information to our constituents, but the right information isn’t always shared.”
  • “We keep adding staff to our service desk, but the lines haven’t gone down.”
  • “We have a database, but we aren’t putting in or taking out the information that we need.”
  • “I know we have people that want to volunteer, but we don’t know how to get them here and use them best.”
  • “A patron ordered a book, and they got it -- but it took weeks to get it to them.”

If comments like these ring true consider having your problem analyzed by a talented team of University of Michigan graduate students in 2016! The University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) is now accepting your requests for consulting projects that involve information, communication, or service issues. We are seeking the following types of projects, which we have found are most amenable to our students’ skills:

  • Information and communication processes that are not working efficiently
  • Customer discovery for new technology systems, programs, or projects
  • Service design, such as evaluating how walk-in clients are handled at service desks

If your proposal is selected, a team of UMSI master's students coached by faculty will conduct a thorough investigation and analysis of your challenge as part of a one-semester course that takes place from January through April, 2016. At the end of April, they will provide a report and oral presentation suggesting ways to make your processes more effective and efficient. Our students have worked with more than 200 partner organizations including corporations, libraries, government agencies, non-profits, and schools. Because the students will be conducting the project as part of their coursework, there is no cost to the participating organization.

Ideal projects/clients

  • Have an information process already in place that needs improvement.
  • Can provide at least 5 relevant people who can be interviewed and observed in person by the student team in February.
  • Are within 50 miles of Ann Arbor. Preference is given to local projects.

Examples of past projects

  • Analysis of a volunteer intake process from inquiry to orientation to engagement.
  • The review of a health clinic's telephone queue and voicemail system, establishing a formal protocol for routing phone calls and messages from patients, medical specialists, pharmacists, funders, and vendors to appropriate staff.
  • An examination of how a government agency plans, creates, and disseminates information about current events and projects to regional employees to encourage collaboration and decrease the duplication of effort among employees.
  • The study of a public library's process to acquire and weed materials among its three branches.

Project proposal submission

To submit a request for us to consider your project for our students, please complete this brief form by Friday, December 18, 2015, and we will follow up with you within three days. You will then be asked to complete a more in-depth proposal form describing your information challenge.

Contact information

Kristin Fontichiaro
Clinical Assistant Professor

Kentaro Toyama

Kelly Kowatch 
Associate Director of Engaged Learning