SPUR 2019: Developing Software to Support Stronger Time Management


Applying strong time management behaviors is very important; for example, it correlates with both academic performance and job performance. For many young adults, the transition from high school to college represents a major change in the amount of control they have over their time, and the literature shows that many students struggle with this transition because they do not have the time management skills to handle this freedom on their own. A wide variety of software exists to support people in applying their existing time management strategies. On the other hand, there is very little software to support people in improving their time management practices. This project focuses on developing software to support undergraduate students in improving their time management practices.

How should such software be designed? That is the question we aim to explore in this project. Time management literature suggests a variety of principles and strategies. This project will explore software solutions that may improve support for developing time management skills. Adopting new time management practices is a type of behavior change. Behavior change is a topic of broad interest, often discussed in a health context. The results of this work will also have broader implications for opportunities for technology to support behavior change.

Student Role

A student working on this project will engage in several activities to support the exploration of software that can support time management. First, the student will work with me to develop a design for an initial software prototype that incorporates specific time management strategies. These strategies might include such as daily planning, lightweight time tracking, and automated reminders. Next, the student will develop the prototype software (phone application and/or web app). We will follow a process of rapid iteration during development, updating design plans as appropriate. Third, if sufficient time remains before the end of the program, we will deploy this prototype with a small group of study participants in order to understand their experience in using the prototype.

Student Learning Outcomes & Benefits

This project will provide the student with a multidisciplinary research experience in human-centered computing. Students will have the opportunity to develop their skills in interface design, application development, and semi-structured interview techniques. Together, this provides the student with a valuable first-hand experience in a user-centered research process where the goal of the project has both real-world application and the potential to produce important research knowledge.

By the end of this research experience, the student will be able to:

  • Initiate and conduct an iterative design process that emphasizes real-world applicability
  • Connect existing theory in time management and behavior change with software user experience designs
  • Identify and design for different user personas based on findings in past literature
  • Translate design ideas into a concrete prototype implementation using cutting edge cross-platform software
  • Run an in-the-wild deployment and user study
  • Conduct semi-structured interviews with participants
  • Apply thematic analysis approach to qualitative data from the semi-structured interviews

Jason Wiese
Assistant Professor

School of Computing
College of Engineering

At the beginning of the project, I will work closely with the student to ensure they have a solid footing with respect to the project. As the summer progresses, I plan to support the student in gradually developing independence with respect to the research project. Early in the project, I expect that we will meet several times per week to discuss the project, addressing barriers and deciding on next steps. This will give way to once-a-week meetings, with the ability to easily schedule additional time as needed.

By completing this project, the student will gain valuable first-hand experience in human-centered computing research. I will work to complement this experience by exposing the student to other research in human-centered computing (both in my lab and across the field). I will also work with the student to understand their professional goals, and then to by providing the student with support, perspective, and guidance to move them closer to those goals.