Coastal Connect

A Design Sprint project hosted by BrainStation and Ernest & Young (EY) tackling 1st-year university students' experience due to COVID-19-related campus closure.


UX Design
UI Design


Aug 2020 (3.5 days)


Aaron Kwong
Fiona Zheng
Mrinmoyee Ghose



COVID-19-related campus closure has impacted over 87% of the world's student population on nearly every aspect of the student experience. Being fully online means that the usual student onboarding ceremonies, events, communities, and clubs will need to adapt to an online model or be suspended indefinitely.

These university freshmen, especially international students, are at risk of losing out on their first-year experience and not feeling a part of the student community, resulting in loneliness, depression, and other mental health issues.

Research has found that rates of moderate-severe anxiety increased 38.9% and rates of moderate-severe depression increased 47.9% from before to mid-pandemic. It's not a surprise that difficulties associated with social isolation contributed most to the observed increases in anxiety and depression symptoms among first-year college students, including international students.


To offer a virtual platform that helps international students get out of their comfort zone to meet and connect with new and like-minded schoolmates in order to make them feel welcomed and part of a community.


Simulate the interpersonal interactions of university life virtually for new international students, so that they feel included in the community?


Introducing Costal Connect

With Coastal Connect, students can connect with classmates who share the same classes. This will make it easier for them to find future friends and study buddies at Coastal University.



Show your personality and interests in your profile and let other like-minded people learn about you.


Don't know where to start to look for new people? Connect with your classmates based on similarities, such as course schedule. 


Get Notified

Stay informed on campus-wide networking events, and you won't need to be afraid of missing out. 

Video Roulette

Dive into video roulette to meet new people in a 15-minute one-on-one setting, with some icebreaker prompts to start a causal conversation easily.



Enjoyed talking with them? Connect with them further and build your social network!  


We conducted interviews with 10 international students aged 18-22 and asked them about their opinions on the COVID-19, its impact on their university experience, and their way of maintaining connections. 



Reza is an incoming international student from Indonesia who wants to connect with students who share the same classes. This way, she can feel less anxious about missing out on the first-year experience. 



We studied existing apps to get inspired from and learn what has worked and not worked. From that, we brainstormed and identified some opportunities that could address the problem we were trying to solve.  


Opportunities: A campus-wide mobile app features video roulette (with icebreaker prompts) where students randomly get paired with others based on similarity as a measure of compatibility (e.g., schedules, interests).


Our team drafted some rough ideas for the solution, where I mainly focused on the home page and the user profile for the sketches.

We each voted on the best sketches that would address Reza's pain points while helping her achieve the goal. We then put them together for wireframes. 



Part of the Design Sprint challenge was to use the brand assets of the client. We incorporated Coastal University's logo, typography, and colours and settled on a vibrant and minimalist academia look.



With the restriction of time, we were only able to conduct one round of user testing with 6 university international students to validate our design and did not have enough time to implement any feedback.

Overall, the app was well-received, and users had no issues using the app. Based on our feedback, for future prototypes, we want to consider changing the screen resolution sizes, re-arranging certain elements (e.g., buttons) and increasing touch-points. 

In order to further validate our concept and assumptions, more testing and iterations will need to be conducted. 



I was very fortunate to work with these three talented designers on this time-intensive design sprint. Our strengths were clearly laid out on the table and complemented each one, so it was easy for us to divide works to those strongest in that aspect of design. Everyone had many ideas for the project; even though some were shot down, we were not defeated by rejections or afraid of bringing up new ones. Everyone was so passionate about this project that we worked until midnight for a couple of days.

Through the project, I learned that being perfect or right is not the goal of Design Sprint. As a beginner who was excited about the project, we might've gotten carried away easily by chasing perfection, which resulted in some inefficient working hours. Although there were instances of struggle and frustration (because each of us cared about this a lot), we are extraordinarily proud of our work. We felt even more proud when some usability participants told us that they wish their university has the app.

Thanks for reading! 😊

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