As part of the Dallas Morning News Innovation Endowment, we teach a digital product development capstone course each semester. The class is structured to teach the students how to bring a digital product to fruition. Students are taught principles of design-thinking, and we use those methods to come up with product ideas and to develop them. They also learn about how to find the “market fit” for their product, how to plan out a roadmap and present their ideas.
Each team's journey is documented through a series of blogs written throughout the semester. To get the lastest on student innovation, check out their latest blog posts here.
Bringing Personalization to Music Lovers Everywhere
Let’s be frank - Spotify’s recommendation system is outdated, inaccurate, and ingenuine. Far too often have we heard friends, family members, music enthusiasts and even artists complain about Spotify AI’s inability to recommend music that people will actually listen to, and failure to reflect nuanced changes in people’s listening preferences and activities.
Fortunately, our team brainstormed several ideas to improve the lack of music personalization and recommendations in the industry - our initial idea is an all-in one webplayer that creates genuine music recommendations based on detailed user patterns and surveys. However, we are reaching out to all of you to determine a product that can best serve your personalized listening needs.
Yucheng Zhang, fourth-year journalism and RTF student has a working knowledge of HTML, CSS and Python and plans to utilize his programming background to take on many of the back-end responsibilities of this product. He is an avid music, live-music and festival enthusiast and hopes to learn more about how machine learning API can improve the music-listening experience.
Cecilia Garzella, a fourth-year journalism student and avid user of Spotify, is passionate about finding ways to improve upon the music streaming experience and is looking forward to learning more about machine learning and recommendation systems.
Carolina Cruz, a fourth-year journalism and government student, is disappointed in Spotify’s uncaring lack of music personalization. Although Spotify makes users pay monthly for a subscription, their unwillingness to curate accurate music recommendations is beyond inexcusable. There must be change!
We’d love it if you filled out this short 5-minute survey about your current experience with Spotify’s recommendation AI and what you’d like to see, found here. We will reach out to stakeholders and industry experts, and based on your feedback, generate new solutions and prototypes for you to test.
Media Innovation Team Takes on Ticketing
Four senior journalism students (and Longhorn football fans) are diving into the Texas football student ticketing system in hopes to improve the student experience on game days.
Throughout their four years at the University of Texas, students Graci Goldstein, Bo Crawford, Wyatt Smith and Hannah Williford have run into more than a few issues with their gameday experience. Just three weeks ago, Texas students waited outside the stadium beginning at 5:30 a.m. to attend the Texas-Alabama game. Despite some students paying hundreds of dollars to purchase a ticket for the game from fellow students, tickets were not checked at the entrance of the game. By the time the Longhorns finished play in the afternoon, many students walked away sunburnt and dehydrated.
While the Alabama game presented an extreme example of the issues students can face on gameday, many of them are not out of the ordinary for a typical Saturday at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. Just two weeks ago when the Longhorns faced UTSA, not the flashiest of opponents, DKR was yet again packed, and if Texas ever is “back,” reaching full capacity will be commonplace.
In order to solve this problem, this media innovation team proposes changes to the ticketing process at the University of Texas. Through research of alternative methods of ticketing and interviewing students from other universities, this team hopes to provide the University of Texas with different options for ticketing that will increase safety of students, decrease current inefficiencies, and enhance student’s game day experience. Additionally, establishing rapport with employees at the University will also be crucial in understanding why the current issues exist and will help the innovation team begin to identify possible solutions. Whether the employees work in security, concessions, ticketing or game day operations, insights gathered from the people who run game day will help the team craft potential prototypes.
To get started, the plan is to interview students and faculty and research effective ticketing methods from other schools. Through trial, error, and lots of feedback, the team hopes to present three new methods for Longhorn Gameday student ticketing. The goal is to make each student’s gameday experience easier and less stressful, from downloading their ticket, getting into the stadium in a safe and quick manner, and finding their seat in the rowdy student section.
New in Austin
Hook'd on Making a Connection
Very early on, Ronald thought of a great name that captures our goals for this project: “Hook’d.” We want to help “hook” students' hearts and connect them to communities where they can grow and experience fulfilling friendships. College can be a very confusing time and isolating place. It is a period full of questions and uncertainties. We want students to feel supported and as if they belong at UT, but factors such as the pandemic, transfers, and just being away from home, can make it hard for people to find their place on the 40 acres.
We aspire to produce a website and app that helps students connect with different organizations and communities without confrontation. Our project plan heavily relies on the responses to our surveys because we want to create something addressing the needs and interests of students. We know we want to create an app and a website and will have a better idea of what our project will look like after October 14th. We also want to analyze the various methods and organizations to help students find community and see what they're missing, how they could do better, and their biggest challenges. With the idea being dependent on what students want, massive changes to our ideas and goals can happen.
As a team, we need to prepare for the reality of changing some aspects of our project if the outcome is not what we expect. The project will focus on what people desire, which will make this successful because many projects try to solve a problem superficially. The people being the focus will make it hard for us to fail because we are addressing the issue on a human level. We know this project can help people find a human connection and feel like they belong on the 40 acres.
Have Texas with You Wherever You Go
Royal Theater in Archer City from Texas Highways’ 7 Texas Road Trips That Are All About the Journey
Texas Highways, the official travel magazine of Texas, wants to start a newsletter focusing on road trips in Texas. Students in the Digital Innovations Capstone class Bella Rose, Daniela, Nicole and Riley are so excited to take on this challenge in collaboration with the Texas Highways digital team.
The goal of this project is to create roadtrip content and make it relevant and accessible to new, untapped audiences — especially younger demographics. Tied to a newsletter format, our team will take inspiration from well-performing digital roadtrip content Texas Highways has released in the past.
Texas Highways’ objectives with this road trip-centric newsletter include audience growth, conversion and revenue. In addition to the development of business metrics, the magazine’s digital team wants to present road travel information to visitors and tourists in the most effective and convenient way possible.
This will be accomplished through an interactive newsletter and social media strategy. The newsletter will be implemented through sections broken down by time, location, activity preferences and travel companions. Texas Highways could benefit from a growing social media presence in order to reach a younger audience using both organic and paid growth efforts on Instagram and TikTok. Interactive elements can include infographics and surveys.
The advertising strategy will center on finding local businesses and highlighting them throughout the newsletter, as well as branded content and sponsored placements throughout. There will also be a focus on companies associated with travel such as AirBnB, REI, and Patagonia. Using the social media presence of established Texas travel bloggers on Tik Tok and Instagram would also be extremely beneficial for getting the newsletter and social media accounts traction.
One possible constraint could be the outreach to new potential subscribers, as well as convincing existing Texas Highways consumers to subscribe. Additionally, understanding the desires of these audiences to better curate this newsletter for them.
Texas Highways has an ideal spring 2023 deadline for official launch of this newsletter.