Media Lab, Learning Experience Design

Quantifying the Value of a Research License to Higher Education Institutions with a Student-Facing Dissertations Bootcamp


ProQuest licenses its vast collections of dissertations, theses, academic ebooks, scholarly journals and primary source materials to college and university libraries for advanced academic degrees and research projects. To improve renewal and new licensing rates, ProQuest was seeking quantitative data to help promote product use, value and benefit.


ProQuest ® houses the largest collection of cross-searchable dissertations and theses in the world. Spanning six centuries and covering all disciplines, access is licensed to college and university libraries for use by their students, and professors.

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global (PQDT), a flagship product, contains over 5 million works and offers a tremendous value to graduate and doctoral students. PQDT grows by an additional 200,000 works annually.

O’Donnell Learn was hired to increase use of this vast collection as well as make the experience more efficient and effective. New usage data will help quantify the product’s value to licensing institutions.

Showcasing Value and Benefits to Drive Usage
ProQuest recognized they needed to go beyond showing student stakeholders how to use PQDT to demonstrate its value. And what better way to experience the benefits of access to this vast collection of resources than by learning how to develop a high quality thesis or dissertation while interfacing with PQDT at the same time. Getting started is often the hardest part of the process.

To that end, O’Donnell Learn designed an on-demand virtual bootcamp as a guide for graduate and doctoral students developing a thesis or dissertation. Based on a needs analysis of key stakeholders, we recommended authoring the course with Articulate Rise with activities built in Articulate Storyline. Authoring in Rise gave us the ability to present content with a visually modern appeal, while Storyline enhanced our capability to build truly interactive questions.

Prototypes: Taking the Time to Reduce Risk Saves Time in the End.
The project deadline was very tight. Our ProQuest client was presenting the product to an audience of 500 shortly after our initiative began. We also knew the user experience for the target students had to be top notch to ensure engagement.

Our practice of prototyping proved critical and wise. We were able to customize our design team in-process to include key specialists and make changes to the UI/UX without affecting the schedule or costs. With her expectations met, our client was thrilled to share the first module, fully operational, at her presentation.

The Final Product: Dissertations Bootcamp
The successful design treatment was rolled out to the remaining modules. The final product includes three interactive digital learning modules and many downloadable planning resources to help students map out their thesis or dissertation development process from where to start, to conducting effective research and on through to creating an actionable writing plan.

The entire bootcamp is freely available, built according to SCORM technical standards, and easily integrated into any SCORM compliant Learning Management System such as Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas and D2L Brightspace.

Module 1: Getting Started on Your Thesis or Dissertation
Module 1 demystifies what a thesis or dissertation is as well as provides information and resources to help a student understand the overall development process.


Module 2: Efficient Discovery and Research Curation
Module 2 promotes the value of the vast PQDT collection by demonstrating effective and efficient topic research, with access to tremendous resources right at a student’s fingertips.

Module 3: Developing a Productive Writing Plan
Module 3 explores techniques for creating a realistic writing plan and accompanying goals, debunks myths about the process and provides tips for overcoming common obstacles along the way.


As an added data point, the end of the bootcamp includes a feedback survey to glean additional information around PQDT’s value and benefit for an institution’s graduate and doctoral student community, and offer product improvement feedback from the end stakeholder.

Experience all three modules in full!
Module 1: Getting Started on Your Thesis or Dissertation
Module 2: Efficient Discovery and Research Curation
Module 3: Developing a Productive Writing Plan


One of the most significant approaches an institution or organization can take for creating end-user success is through empathy. Though for this project, the ProQuest customer is libraries and higher education institutions, the true end-user is graduate students. What we love about this project is how empathizing with the end-user’s needs identified a solution to help students understand and map out a realistic thesis development process, but also elevated the potential value of the Proquest products with their customers. Empathy is always a path to creating value by helping first recognize, and then remove, barriers to success.