E-Learning Student Notebook
My team and I were asked to develop a new feature for t.ux to improve their student-facing experience. While we all had a hand in each phase of the process, I took the lead on developing a research plan, recruiting and corresponding with participants, synthesizing findings, and presenting results to stakeholders.
Client        t.ux, theCOOP
Timeline   2.5 weeks
Team        Andrew Raper, Mark Gabriel, Trish Brownlee
Role          UX Research, Hi-Fi Prototyping, Usability Testing
The Challenge
The client asked our team to assess the student-facing experience of their product, and develop additional tools within the platform to enhance students' experience. Specifically, the client was interested in developing a way for their users to track and assess their performance over time.
The Result
A Notebook feature integrated within the learning modules, where students can reinforce and self-assess their understanding of the material, and easily navigate through past topics. A tool that allows students to track their learning, not just their performance. 
The Process
02—Identify Opportunities
04—Developing the Prototype
05—User Testing & Iteration
06—Handoff & Reflection
Research Goals
Our goals included understanding how students define "being on track" in their learning, and identifying students’ key pain points in a self-paced, E-Learning environment.
To investigate, we designed and distributed a screener survey, wrote a discussion guide, conducted in-depth 1:1 interviews, and performed market research to assess opportunities. 
»   How does a student know when they’ve understood something? 
»   What are the characteristics of an ideal learning experience?
»  What sources of feedback do students use to gauge their success?
»   How do students use that feedback?
»   Where and when do students want to access that feedback?
»   Students' main goal isn't to earn a good grade or score, it's to make sure that they understand the concept. 
»   Students define "being on track" as understanding why, not just how, to do something. 
»   Students want to easily find & review concepts from previous units.
»   Students want a personalized and customizable learning experience.
»   Students rely on feedback from 3 sources: the learning platform, their instructor, and from self-assessment
Market Research
Though t.ux doesn't have any direct competitors, we investigated a number of comparators offering supplemental learning and support for UX students and recent grads, or platforms that are structured similarly as modular learning environments. Our competitive matrix confirmed this, revealing that the market for self-paced, E-Learning platforms is quite saturated. However, a platform like t.ux, which can be self-paced, but also offers the opportunity to use the product in conjunction with an instructor and class of students, is unrivaled in the UX realm.
Competitive Matrix
We primarily examined the features offered by other self-paced E-Learning platforms, as the features offered by the mentoring/community platforms were out of scope of the project. 
Must Have
After cross referencing comparators' prominent features with key findings from user research, we found that a dedicated, customizable space for students was a top priority.
Should Have
We found that implementing a way to easily locate + navigate back to a concept from a past unit was both a pain point for students, and a feature present in comparator products. 
Could Have
Developing a direct line of contact with the instructor was also a priority, but one for a different project (case study coming soon!).
Won't Have
Though mentorship and portfolio review were some of the top features offered by comparators, and that user research pointed toward, those offerings were out of scope of the project.
Key Takeaways
Two observations that resounded across the board in our research were that: students prioritize their learning over their performance, and that students often gauge level of understanding via self-assessment to determine if they are "on track."  
Synthesizing the Data
In order to visualize the input we collected from our interviews, we established a user persona—included below in summary. The persona summarizes the insights we drew from our research.
User Persona
In addition to the user and market research we conducted, as we transitioned from our research to our sketching and ideation process, we identified key areas within the existing t.ux student-facing user flow where there was opportunity to implement a design solution to address student goals and pain points: #1 the student's home-page, #2 the activities in the modules themselves, and #3 the post-activity summary page. Ultimately, we decided to pursue area #2, a tool to use while completing an activity. However, we decided the create paths that connect the feature via all 3 areas. 

1.) The student's home page

2.) The activities in the module itself

3.) The post-activity summary page

Our first round of design studio

Some of the ideas we explored included analytic widgets on the student dashboard, public or class specific forums for students to connect with one another, a flagging/messaging system between the student and instructor, and a student notebook—which is the idea we pursued. We chose this direction based on our research, and based feedback from the client, who indicated enthusiasm for the idea and asked us to develop it further. 
After two design studios and alignment meetings with the client, we decided to test our idea for a student Notebook integrated into the modular learning path where students can take notes to reinforce their understanding of the material. The Notebook is also accessible via the home-page, with each 'note' linked to the activity it corresponds with, so learners can easily navigate back through concepts covered past units.​​​​​​​
Key Features
»   Notes are added through typing or dictation
»   Notes are linked and associated with specific activities 
»   Notes are accessible via the dashboard
The Notebook​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
We based this idea on a number of the insights we gleaned from our research. An important one was that students want to easily find and review concepts from previous units.
Students also utilize their ability to compare their thought process with feedback they receive as a means to gauge their understanding of a concept. The Notebook helps to facilitate that process, by giving students a place to record the highlights of their learning, or jot down a question to look up or ask their instructor. 
We made use of existing real estate by adding a tab to the 'Overview' panel on the right-hand side panel in the activity-view to house the Notebook.
We created a place where a student's notes would live after an activity is complete, by adding a Dashboard on the student homepage.
Usability Testing
We conducted usability testing with 3 users, who were given the following task: 
"Record your thoughts about question #1 after selecting an answer."
»   All users were able to locate the notebook and record a note
»   2/3 users were confused by too much white space upon opening the Notebook 
»   1 user didn't know to click 'Add' after recording a note at first
Users completed the task on the first attempt

Average Satisfaction Score
Overall, we were thrilled that users responded with enthusiasm for the concept. Users noted that they found the feature to be useful by giving them the ability to easily review content, and were delighted by the ability to dictate notes in addition to typing them. 

While the notebook feature allows students to practice self-assessment, they also need a way to communicate with and receive feedback from an instructor—something one test participant expected to be able to do using the Notebook, and that we proposed the client explore in their next steps, but that this project timeline did not allow us to develop. 
To deliver all the assets we created to the client, we packaged up our work in Figma, including extensive annotations on each component, the functionality of each feature, and the purpose it serves, and handed the project over to the client with a final presentation and discussion!

Presenting our findings and suggestions to the client

At the end of the project, I was still left with some questions that I would investigate with further testing. For example, how could a feedback loop with the instructor be embedded in the Notebook? A tagging system? Adding a ‘flag’ to the Notebook? Or should the Notebook remain the student’s private space? Further iteration and testing would provide more insight.

Overall, my team and I learned a lot from this process, and received great feedback from the client. They’ve made plans to incorporate our designs for the both the Notebook, and the Dashboard that houses the Notebook, in their product.
Questions? Get in touch—michellenmiles@gmail.com
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