Phoebe Lin
Case Study

Creating an Empowering Student Experience

Timeline: Jan - May 2018

Role: UX Designer

Team: 1 UX Designer (me), 1 Product Manager, Tech Lead and 2 Software Developers

The Challenge

Empowering Students


SchoolCity bridges the gap between instruction, assessment, and data analytics with features for teachers to track student progress in real time and for schools and districts to gain insights through reports. We work closely with educators at every level -- teacher, school, and district -- to deliver a seamless experience. However, our platform provided limited opportunities for students to understand the context of their own learning.

I was part of a project to design the student experience. Aside from allowing students to complete assignments and take assessments, we wanted to provide a space for students to feel empowered and take agency over their own learning. 

Our high level goals were to:

  1. Give students knowledge about their progress
  2. Make it fast and easy for students to understand their expectations
  3. Create a platform for engagement

My Role

I led the design of the student experience between January and May 2018 and was the sole UX designer. I collaborated with a Product Manager, Tech Lead, and 2 Software Developers.


The Process

Discovery

Insights from the Field

At the outset of the project, we had a general vision but didn’t have specific goals for the student experience. In order to gather potential user insights, we spoke directly with educators to explore what was missing for students (unfortunately, we were not able to speak to students themselves, so we went for the next best demographic).

We spoke with teachers and curriculum developers during a teacher training. Our goals were to understand what students needed and what challenges they faced.


Synthesis

Overwhelmed by Expectations

The number of standards, or expectations, students are expected to meet are enormous -- expectations for each year, each subject, and each assessment. Even if students do know the expectations, they have no idea which part of the assessments correspond to which expectations.

Lack of Progress Transparency

Students receive quarter and semester grade reports, but felt in the dark about where they stand in terms of personal progress. Students wondered, “Am I falling behind? What should I focus on?”

Introducing the Student Portal


How We Got There

Creating an Empowering Learning Experience

Existing practices provide little information to students about how they’re doing in school, and with that, they are unable to form any solid achievement plans of their own. They are confused by what expectations and want to know where they stand.

This helped us frame the problem better: how might we help students understand how they’re being assessed, highlight their strengths and weaknesses, and give them actionable feedback?


First Iteration

Two primary questions informed my design strategy:

  1. What contexts need to be considered?
  2. What is empowering?

Naturally, most students (and educators and parents) interacted with our product in a web browser. However, students also frequently printed out grade reports, so readability with good spread of information was crucial.

Knowledge is power. Unlike before where expectations were just numbers, we now show students what those expectations mean. Students connect which questions correspond with which expectations, and they know exactly which expectations they need to work on more. Being able to take charge of one’s own progress in learning is empowering.

Being able to take charge of one’s own progress in learning is empowering.

Before: Students viewed their scores yet had no context what those scores meant or what each expectation was supposed to teach. What did Expectation 5.3a test for?
After: Students could view a dropdown with more details about the Expectation. These expectations were pulled from curriculum standards and are correlated with assessments that the teacher assigns to the student.

New Insights from Testing

We tested the prototype with a few users to gather some new insights. Turns out, students still struggled with knowing what to work on. We realized what they needed was feedback on each individual question and more detail about their scores for each expectation. This meant creating custom “correct answer” and “your answer” type interaction for each assessment type.

This was a challenge because there are 13 different assessment types. By using fewer words and more visuals (use of color), we were able to make the design scale.

For example, a custom response (CR) assessment item shows what score the student received and which questions the student answered incorrectly, with an attached rubric for reference.

A Graphing Line (GL) assessment item shows exactly which lines were incorrectly drawn and which is the correct answer.

Outcomes

While we did not come up with specific metrics for this project, we were able to hear how this experience impacted students from several educators. Our account managers who regularly connect with district administrators and teachers relayed back to us that they loved the new student portal, “This is exactly what we want students to have access to. Letting students go back through their assessments based on which expectations they’re weaker in...that is really helpful.” An unexpected benefit came from the parents, “they printed out this report and gave it to me, and I knew exactly what they were struggling in.”

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