Hello! I’m Francesca, a student undertaking General Assembly’s (GA’s) User Experience Design Immersive (UXDI) at their New York City campus, at 10 E 21st Street, New York, NY 10010. Come with me on my journey through my first class project!
General Assembly is a global education community dedicated to teaching individuals and companies the skills needed to thrive in the technological industry.
“We foster a flourishing community of professionals pursuing careers they love.”
General Assembly embraces a growth mindset and strives to improve their students’ academic experience.
I was challenged with 1 week to design a digital product meeting this business objective.
Through my own experience, I recognized an opportunity for growth in the pre-coursework (“pre-work”) required of incoming UXDI students, with which GA’s goal is to best prepare the students for their course. This pre-work, given about a week in advance of its due date, consisted of a series of slides, videos, articles and tutorials, for which GA estimates needing at least 30+ hours to complete. This pre-work is accessed on a website, with explicit instructions to use the desktop version over mobile (some of the tests, for instance, wouldn’t function correctly on mobile).
Between employment and lengthy commutes (on subways with no internet, at that!), I had certainly struggled to finish everything in time! Everything had to be done so quickly that pre-work seemed like a blur, leaving me wondering on my first day of class whether the pre-work really made any difference in my level of preparation. Do other students feel the same way?
Due to the 30+ hour workload, the week given to complete it, outside obligations (i.e. employment), and limited accessibility to the pre-work website, UXDI students at the GA NYC campus hurry through the pre-work, and ultimately are no better prepared — meaning GA’s goal with the pre-work is ultimately not reached.
What are these UXDI students really like? What were they doing before coming to GA? What were their frustrations with the pre-work? Did it actually help them feel prepared for their course?
To find out the answers to these questions and to test the above hypothesis, an interview team of 3 (see below) conducted user interviews face-to-face with 5 UXDI students, one at a time, on the GA NYC campus 9/11/18–9/12/18.
The Interview Team:
- Diana Payumo
- Stesha Marcon
- Myself (Francesca Santiago)
Roles (alternated among the team)
- Recorder/Transcriber (utilized Otter app)
5 UXDI Students Interviewed:
Synthesis, including affinity mapping (see above), lead to the following main insights:
- Students are not lazy! They are motivated and want to learn
- They just don’t have time, often employed just prior to their course
- So…they rush through the pre-work
- The existing pre-work is boring
- In the end, students don’t feel better prepared
The first few points are especially summed up in the following quote:
“There was a lot to read. It was hard to keep up with all this information and projects on the side . . . I wanted to do it, just didn’t have time to. I skipped through some of the articles. I skipped through the parts on Sketch and Invision because I already use them.”
The student quoted above had to complete the pre-work while working as a freelance designer and moving from Israel. She noted that she had to do some of the pre-work on the plane and in airports.
Other insights include aspects of the pre-work that students did like, such as the interactive coding tutorial.
They also agree that some form of preparation should be in place:
“I guess I was glad the pre-work was there so I knew we were all coming in with the same base of knowledge”
GA requires UXDI students to complete pre-work prior to starting their course, to give them the basic knowledge they need to be prepared. However, students have limited time and rush through the pre-work, and afterward, they retain little information.
How might we provide background knowledge so that these students can best absorb it in the time that they have?
UXDI students at the GA NYC campus
Success would be met if 5/5 interviewed UXDI students all stated that the new solution better prepared them for the course than the existing pre-work.
The existing pre-work is on a website, which students access via their desktop/laptop. There were explicit instructions to use the desktop/laptop version because some features wouldn’t function correctly on mobile.
What about students like Judith, who had to work on-the-go while traveling from overseas? With her story in mind, I decided on a mobile application, so that students can access the material at their convenience on a more portable device.
Research showed that students find the current pre-work boring, and ultimately, forgettable. How could the work be made more memorable, more engaging, and even “fun”?
I focused on creating a product that kept learning interactive. The solution I decided to further explore was an app in which students could learn from flashcards and then review their knowledge using quizzes.
The Double Diamond Theme:
While sketching out ideas, a question occurred to me — what’s one thing I know now that I wish I had known before starting the course? The double diamond design process!
It’s a concept constantly reinforced throughout our current coursework, and understanding at least that concept could help students be better prepared for this course. The double diamond then became the main menu, dividing the material by each step, and a constant fixture on each page to emphasize where the student is in the design process.
Wireframes were created using Sketch, and clickable prototypes were made using Invision.
How well does the app work? Can users navigate through smoothly? Can they use the flashcards? Finish a quiz?
To answer these questions, I conducted 2 rounds of testing in person with 4 users each round. Users were recruited via the hallway method, finding participants (mainly students) at the GA NYC campus. Participants consisted of 5 UXDI students, 1 Web Development Immersive (WDI) student, and 2 non-students.
I served as a moderator, note-taker, and recorder all in one. I video recorded the participants, with their permission.
Round 1 Users:
Round 2 Users:
Insights from Round 1 of Usability Testing:
Users had difficulty quickly navigating back to the Main Page. The Back button, when placed on the bottom, was difficult to find on screens requiring scrolling.
Some users struggled to use the flashcards; they couldn’t figure out how to flip the card over to its definition. My first user, Cora, was visibly upset and embarrassed at not being able to use the flashcard. The goal is to create an easy, fun experience, not stress the user more! And what good is a flashcard if you can only see one side?
No difficulties finishing a quiz! Hurray! But users wanted to be able to quit a quiz, in case they didn’t want to finish the whole thing. What if they were interrupted in the middle? What if they realized they weren’t ready?
Users wanted to be able to track their progress and see how much they’ve learned. They especially wanted to be able to view past quizzes and see trends in their performance.
Changes Made After Round 1:
I clarified the upper left logo’s function as a shortcut to the Main Page.
The Back button was moved from bottom to top right so it would be easier to find.
Text instruction was added to clarify how to use the flashcard.
Stats on the back of the card show users how many times they’ve reviewed a card and how often they’ve gotten the card content correct on quizzes.
Insights from Round 2 of Usability Testing:
There were still some bumps to smooth over. Some users still did not find the flashcards intuitive; they tried to swipe the cards instead. They also desired more indications of their progress.
However, overall, navigation went smoother, and the additions for tracking progress were well-received. Users that were able to use the flashcards viewed them favorably as well:
“You made an academic task fun!”
Changes After Round 2:
To address users’ desire to further track progress, I added a progress bar, so they can know how many flashcards they’ve reviewed and how many to go, and I added a graph to the Past Quiz Results screen, showing how their scores have progressed over the number of quiz attempts.
A few users had tried to swipe the flashcard during testing, so the flashcards could be made easier to use by allowing them to be flipped by tapping or swiping.
Other features could be added to make the app an even better study tool. Some users expressed a desire to be able to create their own decks of flashcards, so that they can focus more specifically on cards they get incorrect.
Though perhaps out of scope, it would also be ideal if parts of the pre-work such as the interactive coding tutorial could be adapted into this mobile app.
More rounds of usability tests would be needed to evaluate further changes to the prototype.
Eventually, a high fidelity prototype could be created.
I wanted GA NYC UXDI students to have an improvement over the existing pre-work by providing them a quick, convenient way to prepare for their course. In this way, their academic experience could be improved, aligning with GA’s original business objective.
This mobile app is a solution that is more convenient and quicker than the existing pre-work, which is on a desktop website. Though there is still work to be done on the prototype, and the success metric (all surveyed UXDI students stating the app would prepare them better than the current pre-work) has not been met, UXDI students found the app to be easy to use and preferable to the existing pre-work.