Software development management platform for students and teachers

Role: Team Lead, UX Designer & User Researcher
Duration: July–October 2018 (4 months)
Team: Vernon CuipersJames MacKay, Jack Steel
Link: InVision prototype

The Problem 😓

How might we improve communication between students and teachers in coding projects?

We employed the design thinking process to find a solution that consolidates the various tools and methods that teachers and students use in the software engineering programme to organise their year-long projects at university.

The Empathise Phase 💬
To begin to understand our target users, we devised a user research plan. We started by identifying our target users, then we observed in-situ how they work, communicate and organise themselves and with each other.

After our observations, we proposed a research hypothesis
Students and teaching staff working together on a centralised platform leads to more accurate assessment of students’ abilities.

To begin testing our hypothesis, we created interview plans for students and teaching staff. In this plan, we defined how we would recruit the interviewees and schedule and execute the interviews.

After interviewing four teaching staff and thirteen students, we sorted all of our findings using an affinity diagram.

The Define Phase 💭
We developed three personas from our interviews: Matt the student that just wants to pass, Nicholas the ambitious high-achieving student and Kurt the experienced foreign teacher.

From our observations, we conducted a task analysis by developing consolidated sequence models, noting precisely where pain points arose during certain tasks.

To determine the scope of this iteration of the design thinking process and an MVP, we sorted students’ and teachers’ tasks by importance and function through a user story map.

Finally, to consolidate our perceptions and ideas as a team, we developed a conceptual model.

The Ideate & Low-Fidelity Prototype Phases 💡

We individually then group brainstormed ideas and sketched our ideas on paper.

To visualise our conceptual model, we individually created low-fidelity prototypes using Balsamiq and sketching, one for each persona. We reviewed the pros and cons of each design through design critique.

The Test Phase 🧑‍🔬

We wanted to quickly test our ideas, so we conducted quick and informal usability evaluations following Steve Krug’s methodology. For all of our tests, we sought informed consent and explained data gathering, usage and their rights.

We established research goals, a test script, scenarios, and interview plan and schedule. We made changes to and recreated our prototypesto make them interactive for the testing on a computer.

We performed a dry run and pilot test before evaluating two students and one teacher. We discussed our findings after in a debrief session, where we defined the ten primary issues to be resolved in our high-fidelity prototype. 

The High-Fidelity Prototype Phase 🪄

Following our design evaluations by real users, we iterated our conceptual model which we used as the foundation of our interactive high-fidelity prototype made in Figma. It was then time to start a new cycle of the design thinking process.

The Three Takeaways 🌟
  1. It’s much better to start off with a small problem space that iteratively will help solve a larger one, than to start off with a large one.

  2. Depending on the size of the problem space, if more than one group of users is involved, the problem could be easier to tackle by starting with one group before considering others.

  3. This project taught me the value of dry runs and testing our own plans on ourselves first. This saved us a lot of time and let us discover many improvements to be made before sitting down with users.