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In the wake of COVID, educators and students have had to adapt quickly to the changing environment of e-learning. The founders of JAYBE hired me on for a 3 day design sprint to approach the challenge of creating a new e-learning app using the fundamental structures of UX and design thinking. What was challenging about this project is that the founders had a variety of outcomes they were hoping to accomplish with their service. After speaking on the phone, I distilled their notes the best I could and came up with five main goals of their service.
- Connect industry professionals with students to inspire them to join the STEM fields. A type of one on one mentorship.
- Encourage women to engage more in STEM fields.
- Provide tutoring opportunities for students struggling.
- Gamify STEM learning to encourage engagement among enrolled students.
- Teach students via live video calls.
Unfortunately, JAYBE didn’t have much time or budget for surveys and interviews. They had done some desk research on competitors’ tutoring apps but was more interested in having me try to solve their design challenges without user research. Given the information I had, I treated this project like an expanded whiteboard challenge.
User personas and journey mapping
First, to gain empathy and better understand the problem, I created four user profiles which roughly summarized the needs and wants of their potential users.
I then listed the various users’ wants and needs into a journey. The end goal being the abstract idea of “learning”. What seemed to make the most sense at the time was to create a “hub” where students and educators could establish themselves on the app before connecting. I quickly mapped out a user flow to illustrate the different options a student might need to go through to use the service adding additional goals the founders had in mind as well.
I then placed those tasks and options into a wire-frame to better map out the process. I did this using a live Miro board and had the founders contribute with ideation as well by placing and suggesting opportunities for gamification and monetization.
At this point, a few challenges presented themselves with the functioning of the service.
- Curriculums across the globe differ in skill levels. The lesson plan for math A in the U.S. might be taught differently than Calc 1 in New Zealand. How might we measure student competency?
- The app would not be able to offer any school credit for the lessons. If a student learned Calculus using JAYBE, they would still need to take the same class at an institution for school credit. How might we encourage students/ parents to enroll without accreditation?
- Students have a variety of learning styles. How would a tutor or student know which style is best for them?
- Educators and mentors have different qualifications. How might we measure educator or mentor competency?
- Teachers would likely want to use the app to teach in their own style. However, this could conflict with the current curriculum the student is learning in. How might we ensure students are learning in tandem with their curriculum?
- Tutoring is often used for students falling behind in school. How might we encourage successful students to learn as well?
I decided to break from ideation and perform my own desk research- looking to tutoring and online learning companies that existed already. What I discovered was that online learning platforms offered essentially two options for online learning.
- A pre-made curriculum– A series of videos, lectures, and information that covered a topic from A to B. This could be either by an accredited institution like Coursera or a side learning platform like Skillshare.
- Live tutoring– A more localized approach by connecting tutors and students in a specific location to help students pass their classes.
The two platforms were able to answer all of the questions that had been raised during ideation but existed in separate services. There was a reason for this. Generally speaking, the two platforms operated on a localized or non-localized approach to learning.
JAYBE was trying to create a non-localized service with localized goals.
The founders decided to take a step back from development and look deeper into the core of the business to lock in their mission statement. Was it a tutoring service? Was it a course based learning service? Was it games? Was it mentorship?
At this point I was reaching the end of my design sprint. I was happy that I had been able to help clarify some of the problems the team might face in the future but it’s never a good feeling leaving with more questions than answers.