Experience and interface design for a blended learning solution for Macmillan Education, from concept to launch
A comprehensive product design approach for an advanced learning management system for five target users.
1.6 billion children were impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic, which disrupted education in over 150 nations. Teachers are essential to school, and technology should complement them rather than replace them. Yet, most times, teachers who are expected to teach remotely have access to little in the way of tools and training. Instructors and the larger education workforce require assistance in areas like institution management, digital skills, self-confidence, and distant pedagogy. Technology can aid in teaching by providing a platform to teachers and simplifying access to educational resources like lesson plans, assignments, and reports. Caregivers can participate in their children’s learning and offer the emotional support or in-person guidance that remote learners require.
To fully understand why this project is urgent, it’s necessary to understand how bad the current situation actually is and how it is making academic life worse.
There are issues with several of the levels of the platform that institutions are now using. Teachers and students get uneasy when using many applications for various tasks, including using video conferencing solutions for online classrooms. Students’ apprehension rises because homework and assignment deadlines are unclear to them. The unreliable reports and notification mechanism makes parents more paranoid and taints the platform’s credibility. Such online environments are so hard to set up, that most teachers simply give up, making students’ lives much harder. Unfortunately, this is also the case for most LMS’ out there.
Reimagining solutions to support the emerging hybrid model of schooling, drawing upon decades of understanding of teaching-learning, keeps teachers and students at the heart of this phygital solution and includes parents. The LMS aims to support schools in delivering a seamless teaching-learning experience and linkage of content and pedagogy with outcomes in the best possible way. Personalized learning through flexible and engaging learning resources and activities for teachers to appreciate the variety of teaching aids and ready-made assessments at their disposal, as well as actionable insights as individual performance reports for students. Parents will be able to access these reports, which can offer the support needed to help children maximize their potential.
Aligned with the National Education Policy 2020, the learning management system should support multimedia resources, assessments, textbooks, and workbooks. Covering all core subjects for grades 1 to 5, where students get to learn English skills on “Macmillan Altura” with Amazon and Alexa, the Newest Way to Learn English, which emphasizes communicating with one another.
The three major goals of the project were:
- Regaining control: Empower users to take control of their academic lives by simplifying and helping them track their responsibilities. More importantly, to ensure they could accomplish their tasks easily in a simple and straightforward experience.
- Adios anxiety: To help alleviate that by helping users to properly manage their lives as the academic lifestyle is stressful and difficult. If they have help with daily tasks, that means having more free time to do things they love, which translates into a higher quality of life.
- Centralizing everything: A centralized experience to connect both students and professors. If everything is in one single place every time, they know exactly where to go when looking for something. That saves a lot of time and effort and reduces stress.
- Defining the project’s scope: Since different users and classroom scenarios used the application, we designed the application to support mobile, tablet, desktop, and whiteboards. I had to choose the main device to develop and go with it. In the end, I designed all the screens for bigger screens as all the features were available, however, only a few screens were designed for mobile due to feature limitations.
- Refining the target audience: Technology is alien to a large percentage of super-admins of the institutions and because of that, they usually delegate work or seek help from admins, so we included them in the target audience. Parents were included in the later release of the application.
- Prioritization: The features were prioritized based on importance and different releases. The MVP was released with the most important features, like books, class details, assessments, reports, etc. Subsequent releases had additional assessment capabilities like the ability to add custom questions and paper-based assessments, as well as a dashboard, notifications, and messages.
- User flow: User flow helped envision how users will engage with a feature and visualize additional features we added to future releases.
- Wireframe and Prototyping: I created the mid-fidelity wireframes and received the client’s approval in an agile environment before moving on to design the application’s final user interface.
- Design System: Assessed and updated the responsive and accessible design elements to the existing design system.
- Collaboration: Worked in tandem with clients in planning to deliver the design solutions along with regular feedback from their design team. To ensure user stories, a pixel-perfect interface, and usability testing, I closely collaborated with the business analyst, front-end engineers, and quality assurance team at various stages of the project.
Designed and delivered 20+ features for 5 target users and 4 releases within 18 months later awarded the “Best Classroom Tech of the Year” award at India Education Awards 2021. The LMS is used in over 350+ schools in India by over 1 lakh users and is now set to release globally.
Challenges: What I had to overcome
Many were the challenges faced during this project but I’m going to be listing the top challenges in no particular order.
- Time constraints: In an agile setting, the design must be complete before developers can begin their tasks. To ensure that the design was approved by the client and that the user stories were clearly specified before being given to the team during sprint planning, I had to present the design two weeks before the sprint. It was challenging to move the product development along and produce the design assets on time given the short deadlines.
- Many user archetypes: Designing a playful yet institution management application was challenging as our users vary from 7-year-old children to elderly school administrators. These users have distinct and multicultural backgrounds with their thinking and references more different.
- New yet familiar: The new platform must handle complicated problems while remaining recognizable enough to increase adoption. This is because a significant portion of the target market is recognized for being quite traditional, creating a significant barrier between some of the user base and the finished product and its advantages. Because of this, it needs to be well known to reduce adoption challenges and demonstrate to users—especially teachers and super admins—how useful and timesaving this platform can be.