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GYAN

GYAN is a remote learning desktop application that keeps students motivated and engaged through their college courses while collaborating with peers and interacting with professors as they study virtually during the challenging times of Covid-19.

This year COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s lives in one way or another. With educational institutions and

in-person activities suspended, student lives and their education has changed immensely all around the globe.

Empathizing with the current chaotic situation in which students and teachers struggle to find a balance,

I envision a virtual learning system that could help make a transition to online learning seamless.

 

Through UX Research, I observed that students were less motivated to study due to a lack of student-teacher interaction and deprived peer interaction and collaboration. Most students enjoyed the comfort of their home but missed college amenities and resources which made it tough for them to focus on learning. As a result, students remained aloof and avoided attending classes.

 

GYAN is designed to help students stay focused as they continue to study remotely and help them communicate effectively with teachers and peers like an in-person college environment.

Goal

To help students stay focused as they continue to study remotely and help them communicate with teachers and peers just like an in-person college environment.

Role

UX Designer, a team of one, I proposed a design solution keeping in mind the business goals which was to incorporate a media subscription model and deliver the product in 90 hours. 

Duration

90 hours with selective UX Design processes

Tools

Adobe XD, sketching, Invision, MS Office and Zoom (for user interview and remote testing)

Process

I will divide my design process into two phases. Phase 1 summarizing my Research findings and Phase 2 describing the design proposal and feedback from usability testing. With specific business goals to incorporate, i.e a media subscription model and catering to a target audience between 18-24 years of age, I was selected specific design methods while I explored remote learning and its effect on college students during the pandemic.

Phase 1- Discovery and Research

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Stages of Phase 1 Design

Secondary Research

I explored applications like Spotify, YouTube, and Pandora to observe and learn the different ways in which industry leaders in the “Media Subscription” world designed their subscription models, so users get the benefit from exclusive features.

User Interviews

With the challenging times in 2020, I felt compelled to contribute to the community in some way through my UX research skills and so I explored the education sector.  

In order to practice social distancing, there was a disruption in the education sector, and I noticed students were impacted all over the world. I conducted user interviews to know more about the gains, pains, needs, and experiences of college students as they shifted to remote learning.

The information gathered through user interviews was analyzed through affinity mapping to understand the student’s thoughts, emotions, and frustrations.

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Affinity map showing needs, pain points, and motivations among students studying remotely.

Insights

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Hypothesis

Through my user interviews, it was evident that students felt less motivated to study and learn remotely which was impacted by unfamiliar teaching methods, lack of schedule, not monitoring by teachers, and little to no peer interaction and student-teacher interaction.

 

This was the problem of the hour and my intent to solve a “media” (means of mass communication) problem with the given business constraints seemed valid. In this transition of virtual learning, the teaching and collaboration methods were not suitable for students, as it distracted them and were unable to concentrate in class. Simple teaching methods like sharing slide decks or writing on the screen proved to be effective in keeping the students engaged and focus better.

Defining the Problem Statement 

Shifting to virtual learning has been challenging and everyone is adjusting to find out the most viable method of learning. Students are unable to approach their teachers easily, show- off their personality and capabilities. They face challenges with peer collaboration and build a relationship as they would during in-person classes. All these distractions make students less motivated to learn and they avoided attending classes or completing assignments 

Problem: Reduced interaction with teachers and peers resulted in decreased motivation and diminished learning

"How might students stay motivated and focussed to study as they collaborate with peers and interact with teachers in a virtual learning environment ”

Phase 2- Design Proposal

I brainstormed ideas to define the design requirements and to develop a structure for a user-centered product. In this phase, I sketched ideas, designed lo-fi screens, tested them to validate my design decisions and incorporated the feedback into the Hi-Fi prototype, and tested them again.

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Stages of Phase 2 Design

Ideation

Based on the conversations from user interviews, I sketched out ideas to improve remote learning and reflected on the student's unsaid desires and frustrations.

The MVP's for this product was selected to build the smallest possible interaction that solves the problem based on the pain points from users. This product was a desktop application, keeping in mind the business goals to design a subscription model for extra resources. It was important to create a positive experience for the students to keep them motivated and make them feel that the subscription was helping them to achieve higher goals. Below are Minimum Viable Product ideas.

  • Dashboard and Courses Page

    • Easy to reach out to teachers and to navigate to live classes, resources, etc.

    • “Fun” motivational points can be claimed by the student to buy time for assignments, download free resources, and more. These points can be earned by interacting in class sessions through audio or video.

 

  • Live Classroom Page

    • The raise hand feature during a live virtual class was designed to communicate efficiently with the professor and get questions answered to replicate an in-person classroom experience.

    • The Whiteboard was designed to help students exchange ideas and collaborate better. Students are not limited in interaction if they don't have an iPad or smartpens or special tools. Text boxes and easy to draw lines and shapes are available, to make whiteboarding easy to use for everyone.

 

  • Unlimited Resources (subscription model)

    • Some books are free as a student enrolls for a course, and must subscribe to avail unlimited resources, membership facilities, offline listening to course materials, and other features.

 

  • Assignment Portal

    • To avoid juggling between different platforms and being confused while submitting homework, an Assignment section has been designed alongside the course “Learning” section to display the homework, deadlines, and submission instructions. Students can upload their homework to this section and view their results as well.

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Ideation sketches based on user interviews

User Journey/ Task Flows

The map below a series of steps that the user takes to achieve a meaningful goal.  Sketching out user flows gave a clear picture and to create a framework for the application, which could be analyzed with all possible outcomes and combinations.

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Validate Hypothesis

The user flows show the use and relationship between all the features, how the students can navigate through them. The features designed for the desktop application solve the pain points of students and help them stay motivated through their course. The sketches in the next section represent every screen conceptually and must be tested out to validate my hypothesis

Prototype

Lo-Fi Sketches

Lo-fi sketches were designed to understand the initial design framework and to understand user navigation through the application with possible design solutions for remote learning.

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Sketches of screens, ready to be Guerilla Tested

Guerilla Testing

Testing low fidelity mockups at an early stage was helpful to validate my design decisions ideas to ensure the content, cognitive load, and navigation were enough to solve the pain points and make it easy to complete multiple tasks.

Thus, I conducted 1:1 usability testing via Zoom due to social distancing during COVID times. I prepped the participant with the background of a student’s life enrolled at the university who had switched to remote learning. By sharing an InVision link, I tested the sketches.​

Test Results- Validating Hypothesis

Users felt the app was intuitive, easy to navigate, and were able to collaborate with peers and approach teachers easily. There were great feedback and suggestion on how the user interface could look like and what the users were expecting.

  • I was concerned that the tasks may be too many to confuse or exhaust the users.

    • Surprisingly, the flow of the tasks was so intuitive that users were able to complete the task fast and efficiently. Navigation was easy and users were able to go back and forth without confusion.

  • I felt "raising a hand and asking a question during class" might be challenging to complete for users.

    • Users were unexpectedly happy with the feature of raising and withdrawing their questions for multiple reasons.

  • Whiteboarding felt easy and accessible to all users even though they did not have special tools or devices to write with. However, the subscription prompt to save or share the file was not a hit. Users found different ways to save the file like taking a screenshot and snipping the screen. I realized that the subscription model could not be infused at any place but must be strategically used. Thus, I eliminated that particular interaction.

  • Subscription for unlimited resources.

    • Users were very keen on taking the deal to subscribe for unlimited resources as they felt colleges make them pay a lot for books and other resources. Thus, this interaction was positively received.

High Fidelity ​Designs

Branding

Branding was essential for this product to design a product character through brand personality, brand attributes, product color, and logo. I named my app “GYAN” a Sanskrit word that translates to “Knowledge” in English. The goal was to make the brand feel unique, familiar, bold, smart, and hip. I used a pastel green as my brand color with a hint of yellow.  The logo is a light bulb with a filament plant growing that depicts a student’s growth through learning.

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Gyan-Logo for desktop application

High Fidelity Screens

High fidelity screens were designed keeping in mind the brand personality and feedback from the user testing of the sketches. I used the speech effect and interaction feature in my prototype to make the experience as real as possible and to show the possibility of an intuitive and engaging virtual setting quite similar to an in-person classroom setting.

Animation for prototype

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Usability Testing

To validate my design decisions, navigation, brand personality, and business goals, I tested my High-fidelity prototype with participants over Zoom.

Validating Hypothesis

GYAN received positive feedback where users compared to their previous experiences and felt they could easily collaborate with peers, approach their teachers like they were in college, felt motivated to learn, and could use 1 app rather than juggling between 2- 3 applications.

The prototype felt familiar, easy to navigate, and users were pleasantly surprised with the raise hand feature, whiteboarding, voice interaction, and subscription feature.

 

The media subscription (business goal) was taken rather positively as users felt it was the MOST appropriate time to prompt users to receive unlimited resources along with additional features at a low cost as compared to what they usually spend at college.

There were a few minor UI comments that I iterated to make my app look better.

Next Steps

I would like to develop this application so that remote learning gets easier for students. In the next version the following ideas can be addressed:

  • Users wishing to know if their question was seen by the presenter. A confirmation to know if the question was received would be helpful, eliminating users' anxiety.

  • Users preferred to read the downloaded books within the application itself, rather than from a downloaded PDF file/ reader. Integrating a book reader with the application.

  • The online course could be structured around the mood and personality of the users. Artificial intelligence could be used to recognize the mood of the user to develop a study plan to help the student's study effectively without overwhelming them.

  • I would like to add physical books as resources to the subscription system for those who prefer to read with a book in their hand. Book rentals can be tied to local bookstores or second-hand bookstores and must be returned by the student in time to avoid being charged an extra amount on their card.

Lessons Learnt

  • The most obvious icons, text, or buttons may not be what the users understand. The younger the age group the more easily they will grasp information.

  • Some users may appreciate every single feature of the product. It could be genuine liking OR a way to make the product designer feel good OR to finish the task quickly to attend to other commitments. It is important to observe a pattern in all the testing’s to measure the success or failure of the product. 

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