Designing a Student-Led e-Learning Platform for a new era of Online School.
1 Year (May 2020-Jul. 2021)
1 Developer, 1 Designer, 1 Marketer
In 2020, the pandemic had students like me bracing for a school year dominated by Zoom – not the most exciting prospect. That's when Notesology was born, a nationwide initiative I and a team of fellow students created to transform online education into something accessible and enjoyable for all. With digital inequity in education on the rise, we unveiled a new solution crafted by students, for students, to bridge the digital divide.
AT A GLANCE
How can we help students get 24/7 access to educational resources during an era of Covid-lockdowns, online school, and digital inequity?
Notesology, a volunteer-based e-learning platform that gives students in need access to quality educational content created by students and educators. →
What started as a 4-person effort ended up serving 800+ monthly active students during an unprecedented year of online learning.
How we got here ⬎
Students need a learning platform that's readily accessible to them and for them.
Students, especially those who had to take online classes due to Covid-19, were deprived of the engaging and enriching educational experiences they normally received. Synchronous online environments weren't easily accessible to them because of technology constraints.
Goals and Opportunities
Create an educational resource for students who need resources to learn educational content during the times in which they have access to technology.
‼️ Students need an e-learning resource that's digitally accessible on their time.
Research Goals → Methodologies
What products are out there that fulfill a similar need? What's missing?
What would a student need from an e-learning platform in the era of online School?
Jobs To-Be-Done & Interviews
Early Insights and Hypotheses
Nurtured Relationships for All
Since volunteers and students both have different needs when interacting with the product, each group would benefit from two distinct user flows.
Ease of Access for Students
Students want an easily accessible educational platform offering relevant educational resources that's organized in a course-specific structure.
Ease of Entry for Volunteers
Prospective volunteers are more likely to contribute resources when they can easily grasp the process, minimizing their time and effort put into the submission process.
Mapping the Notesology Journey and Framework.
A Resource Hub for School Subjects
Since the product needed to be launched by the start of the next academic school year, we launched a beta version in July of 2020 to a small group of students, tutoring organizations, and volunteers. All the content in the e-learning portal was reviewed by our fact-checker volunteers and then placed into the respective subject and unit for easy navigating.
A Simple Volunteer Submission Process
Our original volunteer submission process required a simple form on the website. This solution enabled the easy storage of incoming content, which we could subsequently send to our fact-checking volunteers for review before uploading it to the student portal.
Initial Branding Elements
Why didn't our Solution Work?
After about 1 month into the beta launch, student retention significantly dropped. We held a user satisfaction survey, conducted stakeholder interviews, and mapped the user journey to assess what went wrong - then went back to the drawing board.
Experience vs. Resource
the learning portal limited students to strictly viewing and downloading resources leading to a 62% decrease in weekly site visits. They weren't interacting with an engaging learning experience and lost their motivation to continue using the product.
The volunteer user flow was kept minimal and simple since their goal was easy submission. We focused on replicating that for the student portal too, but students' goals required a more robust solution. As a result we had way more volunteers than students.
We realized that the launch deadline pressured us to cut corners on empathy-based research. This was a HUGE lesson for us as we learned the importance of advocating for users early and often.
Learning is a Journey
The new approach structures the content by standard learning orders, featuring volunteer-created resources to teach and test users' understanding. We moved away from the blanket acceptance of all notes, having volunteers sign up to contribute notes for specific vacant subjects or topics.
Editing the Information Architecture
The changes we made to the Notesology framework required us to iterate our IA. We focused on organizing the site's student portal to feel more "step-by-step" so that students could digest each bit of content for a topic one step at a time.
Testing our Potential New Solution
We conducted 3 user tests with students who used the beta version of Notesology using a Mid-Fi prototype we created to see what changes we could make to improve the site structure without entirely losing the product's recognizability.
Student Portal - Main Page Iterations
Student Portal - Subject Page Iterations
Taking Students on a Learning Journey.
Our revamped product flow breaks down subjects and units way more. While adding more steps to our may seem redundant, the learning portal uses step-by-step flow to allow students to take time to understand every bit of educational content provided to them without overwhelming them with too many decisions.
Volunteer Experiences Built for the Remote World.
While our learning journey for students needed to be more robust and step-by-step to avoid overwhelming students, our volunteer portal needed to stay as simple as can be to encourage more people to volunteer. By keeping the submission form visibly short, we avoided daunting prospective volunteers with a lengthy and confusing platform.
While the majority of our interviewees said that they had received a desktop computer or laptop from their school district during the Covid-19 lockdowns, many students were still unprepared and/or unequipped to learn synchronously online from their homes. That's why we built our product to be mobile-friendly considering that 95% of American teens own at least a cell-phone (Pew Research).