virtual space for synchronous communication to enable active participation of multiple students at the same time.
top design chosen by instructors

DURATION: Apr 2014- Jun 2014

ROLE: UX Research

TOOLS: Contextual Inquiry, Ethnographic Studies, Affinity Diagramming, Persona Writing, Cultural and Sequence Modelling, Visioning, Wireframing, Prototyping, Competitive Analysis

COLLABORATORS: Vlad Bakhurinsky, Michelle Wang, Jared Defigh, Meena Kaushik, Hui Ping Lee, Lucas DePaula, Alex Peterson

DELIVERABLES: Final Executive Summary   |   Final Presentation Slides

In large universities, such as UCSD, the communication is one-way from the professor to the students. Many students are losing interest during lecture and going to their laptops for distractions.

How do you effectively engage and facilitate better communication for over a hundred students in a college lecture?

Qualitative user research

the challenge

How do we fulfill the need for communication and engagement during lecture?

our approach and process

Contextual Inquiry, Affinity Diagram, Visioning, Persona Writing, Wireframing, Prototyping, Usability Testing, User Research

We conducted 12 interviews and user research with students, teaching assistants, and professors, and created various artifacts to help understand our user data and start the design process.

We created various artifacts, including an affinity diagram to visualize data about different users' habits, desires, and needs.

the outcome

UCSD's Jim Hollan mentions that technology's purpose is to go "beyond being there" and meet needs not even met with physical proximity, rather than trying to replicate it.

Based on our data and seeing the need for more effective communication, we found the best solution is for better synchronous communication during lecture, which is impossible even in large face-to-face lectures without technology.

Because we have three users, all three of them had different wants and needs. We wanted to find out more, so we continued with our iterative design process and interviewed 6 more people. Originally, we thought the problem was finding a more effective way for nonsynchronous communication on Facebook between our users, but user data has shown us that the user need is forsynchronous communication during lecture, which is impossible in a large lecture without technology. This is reflective of Jim Hollan's "Beyond Being There" paper. We consolidated all our user data into an affinity diagram, which is a way to visualize the patterns of the different issues and insights presented by our users that easily reveals our users' needs.

Designing from Research

the challenge

Based on our competitive analysis, there are no current applications or tools that fulfill the needs that we found.

It'll be difficult designing something different when it has never been done before. Piazza offers a nonsynchronous communication Q&A platform, Facebook does not support effective and easy communication between our users for educational use, the iClicker only has options A-D for questions the professor offers (but not the students), and Blackboard's (TED's) usability is extremely poor and does not offer synchronous communication.

our approach and process

User Needs + Design Solutions

For our collaborative design process, we drew up wireframes and voted on various ideas (all while having some fun!)

1) Students tend to forget their questions, if they weren't already intimidated by the professors.

Ask Away // post your questions as they come to mind

Students often feel intimated by professors, but have mentioned that having a technological barrier makes students feel more safe to ask their questions. Professors also just want to make sure their students' questions are answered.

2) Students love helping their peers by sharing material. Professors and TAs love it when students are passionate about the subject and are engaging with what they are learning.

Share It // share related links about the class that you stumble upon, or pictures of notes

3) TAs and professors often find repeating questions, and time must be spent finding the important issues and questions.

Vote // popular questions go to the top, creating priority ranking

TAs are often frustrated by how they have to answer the same question over and over again-- especially those that have already been answered during class. With the voting, other students can upvote if they also have the same question, so TAs and professors will know what questions need to be answered.

4) Professors are unsure if they have been confusing, especially since silence and lack of questions does not equate to understanding from the students.

Checkpoints // gather instant feedback on students' progross

Students have mentioned that they are often confused, but are too intimidated to ask their question in front of the whole class and in person. Also, students may not necessarily know what question to ask if they did not understand the professor.

the outcome

Hearing from Brilliant minds in HCI Research

I think the most important thing I learned from this project is that design must first and foremost be user-centered, rather than aesthetics being first. Also, I always thought that great inventions and ideas came like a light bulb to inventors, but I found that new inventions are based on research on user data and needs, and ideas are usually built up over time. This project opened my eyes to see that UX design can change the world in so many different ways, such as connecting students to professors, or changing social issues through research and design.

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