Transforming Education

communication between educators

Hoppr is a mobile app being developed by The Ability Challenge (ABC) to increase the quality of communication between both Special and General Education Teachers.

As the lead Visual Designer, I developed 3 iterations of the User Interface with Adobe XD, from lo-fi sketching to mid-fi prototyping in addition to ideating our initial features.

Role: UX Designer / Visual Design Lead
Company: The Ability Challenge
Type: Mobile Application
Project Length: 3 Weeks ( Dec. 2020 )
Methodology: Agile / Scrum
Design Team: Project Manager, Research Lead, Visual Design Lead
Tools: Adobe XD, Photoshop

Lo-Fi Prototype & Wireframes:
Created in Axure

The Ability Challenge

Mission & Vision

"The Ability Challenge seeks to transform how schools serve students with diverse learning needs by building research-driven tools and technology that support meaningful and personalized school improvement. Our vision is to create a world where schools and educational programs have equitable, effective systems and processes that provide the foundation for teaching all students, especially those with diverse learning needs, preparing them for meaningful post-secondary opportunities and careers."

Problem Summary

Throughout their years in school, a student with special needs will have many teachers, but also a dedicated Special Education teacher. These two groups of teachers share the same goal, but have very different methods, needs and constraints.

A Special Educator will typically have fewer students to manage, while a general educator could have as many as 30 children to manage day to day. Therefore it is critical to streamline the exchange of information between them, which is where Hoppr comes in.

Giving a student with special needs additional attention without diminishing the General Educators ability to give equal time to all students is very challenging. By giving educators a tool for swiftly exchanging information about a student, we can empower them to spend less time searching for answers and more time teaching.

Goals

  • Improve the learning experience of students with special needs by enhancing the quality of communication between special and general educators.
  • Be mindful of the time commitment required to reference the app or add entries
  • Encourage adoption of our technology by creating a time saving asset rather than adding additional, administrative work

User Groups

  • General Educators
  • Special Eductators
  • Parents
  • School Administration

Where to Begin?

ABC had already received feedback on a prior web-based concept. The initial concept suffered from pain points in the time commitment and the usefulness of the data being recorded, effectively creating more work for the educator without significant benefit to the educator.

Our challenge was to craft a mobile application that provides K-12 teachers with the means to discover, record and share proven IEP* intervention methods with their colleagues, without adding an undue amount of work to their daily schedule. We needed a system for recording and referencing data in a manner of seconds, not minutes.

* Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a plan created by parents and educators for a student with special needs.

Development Challenges

We had less than three weeks to conduct user research and design a mid-fidelity mobile prototype from scratch. As the Visual Design Lead I needed to find enough time in our schedule to develop a visually exciting, user friendly interface with unique needs.

The interface not only only needed to allow for the recording and referencing of complicated student data, but it had to do so as fast as possible to allow the educator to remain focused on their students, not on data entry.

In the interest of allowing additional development time for this interface, I began using the previous teams research and my own analysis of their concept execution to begin building the features list and the visual foundation of our app, while the remaining three team members began conducting the user research that would allow me to fine tune our prototype.

Analyzing the original concept

The client provided us with research conducted by another team and gave us access to the web-application they developed for testing her hypothesis. In this concept teachers recorded interactions they had with colleagues regarding students with special needs. It was a seven step process designed to take less than 30 seconds.

I created a wire flow analysis of the original application to understand the pain points we must avoid and gain insight into elements of the clients original concept that we may need to adapt to our application.

Insights

The web based concept focused on logging the frequency and quality of communication between educators. This approach amounted to collecting administrative-level insights into teacher performance rather than giving teachers real-time, actionable strategies and resources for serving their students needs. By doing so, the app created another layer of time consuming paperwork for the educators.

Examining this process drove home the necessity of demonstrating real time value for the teacher to promote adoption. Educators need to see Hoppr as a high value, time saving tool.

Features List

Using the insights from this analysis and the previous teams recommendations, I created a preliminary features list for discussion that would guide the rest of the teams research direction.

Recording

  • Record successes and failures in attempts to reduce the impact of a students personal challenges upon their ability to learn (i.e. student does better in front of class, student cannot SEE the board if seated further than the middle back, student experiences chronic fatigue without moving around every 20 minutes etc.)
  • Option to record detailed accounts or shorthand notes

Student Profiles

  • A minimal student profile that allows teachers to call up a students information in the application as-needed and on-the-fly

As reference

  • Contains records of other teachers experiences working with the student in reference to their special needs
  • May contain students IEP information
  • May allow quick google linked “keyword” searches in the interest of seeking out new, un-recorded methods

For Recording

  • Calling up a particular student quickly and adding experiences to their record for other teachers to reference
  • Potentially shareable as a tool for administrative or parental input

Reminders and Early Warnings

  • A variety of “Reminders” will be included throughout as-needed

Examples

  • Return-to and expand a “Shorthand” recording
  • Scheduled “check-ins” on student progress
  • Can be included in parental notification tools
  • Teacher configured reminders at the beginning of classes
  • “Student A will be distracted today because…”
  • “Student B may be irritable due to…”

Accountability

  • Those entering new data or editing existing accounts into the system will be automatically tagged should colleagues choose to follow up or troubles arise

Reference

  • Quickly call up information on a student to gain insight into which methods have been proven to work and what to avoid
  • Search the Strategy Bank for solutions concerning the challenges that face the student
  • Predetermined IEP recommendations

Time Management

  • Providing strategies for preventing any one student from consuming a disproportionate amount of the teachers time

Notifications

  • The ability to issue notifications to all parties concerned regarding critical developments and news

Data Visualization

  • Development of reports that visually illustrate the effect of current strategies on a students performance over time

Iteration One

The first iteration included all the major features our client asked for while also addressing the concerns of our research subjects. This iteration was intentionally very straight forward and rigid, including as much of the information I had on hand.

This initial approach was based on the complexity of the information we needed to present. Special and General educators face completely different challenges throughout the day and would approach the app from different perspectives. By including all the possible information they could ideally access we would be able to discover what information we needed to keep and what was unnecessary, from both perspectives.

Adding Information

The greatest challenge we faced was how to create an interface that allowed teachers to enter new information quickly enough to avoid interrupting their schedule.

In active classroom the teacher could record audio notes, pictures, text notes and even tap an emoticon to indicate the students mood.

This iteration also included microcopy in order to educate the user on functions.

Adding Information

The greatest challenge we faced was how to create an interface that allowed teachers to enter new information quickly enough to avoid interrupting their schedule.

In active classroom the teacher could record audio notes, pictures, text notes and even tap an emoticon to indicate the students mood.

This iteration also included microcopy in order to educate the user on functions.

Usability Testing Round 1

We conducted usability testing with a small pool of general and special educators by having them perform a variety of tasks, such as adding notes for a particular student and navigating to different sections.

As expected, the complicated and rigid nature of our first build created some confusion along the way, but the overall reception to our concept was largely positive.

Key Takeaways

  • Simplify navigation flows
  • Differentiate the home screen and global navigation
  • Possible need for day planner 
  • Provide a clearer understanding of the student profile and active classroom functions
  • Add more specific student information: I.E.P snapshots, statistics, personalized data

Iteration Two

Quick Entry

Quick entry is a dramatic simplification of several features from iteration one. Educators need to be able to make entries in seconds, in addition to the ability to record the length of time spent with a student in the form of "Sessions".

Educators can record text or audio notes, tag keywords and colleagues, select students and decide whether to include the entry in their personal notes or send it to the students profile for global use.

Home Screen

The home screen has begun to take shape. The presentation has remained simple but we have added a customizable information widget unique to the user.

We also greatly simplified the toolbar, narrowing it down to "Home", "Quick Entry" and "Messaging".

Lastly the recognizable hamburger menu has been added along with a simple navigation option in the upper left to return to the previous screen.

Home Screen

The home screen has begun to take shape. The presentation has remained simple but we have added a customizable information widget unique to the user.

We also greatly simplified the toolbar, narrowing it down to "Home", "Quick Entry" and "Messaging".

Lastly the recognizable hamburger menu has been added along with a simple navigation option in the upper left to return to the previous screen.

Student Profile

The student profile has been polished to better reflect the ease with which we want users to be able to access student information. By continuing to refine this particular feature we can greatly increase the interaction between educators, administrators and the student's parents/guardians.

The I.E.P. Opportunity

Paying particular attention to the way the IEP Accommodations* list is presented is a high value opportunity. IEP's are often the most complicated and time consuming element of a student's file. (One user we interviewed described a typical IEP as "a hot mess")

IEP's vary from school to school and involve a massive amount of paperwork, with certain portions presenting little relevance to any one educator. Improving and streamlining the delivery and updating of IEP forms alone represents a huge time saver for educators and a high value selling point for adoption of our technology.

* Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a plan created by parents and educators for a student with special needs.

Usability Testing Round 2

User reception to our second iteration reinforced the perception that the value of this app depends largely on the ease of use and the developer's understanding of student privacy policies.  Due to the variability of approaches to students with special needs across the country, Hoppr could become a valuable tool if the developer provided a customizable element to the app for various school districts.

Key Takeaways

  • Providing multiple options for adding audio or text notes is well received, but the options for saving need to be clarified (personal notes versus global notes)
  • Microcopy notes needed for certain features, especially within "Quick Note's"
  • The moveable card system presents a poorly understood visual distraction
  • A greater understanding of student privacy issues vis-a-vis what can be presented in the app is critical

Final Mid-Fi Prototype

“It’s data logging right away, when it necessarily doesn't feel like data logging”

“It’s so hard to go back and remember what you already did, a lot of times we get asked by administration, well ‘how did you do this thing’, and this could help show how we did the work we did.”

“This is the first time i’ve seen something where I’m like oh my gosh, I could be less stressed.”

Next Steps

Hoppr will constitute a high value asset to adopting school districts if ABC continues testing and development well after its initial release. Reception to the idea of improving the level of communication between special and general educators was largely positive, but perception of the app as "more work" will be a critical hurdle to overcome.

Many issues discovered through our development process can be highly specific to not only school districts, but also the willingness of some educators to fold this technology into their existing processes. Some features, such as messaging, are of a higher value in some districts based on school policies and the existing disconnect between general and special educators.

The next step would be to iterate further and expand testing ideally to a specific school district. Initially focusing on a small scale rollout in this manner would allow us to focus on the most crucial elements such as IEP's, Encrypted Messaging and limited note taking. By moving forward in this manner we can gain user insight not only into the use and usability of our technology, but more importantly the willingness of educators to adopt it.

UX / UI Designer |  Digital Designer

Sculptor |  Photographer  |  Fine Artist

Contact
Based in New York
kennethdrowe@gmail.com
+1 212 335-0107
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