Unlocking Coursera's Potential Energy

Unlocking Coursera's Potential Energy

Role:  Product Designer, User Researcher

Date:  January 2018

Unlocking Coursera's Potential Energy

Unlocking Coursera's Potential Energy

Role:  Product Designer, User Researcher

Date:  January 2018

Motivation + Challenge

While studying UX Design & Research at UC San Diego on Coursera, I found that my classmates and I were bumping up against the same pain point; We wanted to master the subject we were learning, and knew we needed to connect in real life in order to do so.

Failed Student Interactions

Students attempted to interact with one another through circulation of messages on the class forums. Thousands of students were interested in forming study groups, but as you can see below, this approach almost always failed.


Learning How to Match Students

I took the initiative to overcome this challenge in my classes by manually matching dozens of students into study groups. I spent many hours writing email introductions, connecting on video chat, and coordinating schedules with different time zones around the world.

This manual method worked well– however, it was time consuming, and I started to think about how I could automate this.  

Initial Tablet Wireframes

I prototyped two user flows that integrate seamlessly with Coursera’s existing software interface. The design needed to work equally well on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.

User Flow 1: Form your study group.

User Flow 2: Organize a meeting for your study group.

Expert Feedback + Iterations

I received feedback from Cognitive Science & Computer Science professor Scott Klemmer, from my classmates, and from a visual designer colleague (Product Designer @ Vimeo).

UI/UX Improvements

  • Increased the
    information scent Information scent refers to the extent to which users can predict what they will find if they pursue a certain path through a website. (Source: Neilsen Norman)
    on the home page (Screen #1) by adding greater detail in secondary text blocks under each assignment heading.
  • Aligned the content for all pages in a grid, in order to make the screens easier to read.
  • Improved the appearance in response to advice from a visual designer colleague. Specifically, I removed the borders around the buttons, radio buttons, and checkboxes.

High-Fidelity Tablet Prototype

I combined the two user flows to create a single experience flowing from the home page to the class chat page. The version shown below is the fifth iteration of the design.

Interactive Prototype Walkthrough

Short Clip of Prototype (15 sec)


After presenting this project, I formed a relationship with the UCSD Design Lab team behind this popular specialization. I was invited to speak at the UCSD Design at Large speaker series.

While the “form a study group” feature hasn’t been implemented yet, I produced a UX audit on the Coursera specialization, which was used in its entirety to improve the user experience and content. Learn more about the UX audit.

The UCSD Interaction Design Specialization on Coursera continues to be one the most popular collection of courses on the platform.

Thank you for reading!

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