Unlocking Coursera's Potential Energy

Unlocking Coursera's Potential Energy

Unlocking Coursera's Potential Energy

Unlocking Coursera's Potential Energy

Role:  UX Researcher & Designer

Date:  January 2018

Deliverables: Research & Analysis, Matching Algorithm, Wireframes, Interactive Prototype.

Unlocking Coursera's Potential Energy

Unlocking Coursera's Potential Energy

Role:  UX Researcher & Designer

Date:  January 2018

Deliverables: Research & Analysis, Matching Algorithm, Wireframes, Interactive Prototype.

Motivation + Challenge

Learning is an inherently social activity, and as we know, it can be facilitated by group projects, peer study groups, and mentoring. In fact, these are often recognized as critical components of learning and mastering new topics. While there are an incredible number of learning resources available online, there simply aren’t enough ways for learners to connect in meaningful ways.

While studying Human Computer Interaction (HCI) with UC San Diego & the University of Washington on Coursera, I found that my classmates and I were bumping up against this 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.

0
Messages
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Views
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Interactions

Deriving Matching Algorithm

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 Coursera could automate this.  I fleshed out the decision making tree that I followed for group formation and realized that the task could be accomplished using student self-reported information such as geographic region, language, and learning goals.

Contact me to learn more about the matching algorithm.

Initial Tablet Wireframes

After determining how a computer could be programmed to handle the matching process, I illustrated the user experience with software wireframes. I tested several prototypes before arriving at a high-fidelity interactive prototype. The design needs to work equally well on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. I wireframed two user flows on Coursera.com and eventually combined aspects of each to create a single flowing wireframe.

Wireframes of User Flow 1: Form your study group.

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

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

Expert Feedback + Iterations:

  • 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.
  • Increased the information scent on the last page (Screen #4) by adding a picture of the meet-up location and reviews for the cafe/restaurant.
  • 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.
Screenshots
Short Clip of Prototype (15 sec)

Impact: What's Next?

After presenting my findings, 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. Also, I attended the groundbreaking event for the new Design & Innovation Building, where I met Don Norman, the world renowned cognitive scientist and usability engineer who wrote the Design of Everyday Things and co-founded Nielsen Norman group.

Additionally, 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.

Meeting Don Norman

Work inquiry, question, or something else?

I'd love to hear from you, so feel free to reach out.