Alex Morris
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Third Space learning

A platform redesign to improve the teacher experience

 

IN A NUTSHELL

Third Space Learning provides schools with online Maths tuition. I was tasked with improving the experience of teachers using the portal to manage the programme.

User research helped me understand the decision making process when choosing lessons and an expert review revealed major usability issues.

In the design and user testing phases, I moved from paper to mid and high fidelity prototypes to design a solution that improved usability and encouraged behaviours that would lead to the best outcomes for pupils.

The final solution simplifies the onboarding and lesson selection process for these time-poor teachers, from a complicated and disorientating experience spread over multiple pages to something that's self contained, quick and easy to use.

I was responsible for interviewing customers, designing the new information architecture and interface, user testing, visual design and copy.

 

THE FULL STORY

THE BRIEF

I was briefed to improve the user experience of the teacher portal. Choosing the right lesson is a critical component to the success of Third Space Learning so this became a big focus of the brief. If inappropriate lessons are picked, pupils aren’t going to make the progress they should be, and schools won’t see the results they expect and won’t retain.

 

RESEARCH

USER INTERVIEWS

Customer interviews helped me understand the mindset of teachers who choose lessons. I learnt that:

  1. Teachers use Third Space Learning to reinforce what's already been taught, address gaps in pupil’s knowledge, or for pre-teaching.
  2. If using pre-teaching or reinforcement strategies, they're likely to give all pupils the same lesson. If trying to plug individual gaps then they'd try to find a lesson specific to that child’s needs.
  3. Some teachers are happy to follow the lesson recommendations we provide if they don’t have a specific objective.

OBSERVATIONS

I saw first-hand one major pain point while conducting observations at a school. One pupil was so upset that they hadn't received their regular tutor that they could not continue with the session.

 

Later, I discovered that the platform allows you to assign pupils to a slot in the session on a weekly basis and each slot is tied to a specific tutor. If you don't add the pupils in the same order each week, they'll get different tutors.

The problem was that teachers couldn’t see which tutors occupied which slots, which led to incidences like the one I witnessed.

schematic showing pupils getting different tutors because in different slots
Pupils were being assigned to different slots each week so were getting different tutors.

EXPERT REVIEW

Going through the experience as a user (based on the scenarios identified through the user research), I identified some poor usability issues that were encouraging the wrong behaviour.

Encouraging swapping of pupils

To see noticeable progress, pupils should use us for at least one school term. However when adding pupils, the default number of weeks was set to 1. This encouraged teachers to swap pupils in and out each week and because of the issue mentioned earlier they ended up with different tutors.

screenshot of old platform showing that default was assigning pupils for 1 week
Default provided encouraged teachers to only add pupils for 1 week at a time.
Too easy to pick our ‘Suggested lesson' 

We provided a suggested next lesson for teachers based on the pupil's previous lesson, however this didn't take into account the teacher’s teaching strategy so cannot be fully relied upon. We had also created session reports to give teachers feedback on the previous lesson so that they could use this info to guide their lesson selection. However, the platform design allowed teachers to select the suggested next lesson at the overview level without them reviewing the session report from the previous session or sense checking the lesson's content and considering alternative lessons based on how the pupils were performing.

screenshot of old platform showing the Apply and Apply all buttons for Suggested next lesson
Too easy to use the suggested next lesson without viewing the lesson's contents or considering alternatives that might be more suitable.
Time-consuming to view lesson's content

You had to go to the 'Curriculum' section to view the contents of our lessons. After finding a suitable lesson, you needed to navigate to 'Plan Sessions', relocate the lesson you had earlier identified and select it. This seemed massively time-consuming and cognitively intensive as you had to remember the name of the lesson that you wanted.

screenshot of old platform showing the Apply and Apply all buttons for Suggested next lesson
Users had to go through different areas of the site to select lessons for pupils.
Difficult to find a relevant lesson if you had a particular topic/s in mind

You could only use 1 filter at a time making it hard to narrow down the 270 lessons to a couple of relevant options.

Categories and Topics are treated as distinct elements whereas in fact they have a hierarchical relationship, where a category is made up of multiple topics.

screenshot of old platform showing the Apply and Apply all buttons for Suggested next lesson
Only being able to use 1 filter at a time made it impossible to narrow down your results to a relevant few.

 

DESIGN

USER FLOW

A user flow helped me focus on the ideal path that we wanted users to follow.

Photo of the team presenting research to client
This is the user flow for new teachers who need to add their pupils to the system and them assign them to the sessions
Photo of the team presenting research to client
This is the ideal user flow that teachers would go through on weekly basis as they review progress and pick the suitable next lesson

SKETCHES

Now I understood the users and had the ideal user flow which catered for the different scenarios, sketching allowed me to explore a better integrated lesson selection interface.

initial sketches of interface
I thought of several ways to make it easier to find a suitable lesson:
1. Combined categories and topics into 1 filter component where I could use positioning to expose the hierarchical relationship. I also introduced ‘feed forward', showing the number of lessons within each topic so teachers got a sense as to how many options they had before clicking on a filter.
2. Allowed multiple filtering so a teacher could select a topic then filter down to just see lessons that are age appropriate.
3. Came up with the idea of being able to filter lessons based on whether the pupil had started it or completed it as teachers may want to avoid giving the same lesson to a pupil twice.
4. Another idea was being able to being able to specify the category you’re searching within

 

Stitching all my ideas together, I generated a final sketch:

Wireframe communicating the proposition with the headline numbers highlighted

 

 


1. The session times are displayed here. Clicking on one presents the info for that session below. They can use the date picker on the left to navigate to a specific week.
2. Each pupil has their own tab within the session. Under their name we display their lesson status. The concept is that everything within the tab is predominantly focussed on them though their are options to also apply an action to other pupils.
3. There are 3 tabs within a pupil tab. When making a lesson selection it's important to consider what happened in the past so we present the session report from the last session here which includes a suggested next lesson.
4. This Progress History tab allows the teacher to see the bigger picture as it gives a top level view on all the lessons the pupil has completed and how they did.
5. Having understood how the pupils are doing, this tab allows them to actually select a suitable lesson using the filtering and searching to narrow down options.
6. Clicking on the lesson title brings up a lightbox where you can review the lesson slides to assess suitability.
7. You can select a lesson just for the pupil who's tab you're in or for additional pupils.
8. Selecting these options to cancel session for pupil or replace them (if the pupil is ill) brings up a lightbox where you're guided through the relevant flow and enables you apply the action for additional pupils to improve efficiency.

 

USER TESTING

CONTINUAL ITERATIONS

I transitioned my sketches into a clickable axure prototype which I iterated on through 3 rounds of user testing. I developed 2 key scenarios to test; a new school adding pupils to timeslots;  and a teacher choosing a suitable lesson for their pupils. My first round of user testing with former teachers (conducted via Skype), validated some ideas and highlighted issues to be addressed:

Validated that some of my ideas were understood
  1. Users quickly understood the 'Plan Sessions' interface and were able to navigate to different session times easily.
  2. Used the filters to quickly find the right lesson based on the scenario given
  3. Understood the tab concept as the interface for picking lessons for each pupil and they were able to pick lessons for multiple pupils and add a comment.
  4. Understood the tabs within a tab (Pick a lesson, Progress History, Last Session), and weren’t disorientated as they navigated between them
Navigational labelling issues

Users went to 'Pupils' to pick lessons for pupils rather than 'Sessions'. In the next round of testing, making ‘Pupil’ more specific by renaming it 'Pupil Profiles’ seemed to resolve the issue.

Sketch trying to communicate the Truphone concepts using circles for each concept.
When I changed the labelling of 'Pupils' in the navigation to the more specific label 'Pupil Profiles', users were more likely to correctly identify 'Sessions' as the right place to go to assign lessons to pupils.
Efficiency issues

I designed the 'Assign pupils' interface so you only pick one pupil per slot. This was to help create the mental model that everything within each tab is tied to a pupil. However, one user ignored this and tried to select multiple pupils. From this, I realised that it's better to allow this as it’s quicker even though it slightly dilutes the concept.

Wireframe communicating the proposition with the headline numbers highlighted
Identified through user testing that users wanted to assign pupils to the slots quickly in one go.

 

I realised that clicking on each pupil you wanted to give a lesson was inefficient so I added a ‘Select for all pupils in session’ shortcut.

 
xxxxx
Added shortcut so you can quickly select all your pupils.

 

I learnt that users wanted to be able to write blanket comments to go to all tutors teaching a particular lesson so I added this in the next iteration.

Wireframe of the new subnavigation
Added functionality so teachers could write a comment that would be seen by all tutors teaching that lesson.

After addressing the usability issues raised, I moved onto designing a high fidelity version of the key pages based on the existing style guide.

Wireframe of the new subnavigation
Design for the Plan Sessions page, the main section where teachers can select lessons for pupils

 

By this point, the start of the new school year was fast approaching so we had to start the build based on what I had produced. I was however able to continue with testing once we had something live on our beta environment.

 

This revealed a couple of issues, particularly when it came to choosing which pupils you want in a session. It wasn't clear when you’ve added too many pupils so I made the copy more explicit and introduced a prominent sticky counter which shows you how many empty slots need filling for the selected session time and how many pupils you currently have selected.

I also added logic to prevent the error occurring. The check boxes of the other pupils you can choose from become disabled once you’d selected the maximum number of pupils for the slots available.

Wireframe of the new subnavigation
1. Introduced sticky panel which shows you how many slots you have left to fill.
2. Unselected check boxes were disabled to prevent you from selecting too many pupils.

 

GOING LIVE

For such radical changes, there were relatively few post-live issues that needed to be addressed. One issue I tried to resolve involved users who were accidentally cancelling their sessions.

Homepage of the redesigned Truphone site on a Mac and smartphone
One user had put the wrong pupils in a session so he expected 'cancel' to clear the pupils allowing him to fill it up with the correct pupils...
Homepage of the redesigned Truphone site on a Mac and smartphone
...so he hit cancel session and wrote his comment and hit cancel. Then realised that he had deleted the slots. For another user, they had meant to cancel the session but for a different week. On reviewing the overlay, I realised it wasn't clear what the date you’re able to cancel is, there wasn't enough of a warning for people in hurry and the message promoting the replace feature instead of cancelling wasn't standing out.
Homepage of the redesigned Truphone site on a Mac and smartphone
I came up with a new design which introduced time and date of the session, and added a red background and warning sign to draw attention to the consequences of cancelling. However when I user tested this, the message on the right, directing them to replace pupil, was still being lost.
Homepage of the redesigned Truphone site on a Mac and smartphone
Explored other ways of solving the problem like giving a time limit to undo the cancellation. Having discussed these options with the development team, we agreed to try the simpler solution first.
Homepage of the redesigned Truphone site on a Mac and smartphone
This final solution tested well and required minimal dev work. The Replace Pupil message was no longer being ignored with its new position and the yellow background. We implemented this solution and have not received any calls about accidental cancellations since.

 

CONCLUSION

The teacher portal redesign gave us the opportunity to create win-win situations by making the 'right behaviours' effortless and steering users away from the 'wrong behaviours'.

Pupils' progress is dependent on the teacher choosing the most appropriate lesson. If teachers don't see progress they won't continue to use us. By restructuring the site, teachers can now use information about how the pupil performance to inform their lesson selection and the new filtering solution allows these time poor teachers to quickly find a suitable lesson.

Previously teachers were only selecting pupils for 1 week at a time which caused problems with pupils receiving different tutors each week. By designing a system where they put pupils in for the whole term as the default (with the ability to change this), we eradicated issues that had previously bought pupils to tears.

Homepage of the redesigned Truphone site on a Mac and smartphone