ui & ux

Optimal Assessment

Roles

Co-founder Designer User researcher Content writer

Tools

Figma

Summary

College students may struggle in courses even though they understand the material if assessments (such as essays or multiple-choice exams) don't align with students' strengths. But professors say that implementing alternative assessment methods would be challenging.

I designed a course design application to help professors create courses for students with diverse learning styles and assessment preferences. My business-focused partner and I won first place in a business pitch competition with this project.

Mockup of Optimal Assessment displayed on a computer

The situation

The origin of Optimal Assessment

I partnered with two other designers at a hackathon to design a tool where students would list their preferred testing options (such as multiple-choice) for the professor to see in a dashboard. The designers I worked with were not able to continue with the project after the hackathon, but I kept going.

Asking myself a question

Would our platform really help professors design courses for students with diverse learning styles? That question marked the beginning of Optimal Assessment.

Research

Survey results and insights

I surveyed eight professors, asking them about their course design process, the challenges that they face designing courses, and whether they would consider offering student guided creative projects.

Course design is an iterative process

  • Because professors often redesign their courses, improving that process could save them time and hassle.
  • With a more efficient course design process, professors could focus on designing courses for varying learning styles.
A heading that says: How often do you change the design
              of your course from semester to semester 
              (excluding minor changes such as adjusting the schedule). Below the heading, text reads: 50% almost every semester, 37.5% sometimes, 12.5% often.

Professors take varying organizational approaches

  • Professors like to gather their course ideas and elements in one place.
  • But these approaches require extra effort on the professor's end to organize everything correctly.
A heading that says: How do professors design their courses. Below, there are 4 quotes. The first quote says: Sticky notes on my dining room table to sort and group various lessons/projects. The second quote says: I read blogs, journals, and articles daily and listen to podcasts. The third quote says: A Text Edit document to arrange all my notes and topics. The fourth quote says: A list of topics in [Microsoft] Word that I start with.

Timing, planning, and grading are challenges

  • Because courses have so many moving parts it can be difficult to see how each part influences the course.
  • What if professors could view all the factors that make up their course in one place to better understand how different parts of the course interact?
A heading that says: What challenges do professors face with course design. Below, there are 4 quotes. The first quote says: Finding an overall flow for the course — most content is not linear in application or operation, but we have to put it into a linear timeline. The second quote says: Working with outside clients on course projects, realistic timelines, working in student teams for project delivery. The third quote says: Maintaining continuity of material, adding rich assessments without overloading myself with grading tasks. The fourth quote says: Knowing what topics, exercises, etc. will work since each semester is different.

Challenges with open-ended assessments

  • Professors need to eliminate ambiguity before they can offer open-ended assessments.
  • Open-ended assessments require more thoughtful planning, so a framework to plan out assessment details might be useful.
A heading that says: What challenges do professors face with course design. Below, there are 4 quotes. The first quote says: Finding an overall flow for the course — most content is not linear in application or operation, but we have to put it into a linear timeline. The second quote says: Working with outside clients on course projects, realistic timelines, working in student teams for project delivery. The third quote says: Maintaining continuity of material, adding rich assessments without overloading myself with grading tasks. The fourth quote says: Knowing what topics, exercises, etc. will work since each semester is different.

Secondary research

Universal design for learning

Putting it all together

Common themes from my research

During the course design process, professors are focused on...

The design process

Before I started designing screens, I put together what I knew about the professors who would be using this course design application and made a user journey about what they would need to do to design an ideal course.

User journey

A user journey that I made.

Medium fidelity prototype design decisions

Screens from my medium fidelity prototype.
Screens from my medium fidelity prototype.

Thinking critically about course elements

Forming connections between course elements

Creating timelines and schedules

User testing insights

Due to time constraints, I only had time to do one user testing session (although I plan to do more soon).

Whiteboarding isn't for everyone

Because professors have so many components that they need to keep track of in each of their courses, I decided to design a screen where the professor could select the course components that apply to the assessment or lesson they are creating.

  • The professor liked how she could view multiple aspects of a course all in one place.
  • However, it was presented as a virtual whiteboarding canvas, and she said she wasn't a big fan of that.
  • While this was just one comment from a single user, it got me thinking about the fact that not all professors would find a whiteboarding canvas intuitive.
  • As a result, I redesigned this screen with more familiar components such as checkboxes and text inputs.
An initial iteration of a screen for Optimal Assessment

A confusing component

Because a course can have many different elements (such as a long list of topics), I needed to design a component that would allow professors to continuously add entries to a list through user input.

  • My first iteration of this component duplicated the entire input field component each time the user added an entry.
  • The professor found this confusing and had a hard time figuring out how to properly interact with the component.
  • As a result, I iterated and redesigned the component so that instead of the entire input field being duplicated, the entry would just be listed as a tag under the input field.

First Iteration

My first iteration of a component for Optimal Assessment

Final Iteration

My final iteration of a component for Optimal Assessment

Final design decisions

UX design/information architecture

Visual design

Outcome

I pitched this MVP with my partner in a business pitch competition and won first place. I am currently developing it into a functional MVP for improved user testing.

Lessons learned

A consistent design system

Being the only designer is tough

Final design

Use the arrow buttons below the image to view the next screen.
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A screen from Optimal Assessment

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A screen from Optimal Assessment

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A screen from Optimal Assessment

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A screen from Optimal Assessment

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A screen from Optimal Assessment A screen from Optimal Assessment A screen from Optimal Assessment A screen from Optimal Assessment

Prototype

View video below to see a clickable prototype. If YouTube embed doesn't work, click here to view the video.

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