Doubt solving app that connects school teachers and students in the post COVID world
With the world moving to remote work due to the pandemic situation, our schooling system is trying to adapt quickly to this new way of life. Teachers are having to connect with their students virtually and look for innovative ways to do so without losing the advantage of a physical classroom setting. For many of them, learning to use technology, while keeping the students engaged is a challenge they have encountered for the first time.
I’ve chosen to just focus on one small feature for this case study – student doubts for teachers. It covers doubt listing, replying on doubts, and doubt resolution.
The intent here is to not add too many features, but to document my process at arriving at the solution.
Best viewed on a desktop / laptop.
A quick search on Google made me realize the scale of this problem. Things are pretty serious when you get 108 million+ results on your query.
The results broadly mentioned the various pain points that teachers are facing due to remote teaching – audio and video not clear (happens almost always), slow internet, lack of hardware devices to study on, less one-on-one communication and attention per student, discipline problems, and homework correction hassles. Some were hilarious too!
Also, a little searching on Facebook, Instagram and other new sites validated the problem further – mostly the same finding as above. But one interesting thing was that students were tagging each other on posts (which had questions, articles, etc.), and then having a conversation there in form of comments and replies.
One of the teachers which I interviewed was a part of one such group and said that they engage in this way as well – by sometimes commenting on such posts, tagging other students and replying to already commented doubts.
I think this is a valuable insight – students and teachers maybe long for a sense of community around them – just like in the real pre-COVID world.
I wanted to know more about the problems of teachers first hand. Lucky me having two of them in my family. 😉 I recruited them as participants for face to face user interviews. They referred 3 more teachers, making the total count to 5 teachers. I could also manage to speak to 3 students that these teachers taught.
I prepared a set of questions to gain more insights about the challenges that they are facing in post COVID teaching.
Here’s a quick summary:
- The average age of the teacher group was 32 years, and the average age of the students was 13.5 years.
- Both students and teachers are motivated by growth.
- All 5 teachers were female, with varied interests, backgrounds, and low tech familiarity.
- Teachers were a bit hesitant to try out new tech and online mediums – citing the learning curve as one of the main reasons. Students, in contrast, were open to trying out new tech – they in fact were avid users of latest mobile phones of their parents.
- Bad quality of audio and video was yet another concern from both sides. Possibly due to slow Internet speeds.
- Distribution and collation of homework and answering of doubts was a big concern of the teachers. They find Google docs, drive and email to be really tedious when it comes to collation, checking and summarization.
For this, I knew the biggest one is forums in massive open online courses. Haven taken lots of MooCs, I had good insights around how they function.
I still gave them a re-look. Covered edX, Udacity, Coursera, and some WordPress based online discussion forums that I found on Google. They all use the familiar discussion forum pattern (and they don’t re-invent the wheel while they’re at it – which is good). They all are highly advanced portals and I personally found Udacity to have done a good job with their overall visual appeal.
Based on the above insights, I decided to solve for the doubt clarification problem for teachers. I felt that if it’s done properly, students will get immense value and will become returning users, and the overall product will be a success. (This is assuming we already have good high quality content on the product.)
In this step, we’ll define our problem more concretely.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume the following Venn diagram to be true. All doubts are ideally from home work or course work.
A doubt means a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction in the topic that the student is studying. Their first human instinct is to aim for the sense of completion, or in other words, to find the answer for it. They do this either by asking their class friends or the teacher.
Based on the user research, I derived these two personas. these are the actual real world users whom we are solving for. The personas also have additional information about their personality types, their familiarity with tech and internet, their goals and pain points. This will serve as a bible for making user centered decisions as we move forward in the process.
We will be focusing more on the teacher persona going forward.
“As a teacher, I want to see all the doubts raised by my students. I want to engage with them, reply to them and solve them for my students.”
In the product we can have 5 different entities as shown below, and a doubt can come from any 3.
Since we’re only hyper-focusing on doubts for this case study, let’s define what all information and metadata a doubt can consist of.
The above information can be grouped based on similarity of items.
For example, the question text and replies have a strong affinity towards each other, and can be clubbed in a group. In that same group, items similar to replies can also come.
One more example can be grouping upvote count and upvote button.
After grouping, we will categorise the groups in 3 buckets – critical, important and not-important.
This is done to identify items which are most important for the driver task. The driver task (or the primary task) in this case is for the teacher to solve the doubt of the student.
For example, the question text and replies is critical information for the teacher to complete the driver task, while the upvote count possible is not because a teacher will have to clarify all doubts regardless of upvote count.
Based on the above information architecture, if we were to lay down all the information on a mobile wireframe in a flat manner it would look something like this. The critical items have been placed first, then the important, and lastly the not-important ones.
From an interaction perspective, if we add some more detail to the information and try to show it a bit more visually, it could look something like below.
I have thought of two interactions for the page.
- In IDX1, the whole page is scrollable and the reply box scrolls up with the replies.
- In IDX2, the reply box is sticky at the bottom and rest of the part is scrollable.
I detailed out both the interaction wireflows and then tested it with a few teachers. The one with the sticky reply bar was more familiar to them and more usable (familiar mental model through using WhatsApp and other messengers).
One more observation after seeing real-world data was the character length of the question can be longer than what is shown in design. Students can sometimes type lengthy questions as well.
Other observations were on the status change button (resolved/unresolved) – the discoverability of which was low.
I incorporated all of this feedback while creating the visual design.
Since I had limited access to users, I tried to use the VisualEyes Figma plugin as well. It’s an AI based user heatmap generator, and here are it’s results. It reports clicks around the chat box area, upvote button and the individual replies, which is as expected.
The unexpected one is on the doubt text itself, but hey, none of us know the accuracy of this AI. 🙈
In the visual design, the status change button (resolved/unresolved) – has been made more prominent by making it into a coloured switch (since it has only 2 states). This will give it the affordance it needs.
The font size of the doubt has been reduced so that long text can also be incorporated in the screen.
This visual design fits the need of the teachers, and will help in reducing their pain points when it comes to doubt resolution.
I have used the 8 point grid while positioning the elements, and have tried to be minimal in design because I believe that a clutter free experience is a great experience.
Here’s the style guide created in Figma which is used for the app.
Embedded Figma prototype below.