Course Management Platform - User Research & Interaction Design

Within the team of Thread Solutions, we had the chance to improve the whole workflow and processes of a local educational institute that distributes learning courses by rethinking their course management platform. Through this platform, the employees can manage the whole courses’ life, from the creation of the course and its publication on the website to the management of the enrolements, classes, materials attendances and certificates.


Discovery phase

Preliminary assessment

Within the design team we carried out a first initial assessment on the current platform, mainly through heuristic evaluation and cognitive walkthrough. Thanks to this activity we were able to identify problems and opportunities of development as well as the next steps of our design process.


User research

To explore the platform from the user’s point of view, we decided to carry out a discovery workshop that we decided to structure in two main activity blocks: user story mapping and user interviews.


User story mapping

Within the first work block we carried a user story mapping. We asked to 20 users to write on a post-it every action they take on the platform to get to their final goal. The participants were given two-color post-it notes, yellow for the operations carried out directly on the platform, green for the operations carried out outside the platform.



Each post-it was then organised chronologically with the help of the users themselves.



This activity allowed us to see the entire platform through the users’ actions. We viewed the entire workflow as well as all the interconnections between the various users’ workflows. Here is the end result.


Within the design team, we then performed a first iteration of the map. We analysed it and then clustered the various actions into seven top task that allowed us to visualize the entire process: course preparation, course creation, proposal, publication, enrollment, active course and closed course.



User interviews

In the second work block, within the discovery workshop, we asked some of the employees to show us how they use the platform. We asked them to fulfil some task and to think aloud about everything they were doing. During this session we were also asking some questions to fully understand their workflow.

At a later stage we also had de chance to interview 3 tainees. It became clear that the poor user experience and the huge amount of request for support by the trainees, significantly impacts the employees work, which is continuously interrupted by phone calls and emails.



Definition phase - What we found out?


Audience

There are no formalized roles within the platform. But, contrary to what we expected, we clearly found that employees are playing different roles within different stages of the workflow. So far, the user had to adapt to the platform, this has inevitably triggered some "improper" uses of the platform. Sometimes even overlapping the work between each other. We also found out that, even if there is a clear distinction between roles, they still collaborate a lot with one another.

These are the main roles that we could outline from the user story mapping:

  • Course manager
  • Editor
  • Enrollment manager
  • Attendances manager

There are two other roles that emerged from the mapping. These are not part of the internal team of the institution, but they are a crucial part of the entire process:

  • Trainee
  • Trainer

Problems and user needs

  • The platform doesn’t fit to the operational needs of the user
  • The platform doesn’t fit to the needs of the work groups
  • Poor trust in the platform
  • Lacking of automation that leads to a fragmented process
  • Poor usability of the platform, not only for the employee of the institute but also for che external user such as the trainees
  • The platform doesn’t create a focus on the activity to be done
  • Lack of relevant data to end the task

Personas

Before starting with the actual re-design we formalized our users through some personas models that could lead our choices through the entire design process.



Goals and user experience strategy

  • Help the user focus on his task while moderating the work groups

    How? By rethinking the platform basing our choices on the roles emerged and by structuring an environment that enables collaboration

  • Increase efficiency

    How? By improving the usability of the platform and by making it self-explanatory

  • Design a fluid workflow

    How? By limiting external interruptions, shifting on the platform most of the work and by increasing automation

  • Strengthening the institute identity as an innovative, influential as well as professional entity

    How? By review the visual design as well as the whole user experience



  • Development phase

    Sketching the new flow

    We then started defining the new flow by hanging some sketched wireframe on the wall. We often use this methodology since it allows us to visualize the entire navigation and to iterate easily.

    Prototyping and user testing

    We then turned our sketches into some formalized wireframes that we assembled into an interactive prototype to share with the end-users. We conducted some moderated user testing sessions on all the seven "top task" we identified in our discovery phase, in order to get some feedback and iterate.