An Approach to Digitization in Education

An attempt to push forward future-proof education
Client
Student Project at CareerFoundry
Sector
Education, Design, Sustainability
My Role
Entire product design from research to conception, visualization and testing
Project Time
3 months

TINIA is an online platform that enables students to interactively and playfully create solutions to real-world challenges through Design Thinking and based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Through this concept of challenge-based learning, a closer integration of society and school as well as a stronger awareness of the student‘s responsibility and ability to act is achieved.

It should be noted that this project was accompanied by a three-month user experience design training, followed by a fixed course plan and a digital implementation was planned. It helped me to deepen my knowledge in user experience design and to explore approaches to digitization of school lessons and to find out how impulses for modern learning can be set in accordance with the sustainability goals.

Competitive Analysis

So far, there were no comparable offers, so my research applied to products from the field of e-learning, preferably with a focus on challenge-based learning and the target group children & adolescents.

The creation of competitive profiles (in terms of marketing strategy, target market, core business, usability, layout, navigation structure, compatibility, content, design and performance) together with SWOT analysis helped to assess current offers in this area.

Also, general advantages and disadvantages of online courses and the question of how e-learning could be integrated into the context of conventional school forms was an important part of the research.

Opportunities and Challenges of E-Learning

Opportunities

Opportunity #1

Individual learning types

Through self-learning systems, the learning process can be individually adapted for each student. Studies have shown, for example, that students who were considered weak in the classroom, after a short time with adaptive, tailor-made curricula many were even better than the previous best in class. These students simply needed more time for the basics, which then led to better and faster understanding of the more complex follow-up topics.

Opportunity #2

Timeliness & availability

Outdated or incorrect information can be updated at any time. Textbooks would therefore be obsolete and materials could no longer be forgotten or lost at home. Insofar as there is sufficient Internet access, global availability is possible.

Opportunity #3

Self-organized learning

Through the on-demand availability, self-organization regarding time, place and topic becomes possible. The pure transfer of knowledge (know-how) takes place digitally, which gives the teacher more time to offer individual advice and orientation (Know Why). The knowledge broker role of the teacher shifts into the background in favor of the role as the student‘s companion and guide.

Opportunity #4

Interactivity and multimedia

Possibilities of interactivity and multimedia, through playful exploration of context, higher engagement, direct feedback and more empathy (for example about technologies such as Virtual Reality or the possibility to communicate easily with affected persons).

Opportunity #5

Lower costs

There is no cost to buy textbooks, which will also make it easier for financially weak families to access education. In addition, e-learning contributes to the saving of financial, human and time resources, i.a. by simplifying various processes for schools, teachers and students.

Opportunity #6

Automated learning success control

Students receive immediate feedback and can work with teachers and parents to follow their learning process. There is a risk of over-control and thus less self-organized learning, but also the chance to measure one's own learning progress less with other students and instead with one's own progress.

Challenges

Challenge #1

Lack of acceptance

Low acceptance of the teaching staff (and some parents), since a change of teaching methodologies and, in general, often also a change in attitudes, including e.g. a higher level of trust is required.

Challenge #2

Bad Infrastructure

Reasonable infrastructure, ie a stable Wifi and high-performance terminals are needed.

Challenge #3

Isolated Learning

The high availability and flexibility results in less exchange with other learners and thus a weaker sense of community, which can lead to a loss of motivation in the long term.

Challenge #4

Lack of media literacy

Success depends heavily on the respective IT and media literacy of teachers and learners.

Generally

Learning in the form of traditional teaching and e-learning both require self-discipline, motivation and acceptance of the methodology, whereby e-learning – insofar as it is used in isolation – relies more on intrinsic motivation.

Interviews & Surveys

With the knowledge of Design Thinking, E-Learning and the image of sustainable education according to ESD and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG‘s) I conducted interviews with pupils and teachers from the grades five to thirteen.

Goals

Based on the responses received, I formulated questions for an online survey that was answered by 202 people (about 75% teachers, 25% students) within one day – of course this survey is not representative, especially if you still have the differences between younger and more experienced teachers and between the different age groups of students.

Findings from interviews and surveys

Interview Insight #1

Students do not feel taken seriously

Students often do not feel taken seriously by teachers (and adults in general) and feel that they are unable to present their ideas to others.

Interview Insight #2

Students want to have a noticeable influence

Many students think about local issues and many would seek a solution to them, as they are part of a motivated and "fit" group and their efforts have tangible impact.

Interview Insight#3

Students hardly know local role models

Few of the students surveyed knew people from their environment who are committed to society. They repeatedly wished the teacher in this role. Are not these models or are the young people e.g. not sensitized?

Interview Insight #4

Students are reluctant to work in groups

Group work is not liked, but this is mainly due to lack of motivation of individuals within the groups and different types of learning. Because individual performance is still often valued, it is all about fighters - slower learners are hanged and faster learners feel abandoned.

Interview Insight #5

Technical Affinity: Usual Usage Scenarios

Even lower-level students can handle apps with a high degree of complexity, while educators often take much longer to get involved. One consequence is that teachers are judged not to be competent. In an attempt to regain authority, teachers tend to use unfavorable methods - the teacher-student relationship suffers. Is the positioning of teachers as knowledge facilitators still acceptable?

Interview Insight #6

Bad infrastructure

Teachers would like to use more technology for educational purposes, but their school infrastructure is inadequate and there is a lack of easy-to-learn and helpful software. There are also regular room changes, unreliable technology and Internet connectivity, too few devices, hardly any maintenance of the technology, incompatibilities between programs and devices (e.g., smartboard not powerpoint enabled), and high setup times (e.g., slow build / install).

“I just use my private iPad, but reception is often missing, so I need to save content before showing it in the classroom.”
Interview Insight #7

Prohibitions at schools

Most schools prohibit smartphones, offer open Wi-Fi, block mobile reception, and / or prohibit using private laptops or tablets in the classroom.

Interview Insight #8

Inadequate media literacy

Teachers often say they enjoy using digital devices for their lessons, but they regularly experience hardware, software, and Internet connection issues that they do not have the knowledge to fix. Teachers want to keep up to date with modern teaching, but they do not feel comfortable with it and would Want training.

“The technology often does not work the way you want. A big time eater is troubleshooting.”
Interview Insight #9

Technology aversion

Many teachers are critical of the use of digital devices because they perceive them as distracting. It needs new, more positive experiences.

“I think that the use of technical devices can be very distracting very quickly. The actual content will only be secondary.”
Interview Insight #10

Generation difference in the use of digital tools

Great difference in the perception of students and teachers on how often digital devices are used for educational purposes. Students say the use of digital devices at their school is inadequate, while teachers feel they use them relatively frequently to make their lessons.

Building empathy

Using the quantitative and qualitative data from interviews and survey results, I defined the three target group profiles Peter (Teacher, 55), Sarah (Student, 16) and Tobias (Student, 13) to better empathize with my main user groups and prioritize goals according to their needs.

User Personas (PDF)

Structure of the course curriculum

Task Model

In order to visualize and make more tangible the individual steps that a user makes during the course and its possibilities, I have created a corresponding task model.

Task Models (PDF)

Customer Experience Map

A product-based journey map helped to better understand the course phases as well as the user and their experience in them. The originally planned syllabus was greatly adapted as there were unnecessary and unfavorable steps coming to light.

Customer Experience Map (PDF)

Information Architecture

Based on the insights gained from the initial content audits, competitor analyzes and Card Sorts with potential users, I defined the sitemap for TINIA and then evaluated it via tree tests with potential users.

Sitemap (PDF)

Wireframing, Prototyping & Usability-Testing

Paper-Prototypes

With low-fidelity paper prototypes, the planned syllabus and the general structure of the application could easily be tested in usability tests. Without much effort, adjustments could be made before going into the much more costly digital implementation.

Paper-Prototypes (PDF)

Clickable prototypes

After some paper prototyping adjustments, wireframes, mid- and high-fidelity prototypes were created, which I supplemented with clickability using InVision. Again, user tests revealed small vulnerabilities in the structure of the user interface, in some formulations and interactions. In addition, the users asked smart questions, which led to further improvements.

Visual Design

The visual design was developed by iterating from mood boards and styletiles to the UI kit and finally to creating a first version of the style guide.

Styletile (PDF)
Styleguide (PDF)

A/B & Click Tests

To quantitatively review the usability assumptions, I did A/B and click tests, which confirmed my assumptions except for a few details. First and foremost, I tested the navigation structure on tablet and mobile, the wording of some actions as well as preferences regarding the visual design.

Conclusion

Digitization could revolutionize the entire education sector. Not for the sake of digitization, but because, as also highlighted in the research, thereby an important and profound social change is possible: The change from the teacher to the learning companion; as Gunther Dueck would say, “from the right to the true man”; from the rigid transfer of knowledge to the human companion through a time in need of orientation. In general, I see here the great opportunity of digitization, namely that it gives people the opportunity to become “more human” – a more empathetic, collaborative and social learning and working culture.

I completed the course in three instead of the normally planned nine months and chose my own project. Due to the complexity of the project that I chose and the demanding course plan, I was able to implement hardly any major adjustments to the concept in the short time. Also, the training provided a digital solution, where I can imagine as the first prototype also analogous materials to increase the acceptance and feasibility in schools.

Rather, it requires a change in attitudes and investment in a reliable technical infrastructure before the full potential of digital platforms such as TINIA can be harnessed. Of course, this is an interplay and requires digital solutions that are worth upgrading or questioning attitudes.

With the ambition to create a solution that can be adopted by schools, integrates sustainable development goals into school life and brings society and schools closer together, I was doomed to fail – the goal was far too vague and big. Also, I approached the project with too many strong ideas, which in retrospect was not conducive to reasonably responding to the research findings. My result is therefore rather an approximation and, above all, at the conceptual level requires further work, e.g. to facilitate a smarter group work.

It is also to be learned whether TINIA would prescribe a too strict course of Design Thinking, because Design Thinking is more of a mindset rather than a very concrete process (in terms of methods used). For this, it would need more experience from the field.

If there was more time available…

Learnings

#1 Big challenges require small steps
Take small steps, because big changes can not be brought overnight, especially not just by an application alone. Accordingly, develop more strategically meaningful and realistically applicable tools that steer in the intended direction.

#2 Be open to research and let ideas go
I thought too digitally and approached the product with too concrete ideas about the result, thus failing to correctly take into account some needs and challenges of the target group and thus unfavorably defined the minimum viable product.

#3 Journey Maps are my new best friend
Especially as it gets more complex, Journey mapping is very helpful, on the one hand to put a comprehensive process on paper and to uncover problematic and promising points, on the other hand to provide a basis for good cooperation for all stakeholders.

#4 Distribute polls via Facebook pages
More participation than expected, surprisingly many insights won and many answers to open questions received. Facebook pages with the appropriate fellowship and activity can quickly reach a relevant target group.

#5 Interview questions chosen unfavorably
Looking back, I would rebuild the interviews differently as I used too many questions where interviewees should imagine what the optimal solution might be (for example, “describe your dream school”). Especially through the book “The Mom Test” I have been able to uncover many of my mistakes. It would have needed further interviews with teachers and school management (as well as parents) to create a more complete picture.

#6 More substantive visual design
In the meantime, inasmuch as no visual language has yet been defined, I would define brand attributes in advance, which can be used to orient oneself with regard to the visual appearance as well as (linguistic) formulations – see my project for youth culture work.

There are already good analogue materials, which I would like to recommend at this point.

For example, "Build your future" provides very good materials to do design thinking projects in schools. It should be emphasized here that not only students, but primarily the teachers are very well taken by the hand and thus the inhibition threshold is lower to carry out such projects.

For an entertaining insight into the topic of Design Thinking, e.g. suitable for single lessons, Molly's Design Dash is great, especially if you replace the predefined topics with real school challenges and the opportunity to work on the projects beyond school time.

Rather with high school students in mind, there would be the Models of Impact Game, where based on societal challenges, social entrepreneurial business models are developed.

Also worth mentioning is IDEO's Design Thinking for Educators Toolkit, which has started a big movement here.

Then there is e.g. also Kahoot!, YouthStart and Design for Change.

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