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Google Work Sessions (for Google Classroom)

For one of my classes, I was tasked with tackling a COVID-19 specific problem space, and redesigning or adding a feature to a commonly used application or platform. For this project, I chose to address online education during the pandemic, specifically online education for elementary students. I personally know many elementary school teachers from past jobs at summer camps, and wanted to learn more about how online education works in an elementary school setting.

Why elementary school education?

I interviewed 5 different educators to see if I could find common challenges they face during their day-to-day routines as an elementary school teacher. I found that many educators struggled with keeping students engaged, and providing synchronous support.

Ultimately, online learning has forced many schools to adapt to the ever-changing situation and implement virtual and asynchronous learning environments. Because of this virtual aspect, it is difficult for teachers to build relationships with their students and support their students when needed.

For this specific project, I wanted to address two specific questions:

How might we build personal relationships between teachers and students in a virtual environment through online learning tools?

How might we allow teachers to support multiple individual students synchronously in a virtual learning environment?


Meet: Samantha

Samantha is a 1st grade teacher working at a public school in New York City. She commutes to work everyday and teaches in a hybrid classroom. She notices a difference in the quality of education her students are receiving, and is concerned about those learning from home who are not able to receive the support that those in the classroom are receiving

Meet: Andrew

Andrew is a mental health teacher at an elementary school who works with individual students and small groups who need more support than what their primary teacher can provide. He finds it difficult to keep students on focused and on track during their online classes.

The solution:

When thinking about the different issues that these teachers face, I felt it would be best for me to tackle the challenge that teachers feel that they are not able to provide the amount of support needed from students in a virtual environment especially when it is difficult for them to stay on track. My initial idea was to create some sort of progress monitoring tool, where teachers would be able to see their students progress during a synchronous work session, and provide support to multiple students simultaneously.

Initial Flows and Wireframes:

In this flow, teachers are able to start a synchronous work session and monitor the student's progress. If the teacher sees that a particular student is behind, they can nudge that student to see if they need more support, and even pull them into a private Google Meetups room to provide support.

User Testing:

With these wireframes, I put them in front of three educators to get their opinions on these initial concepts and see if I was on the right track, and also how I could improve them. From this user testing, I came out with three main takeaways:

  • Keep it simple - students (especially youngers learners) struggle with complex UI and text; use visuals when possible instead of words

  • Consider things behind the scenes - there are many issues outside of just school that might be contributing to a student’s academic performance; consider ways to possibly communicate this more personal aspect from students to teachers if possible

  • Motivate the passion to learn - students are feeling less motivated to do their schoolwork; find a way to spark a student’s interest or motivation

2nd Iteration:

Based off my user testing, given the time restraints, I decided to tackle one of the UI issues that teachers had with my design. One of the issues was with the student progress view. One issue was that many of the classes have around 20 students, and the way I had the UI set up displayed a little less than half of that number. To fix this issue, I decided to display progress by section, and list the students under each section to give a more holistic view of their progress.

What I learned:

This project definitely was a challenging one, and I was able to learn a lot from this experience. This was the first time doing an individual project, and I learned a lot about my own design skills, and what I can accomplish individually. I learned about working with real stakeholders (the educators I interviewed) and how important it is to constantly refer back to them, especially in a problem space that I am not a stakeholder in. Although difficult, this experience was really rewarding to be able to connect with these amazing educators and brainstorm and iterate upon on some concepts that might make their daily routines a little easier and their online education experience more beneficial and effective.

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