CLIENT  School Project

ROLE  Research, UI/UX

DURATION  August – November 2017

In what ways can myCourses make a student better?

Through my redesign, I try answering this question with an attempt to create a design solution that would facilitate the overall growth and development of a student.


About: MyCourses is the course management system that allows instructors and? students to interact and access course materials online. As a student at RIT, myCourses plays an important role in shaping student-course engagement and is used as a primary tool to assess progress, view deadlines, take tests, receive grades/ feedback, and submitting work to list a few functions. Students are mostly dependent on myCourses heavily for at least one of the functions listed above.

Task: The existing myCourses website was recently redesigned in the summer of 2017. My task was to address the issues the redesign did not, and come up with my own design solution of what myCourses can and could have been. Going into this project, I wanted to explore the untapped potential an application like this had and it’s ability to help students be more efficient, productive and engaged. The ways in which it could potentially help a student truly kept me inspired in my process. In order to build a successful user-centric?design solution, I had to truly observe and learn from what students across the university felt about myCourses.

Approach: I started by conducting a 3 part user research with around 50 participating students consisting of interviews, surveys and recording students navigate the existing myCourses and documenting their experience. In the first part of my research, I asked questions that mostly related to the existing in-app experience and identified pain points within the current user experience of the redesigned myCourses. The second phase of surveys was developed based on the responses I had collected and asked broader questions about ways in which the web app could help a student. The third phase I proposed ideas based on responses and checked for what appealed to the students and what didn’t before I set forth the goals and identified problems I wanted to focus on solving with my redesign.

Current myCourses home page

Research results

Based on my research I identified major pain points and areas that I wanted to focus on through my redesign. The data was collected over 3 weeks from 50 students across majors studying here at RIT.

‘Grab n Go users’

60% of users said they spent anything between 1-10 minutes per visit. Users like to log in for short amounts of time for specific tasks and want a ‘grab n go’ like experience where they can access content fast and efficiently.

Need for better and easier communication

Over 90% users expressed a need for better communication and clarity between professors and students. For every little thing, a student must depend on email which on many occasions, are unanswered or missed for a variety of reasons thus leading to a lapse in communication. This vital issue is left unaddressed by the current myCourses.

Redundant / Ineffective features

Results show that users tend to primarily use 3 out of 8 main features available. This data proves some features in the app to be ineffective and unnecessary and a much more focused and streamlined approach is needed.

Task tracking troubles

Around 80% users claimed to have missed a deadline at least once due to myCourses not effectively giving users a clear indication of due tasks and deliverables. The web app currently lacks a simple and efficient way for users to track and monitor their tasks and this creates a major problem for most users.

Project goals

Based on the research results I was able to establish 4 primary goals for this project that I wanted to focus on.

Streamlined and smarter functionality to improve efficiency and provide a smoother user experience

Plagued by several unnecessary and unused features, the current myCourses is intimidating and very difficult to navigate. I aimed to improve and simplify the overall content architecture, streamline and enhance the core features most used by students and create a frictionless experience.

Clarity and Communication is key to success

Most students expressed difficulties with being clear on deadlines, expectations, and deliverables. I wanted to focus on creating a simple and effective design solution that eliminates this problem and gives users access to information efficiently and helps them stay on top of things. I wanted to improve communication with the professors and help build better professor-student relationships.

An empathetic myCourses encourages growth

According to Carl Rogers empathy within a relationship is a ‘core condition’ that facilitates growth and development. I wanted to create an experience through user onboarding and intelligent actions and features to create an intuitive system that grows with the user and helps and motivates them to improve as well as looks out for the users well being.

A new visual personality

Create a welcoming and friendly visual design solution to help make students feel more comfortable using the app.

Design solutions

My design solution comprises of primary and secondary user flows and tries to answer the problems I discovered through my research.

Let’s find what you’re looking for

An extremely content dense app, documenting years of course information and activity. This makes the current myCourses very difficult and intimidating to navigate and find information fast. This made me focus on building a smart and powerful tag-based search interaction to help students access information with ease.

I studied the way apps like Slack deal with their search interaction and brainstormed ways in which content can be grouped and easily searchable. The use of tag-based content sorting takes advantage of the native grouping of content within myCourses to streamline search results.

A successful student is a healthy student

Student-Professor communication is a problem when it comes to asking for health-based leave. Many students are unable to contact the professors effectively and get back up to date. Due to this, some students even show up to class sick which is even worse! I wanted to build a feature into my redesign that tackles these problems.

I introduced a new ‘call in sick’ action which allows students to notify professors when they fall ill or cannot make it to class due to a valid reason. I wanted the interaction to be as simple and intuitive as possible keeping in mind the user would be a sick student. As medical issues are often recurring, myCourses lets you autofill your message to the professor through prompts generated based on the user’s sick leave request history.

This feature also points the student to the additional steps to help catch up with missed work by setting up an appointment with the professor, accessing helpful links and academic resources for that class etc.

User is given autofill prompts based on previously saved requests

Message auto-fills after user clicks on a prompt

User picks a date for the leave

Resources and further actions along with the confirmation message

Invision prototype screen recording

A successful student is a healthy student

Student-Professor communication is a problem when it comes to asking for health-based leave. Many students are unable to contact the professors effectively and get back up to date. Due to this, some students even show up to class sick which is even worse! I wanted to build a feature into my redesign that tackles these problems.

Sick student with a recurring health issuet

This user flow demonstrates a student calling in sick through the mobile website making use of smart interactions to make the process fast and simple for a sick student.

A smarter task planner you deserve

Research has shown tracking tasks and staying up to date with course requirements to be a major problem with the current version of myCourses. Users are not able to quickly identify their upcoming tasks, this causes a serious problem and leads to missed deadlines.

I introduced a dedicated task planner section to address this problem. This accommodates the ‘grab n go’ style use of the web app where students are given quick and relevant information about their tasks. The advantage of having a dedicated task planner is that it keeps a well-organized record of all the tasks assigned and allows users to go back to access those tasks.

I studied the design systems of a few productivity and task management apps while creating my solution. I decided to use smart task cards to keep things simple and efficient inspired by post-it notes. These cards would provide the user with quick information and reminders and would make use of progressive disclosure to add a second layer of information about the specific task.

Always has your back!

My biggest goal for this project was to be able to come up with a design solution that helps build a better student and facilitates growth. I wanted to create a relationship between the user and the platform by humanizing the experience and building myCourses into an ideal assistant.

This project gave me the opportunity to study and explore the use of user onboarding in an application. This allowed me to craft smart features and interactions to help the student make the most of the app. I created a conversational experience where myCourses is always looking out for the student and is tracking and assessing their progress and providing the user with helpful and related feedback.

I built a sidebar feature that provides users with their weekly feed. This section is a collection of tips, resources, reminders, and statistics generated weekly based on the user’s activity and performance.?

Final prototype

Here is my invision prototype demonstrating the user flows I worked on building in this project.

Key takeaways

This semester long project was extremely rewarding to me as a designer. It challenged me to think and push myself to keep asking questions and searching for those answers.
The one thing I really took with me from this project was learning to really look at the smaller details. By focusing on micro-interactions and considering smaller steps within user flows I was able to create stronger solutions. With this project I was able to conduct effective user research, a process I enjoyed thoroughly. The project gave me a sense of fulfillment as I was able to work on solving real problems students like me face through this redesign.

Thank you!

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