Discovering Chinese Pro
iPad-based Chinese Digital Textbook for Secondary School.
Research | Product Design | Project Management | Curriculum Design
What is Discovering Chinese Pro?
Discovering Chinese Pro (DCP) is the first iPad-based curriculum for middle and high school Chinese language learners, it was a great hit when first released in 2012 because of its comprehensive content, digital workbook, and auto-grading features which greatly relieve teachers burden and facilitate student’s learning. Many school districts advocating digital classrooms purchased this platform, making it the best selling digital textbook for secondary school Chinese language programs in the U.S.
Since this is the first of its type, there were still many improvements we could do to make this platform more powerful. In the meanwhile, our sales team received a lot of feedback from our users regarding different issues of the platform and there was a trend that the sales slowed down year after year. In order to safeguard the product and provide our users a better learning/teaching experience, we decided to renovate the platform.
Assessing Current Platform
As a designer who has extensive curriculum creation and teaching experience, I started to assess DCP from a teacher’s perspective to identify the potential problems with the feedback collected by our Customer Service team. I found three key problems:
Homepage was not serving its purpose.
On the home page, students could only see information on the completion status of part of their self-practiced exercises. For teachers, this page was even less useful since it did not distinguish the teachers' account from students'. Thus, what teachers saw was their own exercises on the platform.
Teachers were unable to accept late homework.
As a result, they could not provide feedback to these students. There were two workarounds: edit the due date or assign the homework to late students again. However, both were not convenient.
The style of DCP was not appealing.
Designed many years ago, DCP is not visually appealing and engaging for middle and high school learners.
Get to Know the Users - Survey and Persona
To find out more unmet needs and usage problems, I conducted 45 questionnaire surveys to teacher and student users. After having a big picture of where their problems were, I further conducted 7 user interviews and 3 classroom observations to understand these problems and further explore any missing problems.
45 7 3
Questionnaire Surveys User Interviews Classroom Observations
were collected from 25 student and 20 teacher users about their usage, frustrations, and expectations of DCP.
was done with teacher users from 3 categories: heavy user, regular user, and light user.
was conducted at Crocker Middle School, Palo Alto High School, and Cupertino High School.
Here is what I got from the research:
Top 3 Frustrations:
Too many steps to assign homework (76.32%)
Unable to accept past due homework (71%)
Inconvenient to assign homework to multiple classes (57%)
Top 4 Expectations:
See student’s progress in a holistic view (87.34%)
Access student’s exercises and provide feedback (72%)
Easily see current assignment status (63.81%)
Provide tools for students to record the text (50.72%)
Top 3 Frustrations:
Unable to make up homework (80.65%)
Keep forgetting homework (63%)
Too many steps before doing exercises (49.21%)
Top 4 Expectations:
Have teachers provide feedback on exercises (87.44%)
Able to see learning progress (67%)
Get help on exercises not done well (56.32%)
Get feedback on speaking (52.18%)
With these learnings, I have built two personas to represent our target users.
I want to get feedback on work that are not done well to keep improving my Chinese.
Roger is taking Chinese classes in high school. Learning a new language is not easy, he wants to keep track of his learning so that he knows what to improve. Also, he hopes to have someone providing detailed support to his Chinese.
1. He feels helpless for some exercises and badly needs further support.
2. He finds speaking the hardest part in Chinese learning.
I hope to know my student's learning progress so that I know how to help them.
Chinese Teacher, 40
Julia is a high school Chinese teacher who has 4 classes to teach in a year. She wants to have a good monitor of every student's learning so that she knows how to help them. Also, she is looking for some tools that can reduce her burden.
1. Her workload is so heavy that she has little time to polishing lesson plans.
2. She feels hard to keep track of every student's progress.
While I was trying to understand my users, I believe it is also important to know what my competitors are doing, especially the solutions they come up with to solve the common problems that all online education platforms are facing. Among many competitors, I found three representatives: VISTA as the most popular Spanish teaching website, Integrated Chinese as a popular Chinese curriculum with a long history, and EMC Passport as the newly-developed Chinese learning platform for secondary school students. Here are my three takeaways:
Increase Teacher Accessibility
Teachers should be given great accessibility to student’s work, no matter they are homework or exercises.
Quantify and Visualize Learning Tasks and Efforts
It is very important for users to easily access information on their past efforts and future tasks.
Based on different student’s language proficiency, teachers should be able to customize the settings of assignments and content of exercises.
Design Iteration 1
Based on the current platform assessment, users’ feedback, and competitor analysis, I prioritized 4 designs to solve users' problems:
1. Student Management System
In the previous version, teachers were unable to see student's exercises unless they assigned it. Likewise, students were unable to submit their exercises to get feedback without teachers assigning them. The new student management system merges the assignment and exercise system, allowing teachers to grade and provide feedback on student's exercises in addition to assignments while students can get feedback on both assignments and exercises. The sections in green are the new flows.
2. New Home Page
Compared with the old home page where teachers could not get any student information, the new home page enables teachers to monitor students' progress and performances of each workbook session both from a holistic and detailed view. Additionally, they can assign announcements and homework from the Bulletin simply by the plus icon, which saves them a lot of time from going into each lesson to assign homework.
Unlike the old home page where students could only see what exercises they completed, the new home page allows students to check their own progress, view teachers' announcement/assignment, and see teacher's feedback.
3. New Assignment and Exercise Submission Tool
Unlike the previous version where students could only submit assignments and submit them only on the assignment page, students can now submit exercises and submit them right on the lesson page. Also, the late assignment can be submitted and graded by teachers.
Students are able to practice speaking by reading after the text audio sentence by sentence. Our system will provide feedback by highlighting the part not read well. Teachers can check the score and access students' recordings from the progress report on the home page.
Release and Feedback
We released the beta version to a small number of users and conducted 15 user testing sessions. Here was the feedback I collected:
1. Users were unable to clearly distinguish assignments/announcements that were new or already read in the bulletin.
2. Some teachers received too many submissions from students since we allowed students to submit their exercises as many times as they wanted in addition to their assignments.
3. Some students would copy the correct answers from exercises to the assignments because we provided students with correct answers after they submitted their exercises.
4. Some teachers did not want to provide access to certain sections to students because they wanted to reserve those sections as lesson test.
allow students to save and submit their assignments/exercises. Students can also see their score and check submission history.
let students check their submission history of exercises/assignments.
make announcements and assign homework in a click.
Progress Across Volume
check class's performance of assignment/exercise in a glance.
check different students' performance of assignment/exercise in a lesson.
Last Assignment Completion
check completion of latest assignment quickly.
distinguish homework/exercise that are not submitted, not graded, needed help, and completed well.
view progress across lessons
My Last Assignment Score
check performance of last assignment.
see teacher's feedback on their work.
Design Iteration 2
Based on the feedback we got from the beta version, I made adjustments on two pages:
1. Indicator added on New Announcements in Bulletin
Indicators are added to help users distinguish announcements/assignments that are new or viewed/finished. The red dot will appear once the students receive a new announcement/assignment. It will disappear when the students finish the assignment or the announcement/assignment has expired.
2. Control of Content Access and Submission
An Access page is added under Settings to give teachers more control over the new student management system. Teachers can determine which sections should be provided to students. Besides, teachers can restrict the maximum attempts of submissions and decide whether to provide students with correct answers after they submit their work.
These new features contribute to the 15% sales growth compared with the previous school year and have received many positive feedback from users.
"The Fluency section is a great addition to DCP, and definitely made my job a lot easier now that students can record at home and get graded automatically!!!"
- Connie Ngu, Cambridge Christian School, Florida
"My students and I really like the new look and features. They are motivated a lot by using this online book."
- Yi D. Oliff, St. Catherine's School, Virginia
"Thanks so much! The student management system saves me a lot of time."
- Yan Liang, Washington International School, D.C.
"I've been using the DCP for 4 years. I really enjoy using it. These new features facilitate my teaching and make student's learning more effective!"
- Shirley Li, San Domenico School, California
2019 ACTFL Annual Convention and World Languages Expo, Washington, DC