Discovering Chinese Pro
Facilitate language teaching and learning with an assignment and progress tracking system.
Sole UX/UI designer
Visual Designer x 1
Developer x 2
When I first joined BetterChinese, one of the flagship products Discovering Chinese Pro (DCP) was at risk: the sales had been dropped in 3 consecutive years. Thus, I was tasked with improving its curriculum and user experience to reverse the sales decline.
After a year's hard work, the new edition received an avalanche of positive feedback and the digital platform that I redesigned contributed to the 15% sales growth. The assignment and progress tracking system I introduce here is part of the platform's major redesigns I did.
DCP was losing its edge...
Launched in 2012, DCP is the first app-based curriculum for secondary school Chinese language programs. It was adopted by ten states as the official curriculum and used by 300+ schools districts, making it the best-selling digital textbook in the U.S.
However, DCP was gradually losing its edge:
Endless to-dos in product backlog
DCP hasn’t been holistically examined to satisfy changing needs and higher standards though urgent and easy improvements have been made.
Competitors developed similar products
Competitors have started to develop similar digital platforms with more features and better deals, posting a threat to DCP’s market share.
Sales drop in
3 consecutive years
DCP’s sales had dropped in three consecutive years, which was the direct drive for us to improve it. The alarm bell was ringing!
As the second profitable product of our company, we must safeguard DCP! As a product designer and the editor who revised the new edition's curriculum, my mission was to convert the business goal of reversing the sales decline into our design goal.
What problems should we prioritize?
What were the most-mentioned problems? What problems should we prioritize given the resources and our business goal? To answer these questions, I started off by assessing the current platform and reviewing the product backlog. Here were the early findings:
One version failed to serve
two different needs
Serving as a place to track students' progress, the teachers' home page showed the progress of their own exercises instead of students'.
Outdated and inconsistent
Designed in 2012, DCP could no longer align with users’ visual experience nowadays and provide a consistent look and feel for users.
A slew of feedback was related
to the assignment flow
Some complained about the inconvenience of assigning homework, while others were annoyed at the assignment checking experience.
After I shared these preliminary findings in the stakeholder meetings, the whole team agreed on approaching them first since they were the most critical problems.
A deeper understanding of user behaviors and needs
To better understand how teachers track students' performance and the problems of the assignment flow, I interviewed 14 teachers from three categories for different purposes:
to dig into the reasons behind their requests and complaints
because these teachers know DCP the most
since fulfilling their needs is critical for increasing sales
Collecting users’ feedback at the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) conference.
What specifically did users struggle with?
Narrow data source
Only data from students’ self practices. In fact, most students only did the exercises assigned to them.
Limited statuses of exercises
Only two statuses: completed & uncompleted. They were far from enough to evaluate students’ progress.
Recorded from the first day, the timestamp would become giant over time, making it meaningless.
Incomplete set of exercises
Only objective questions. Besides, these exercises were only from one of the two sections of the workbook.
Strenuous homework assigning and checking experience
When teachers assigned homework (flow A), they had to go into each lesson to dig out the exercise. It took at least five steps to land on the page to set the assignment details. Similarly, teachers (flow B) had to go through at least four steps to check students’ submissions. As frequently-used features, this experience was annoying.
Hard-to-gauge students’ progress
Students' performance data was scattered across different assignments because the data was organized from the assignment's perspective instead of the student's perspective. This way of organizing data made it hard to gauge students' progress.
After listing all the research findings, I reframed them into a key problem statement which became my design goal. It set me up for solution exploration and helped me focus on users’ core needs.
How might we provide comprehensive student performance information
in meaningful ways to facilitate teachers in supporting students' learning.
What should users' experience be?
Informed by the research findings and the product goal, our CEO and I developed four design principles, which served as the underlying ethos of the product and a guideline to how it looks, feels, and behaves.
Lighthearted & motivated look and feel
Simple & effortless transition to new design
Sufficient & meaningful student data
Powerful tools to reduce teachers’ workloads
Assignment and Progress Tracking System
A system that allows teachers to assign and grade exercises easily and monitor students’ learning from different perspectives to provide timely support.
*I further improved the designs after gaining professional training from the master’s degree in HCI, so the screens presented here are slightly different from their launch.
What: Provide comprehensive student performance information
1. Incomplete Complete set of exercises
I expanded the three exercises from Review Session to 15 exercises from both Review and Practice Sessions. It covers almost all the exercises from the workbook.
Acronyms were used to signify exercise types. For example, L stands for Listening, S stands for Speaking, etc.
2. Narrow Comprehensive data sources
I added students' assignment data to this progress tracking system, which was originally not shown on the homepage. Together with the self-practice data, the platform provides sufficient information for teachers to track students' performances.
How: Present students performance information in meaningful ways
1. Exercises in two four statuses
While keeping the completed and uncompleted statuses in the original design, I introduced "need help” status, which I defined as exercises below 60 since these are usually the failing grades. Together with the grade pending, there are four statuses for each exercise.
2. Hard-to-gauge easy-to-gauge students’ progress
Individual student view
Whole class view
In addition to monitoring individual student’s learning, teachers need to track all students’ progress as a whole. Therefore, I designed an individual student view and a class view to cater to both needs.
Why: Facilitate teachers in supporting students’ learning.
Strenuous Effortless homework assigning and checking experience
I simplified the homework assigning and checking flow by creating a bulletin board with all the assignment-related actions and information on the homepage. Now, teachers only need one tap instead of going through five pages to assign homework and four pages to check students’ assignments.
The new system contributed to the 15% sales growth compared to the previous school year and has received many positive user feedback.
"The new homepage is a great addition to DCP and definitely makes my job a lot easier."
Cambridge Christian School, Florida
"Thanks so much! The student management system saves me a lot of time."
Washington International School, D.C.
"My students and I really like the new look and features."
Yi D. Oliff
St. Catherine's School, Virginia
"I've been using the DCP for four years. These new features make my teaching and students' learning more effective!"
San Domenico School, California
Product design is sooooo fun! 😍
DCP is the first product I designed. It introduced me to the world of UX and helped me absorb product design knowledge and skills in a short time. I enjoy problem-solving. I love to talk to people and learn about their needs. I'm captivated by exploring different solutions and testing them with users. I feel fulfilled when I see my products reducing users' burdens and bringing them pleasant experiences.
Don’t blindly follow existing solutions though they are the common practice. 🧐
I fell into this trap when I was determining which exercise score should be shown on the surface level of the progress tracking page: the latest or the best? Without a second thought, I followed the “common practice” to show the best result, as most popular products do. However, I found showing the latest result a better solution for our user scenario in the later design validation phase.
Bringing DCP to different national foreign languages teaching conferences.