Discovering Chinese Pro
Facilitate language teaching and learning with a 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 digital platform 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...
Released 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
It hasn’t been holistically examined to satisfy changing needs and higher standards though some 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 is the direct reason for our company to redesign it. The alarm bell was ringing!
Converting business goal to product goal
As the second revenue generator for our company, we had to safeguard DCP! While our sales and marketing team was seeking solutions from their perspectives, 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 of DCP into our product goal.
What were the problems and what should we prioritize?
What were the most-mentioned problems? What problems should we prioritize given the resources and timeline? To answer these questions, I started off by assessing the current platform and reviewing the product backlog.
DCP Product backlog
1. 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 exercises instead of students'. Unsurprisingly, many complaints and requests recorded on the product backlog also pointed to this problem.
2. 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.
3. Outdated and inconsistent design language.
Designed in 2012, DCP could no longer align with users’ visual experience nowadays. Besides, the visual language failed to provide an consistent and lighthearted experience for users.
After I shared these preliminary findings in the stakeholder meetings, the whole team agreed on approaching them since they were the most critical and the most-complained problems.
Deeper understanding of user behaviors and needs
To better understand teachers' needs for tracking students' learning and the assignment flow, I interviewed 14 teachers in three categories for different purposes:
Teachers from product backlog
to dig into the reasons behind their requests and complaints
Most frequent users
since they have more experience using DCP
fulfilling their needs is critical for increasing sales
Collecting users’ feedback in 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 reality, most students only did the exercises assigned to them.
Limited status of exercises
Only two statuses: completed & uncompleted. They were far from enough to evaluate students’ progress.
Recorded from the first day, the number would become giant over time, which was no longer meaningful.
Incomplete set of exercises
Only objective questions. Besides, these exercises were from only one of the two sections of the workbook.
Strenuous homework assigning and checking experience
When teachers assigned homework, they had to (flow A) 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 had to (flow B) go through at least four steps to check students’ assignments. 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.
Based on research, I reframed the research findings into a key problem statement to help me focus on users’ core needs.
How might we provide comprehensive student learning information
in a meaningful way to facilitate teachers in supporting their learning.
What experiences should we provide users?
Informed by the research insights 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 learning tracking system
A system that allows teachers to assign and review homework 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 its launch.
What: Provide comprehensive student learning information
1. Incomplete Complete set of exercises
I expanded the three exercises from Review Session to 15 exercises from both Review and Practice Session. This 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 learning 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.
Washington International School, D.C.
"Thanks so much! The student management system saves me a lot of time."
Cambridge Christian School, Florida
"The new homepage is a great addition to DCP and definitely made my job a lot easier now."
Yi D. Oliff
St. Catherine's School, Virginia
"My students and I really like the new look and features. They are motivated a lot by using this online platform."
San Domenico School, California
"I've been using the DCP for four years. These new features facilitate my teaching and make student's learning more effective!"
Product design is sooooo fun! 😍
DCP is the first product I designed. It introduced me to the world of UX and helped me quickly absorb product design knowledge and skills in a short time due to the tight schedule. I enjoy the process of solving problems. I love to talk to people and learn about their needs. I enjoy exploring different solutions and testing them with users. I feel fulfilled when I see my products solving users’ problems gracefully 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 data should be shown on the surface level of the progress tracking system if there are multiple results for a single exercise: the latest or the best one? Without a second thought, I followed the “industry practice” to show the best result, as most popular apps do. However, I found showing the latest result is a better solution for our use case in the later design evaluation phase.
Brought DCP to different national foreign languages teaching conferences