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Discovering Chinese Pro

Facilitate language teaching and learning with an assignment and progress tracking system.

My Roles

Sole UX/UI designer

Sole Researcher

Project Manager

Team

Visual Designer x 1
Developer x 2

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My contributions

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.

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Before

After

BACKGROUND

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:

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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.

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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.

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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!

​Challenge

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.

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DISCOVERY

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

design language

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.

USER INTERVIEWS

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:

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Teachers from

product backlog

to dig into the reasons behind their requests and complaints

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Most frequent

users

because these teachers know DCP the most

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Big/potential

subscribers

since fulfilling their needs is critical for increasing sales

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Collecting users’ feedback at the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) conference.

KEY FINDINGS

What specifically did users struggle with?

1

Narrow data source

Only data from students’ self practices. In fact, most students only did the exercises assigned to them.

2

Limited statuses of exercises

Only two statuses: completed & uncompleted. They were far from enough to evaluate students’ progress.

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Incomprehensible timestamp

Recorded from the first day, the timestamp would become giant over time, making it meaningless.

3

Incomplete set of exercises

Only objective questions. Besides, these exercises were only from one of the two sections of the workbook.

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Strenuous homework assigning and checking experience

A

B

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1

2

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2

3

4

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.

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Hard-to-gauge students’ progress

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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.

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Design Goal

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.

What

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How might we provide comprehensive student performance information
in meaningful ways to facilitate teachers in supporting students' learning.

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How

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Why

DESIGN PRINCIPLES

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.

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Lively

Lighthearted & motivated look and feel

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Unobtrusive

Simple & effortless transition to new design

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Informative

Sufficient & meaningful student data

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Empowering

Powerful tools to reduce teachers’ workloads

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Introducing

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.

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*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.

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01

What: Provide comprehensive student performance information

1. Incomplete Complete set of exercises

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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

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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.

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02

How: Present students performance information in meaningful ways

1. Exercises in two four statuses

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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

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Individual student view

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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.

03

Why: Facilitate teachers in supporting students’ learning.

Strenuous Effortless homework assigning and checking experience

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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.

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Design System

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Outcome

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."

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Connie Ngu

Cambridge Christian School, Florida

"Thanks so much! The student management system saves me a lot of time."

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Yan Liang

Washington International School, D.C.

"My students and I really like the new look and features."

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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!"

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Shirley Li

San Domenico School, California

Reflection

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.

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Bringing DCP to different national foreign languages teaching conferences.

NEXT PROJECT

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