The demand for online learning has grown due to the increased skills needed to keep up with rapidly changing technology. Huddle was an exploratory project that was created in order to solve needs and frustrations people encountered when trying to learn online and improve the overall experience of online learning.
The first task of our team was to gather data about the online learning industry. I did a competitive analysis and SWOT diagrams on other online learning platforms in order to understand what the market was and what opportunities we had for introducing a new platform. I discovered that there were few platforms that had a natively supported community and that most platforms had a fee to use.
After collecting all the data research, we had to analyze and transform it delete into meaningful opportunities. Based off of the key data from our interviews and surveys, I embodied the findings into two user personas. These personas would be used to represent our demographic and remind us of the needs of our users. One person was the Social Learner who is looking to advance their career and is most comfortable learning by asking others for help. The other is the Job Seeker who is looking to start a career and is independent while learning.
After we had collected all of this data from research, we had to then make sense of it and transform the information into meaningful opportunities. Based off of the key data from our interviews and surveys, I embodied the findings into two user personas. These personas would be used to represent our demographic and remind us of the needs of our users. One person was the Social Learner who is looking to advance her career and she's most comfortable learning by asking others for help. The other is the Job Seeker who is looking to start a career and is independent while learning.
I also created a journey map for our users in order to understand their thoughts and feelings when going through an online learning experience. This gave us a clear view on how to improve certain areas of online learning and what a typical experience by our persona would look like. One of the points this showed us was that, our persona, Ashley, had trouble staying motivated on previous learning platforms because there was no deadline and she felt alone. This was not a pleasant experience for her because she was extroverted and strived when around other people. Introducing a group feature on Huddle allowed Ashley to feel like she was not learning alone and it gave her a schedule that would prevent her from procrastinating. In addition, knowing that her work would be viewed by her peers gave her extra motivation to perform well. However, because Ashley also had a job, we had to make sure that the class schedule could accommodate her needs. To do that we created the course to fit over a week time frame, but allowed the material to be learned at any time within that week.
One of our key findings was that when users had a question or got stuck they became unmotivated because they were used to having a peer or teacher in the vicinity to answer the question immediately when in a traditional classroom setting. I also discovered that forums were very popular and were enjoyed by most of the users we interviewed not only because it was another way to find answers to the problems they had, but also because they felt comfort in knowing that other users were in the same situation as them. I incorporated these findings into design principles that we would follow when creating the wireframes.
From there I developed initial hand sketched wireframes that we used to user test our concept. My main goal was to implement a way to feel a sense of community. One of the challenges we faced was trying to create a system where users would be in a group and learning the same material, but without sacrificing the time flexibility that online learning excels at. Our solution was to place users in small groups that would start at a selected date, but the users could complete the material in the course at their own pace within the time frame. I also designed the huddle button interaction that allowed users to have a central focus for all the group interactions and remind them that they were not alone when going through the course. In addition, this feature could become an enjoyable microinteraction and a brand identity.
One of the major changes we decided to make from the original wireframes after testing was to remove the option of a calendar to pick a start date. Even though it seemed like a good idea because it would allow for more flexible class times, the option to choose any date was overwhelming to the user. Instead we decided to have the user choose from already picked start dates. This allowed for an easier proccess because it minimized the number of choises the user had to make. With the changes decided from the usability testing feedback, I created a new wireframe in Axure that we used to continue to test and reiterate on.
Working on Huddle tested my ability to work quickly and efficiently, completing the entire product in 3 weeks, doing multiple design sprints to get there. I learned that it is better to start out with less and slowly introduce more features upon results from usability testing. I am happy that we were able to introduce a new form of online learning that is current with the age of social media. The platform not only fits the current generation of users, but also solves the problem of isolation that most online learning platforms have. Having access to friends and others on the site allows for a community to be built and makes learning more engaging and motivational. Below are some of the hi-fidelity mockups done by the UI on my team based off of my wireframes and UX work.