'Pulse' - Pearson .

'Pulse' is a 'learning management system' (LMS) for emerging markets like Brazil, India, Mexico and South Africa. It was designed for primary and secondary school teachers and their students as a device-agnostic seamless experience across small and large screen devices - both as a responsive website and native (Android) app. The UX (from concept through to design, architecture through to interaction patterns) was my remit. It also needed to perform well for slow Internet connections.

Client industry / sector: Education / eLearning
Client location: Holborn, London / New York City, USA / Houston, USA / Johannesburg, South Africa / Jaipur, India
Project delivery time: 14 months
When: 2015-16

Service/s provided: Research / UX design / UX consulting / User testing



Discovery

Through discussions with business stakeholders early on, the broad objectives of the product were identified, as were the target users. Research involved comparative competitor product and education provider and service reviews. This paved the way for undertaking initial exploratory design, while ongoing workshop sessions with key stakeholders solidified the business goals, helped identify known challenges and answered as many 'unknowns' as possible.

" Evan provided us with a great UX service during the early development of an online learning platform. He was thorough, patient and easy to work with; his designs were well thought out, clear and showed the mark of a real understanding of our varied users. "

Digital Product and Engagement Manager – Raegan Muskett

Challenges

No similar product existed within Pearson, nor had I designed this kind of product before. It was new for all those involved.

During the project, the work was undertaken partly in Agile sprints (when working with the design agency) - where the UX solution, visual design and then front-end markup would be aligned in order to be built out. Before and after this, the project was more holistically run.

This was a high-level as well as visible project with many senior stakeholders engaged throughout. As such there was much stakeholder input and commentary early on. In order to mitigate this, I documented and shared design rational and user testing findings were shared. Wireframe walkthroughs were held. This headed off challenges based more in opinion than in qualified design authority. Doing so established trust and confidence in the work, so business efforts could be focused elsewhere.

The project team and other stakeholders were located all over the world - in the UK, South Africa, India and the USA.

The process

Later in the project, I brought in a dedicated UI designer to explore early visual identity for the web app, and later, the mobile app. I helped the business choose a development (and design) agency to both build the responsive website, and explore in greater detail the visual identity of 'Pulse' including the web and native app.

I approached this project by first applying what we might call - 'design thinking', then sketching ideas and flows with pen and paper. This process included journey flows, function, interactions, identifying and establishing common components, page templates and so on. With robust thinking applied, I produced digital wireframes both interactive and static (as appropriate). Sometimes these wireframes were static, sometimes interactive.

The design process was iterative, and I naturally adapted flows, function and interactions as required. The UX recommendations informed the visual design. The visual designer, the development agency, and I, worked closely to iterate the visual solution in ongoing weekly workshops to improve and refine the various pages and their components.

I engaged a user testing agency to recruit test subjects and facilitate the testing sessions using interactive wireframes. This was done to test assumptions and validate UX approaches. User testing was also conducted overseas in South African schools by engaging a Pearson UX designer in South Africa who tested my wireframes directly with the local target audience (teachers and students) and fed the insights back.

Outcome

The product launched successfully in the pilot market of South Africa before being rolled out to other regions and is now in the capable hands of the in-house Pearson team. It continues to be a core part of Pearson’s educational product suite.

Learnings

The engagement saw me working remotely to the core Pearson team and regularly engaging with people in London, Houston, Johannesburg, Brighton and New York via Google Hangouts. Face-to-face meetings and workshops were held in Brighton and London.

I gained exposure and expertise in computer-based education platform design and an awareness of its growing adoption across the world. The project exposed us to Moodle CMS - the platform that 'Pulse' was built on while insight was also gained into age-specific design (young students vs teachers) and industry-specific users and behaviour.


Design thinking

Wireframe sketches during the design phase'.
Image: Sketches made during the design of the teacher 'my classes' and 'class' page. These wireframes detail the UX thinking around list view vs card view (L) as well as the considered presentation of information on the class page (R).

Wireframe sketches during the design phase'.
Image: Thoughts and wireframe sketches produced during the student 'class' page design process. These sketches detail large and small screen view considerations among other aspects around the product.
Wireframe sketches during the design phase'.
Image: These sketches illustrate in both large and small screen devices how a teacher will add learning materials to a 'course' and assign students to it. The design processes begin in 'design thinking' and sketch form.

Wireframe sketches during the design phase'.
Image: These sketches reveal the design concepts around allowing a user to search and filter 'learning materials'.

Wireframes

An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
An image of work-in-progress dashboard design in Axure.
Image: Samples of the wireframes in the iterative design process. These include large and small screen wireframes as the web app product was designed to be responsive across devices - smartphones, tablets (small screen) through to desktops and laptops (large screen).
An image of small-screen wireframes.
Image: Wireframes of the teacher user-type's class page showing lessons, tasks and tests that the user has created for their students. The tasks are organised into current and completed groupings, show a snapshot of student progress and can be edited or deleted.

An image of small-screen wireframes.
Image: Small-screen wireframes of the small-screen view of the teacher user-type's 'assign class content' journey. These wireframes allow the user to browse and select learning content appropriate for the subject and year, enter details of the lesson including start and end dates as well as instructions, assign some or all students, see a summary for review, and then see confirmation that the lesson has been created.

An image of a wireframes.
Image: The student 'to do' list of assignments set by their teacher. The student user-type can commence or continue with these tasks, as well as having visibility of upcoming work.

An image of a wireframes.
Image: The teacher's 'assign class content' page (large-screen view) allows the user to filter and select content to assign to students.

An image of a wireframes.
Image: A work-in-progress wireframe of the teacher's dashboard page design that allows access to all their classes and allows for the creation of new ones.

Visual design

An image of Pearson 'Pulse' on a tablet
An image of Pearson 'Pulse' on a tablet
An image of Pearson 'Pulse' on a tablet
An image of Pearson 'Pulse' on a tablet
An image of Pearson 'Pulse' on a tablet
An image of Pearson 'Pulse' on a tablet
An image of Pearson 'Pulse' on a tablet
An image of Pearson 'Pulse' on a tablet
Image: Visual designs for the 'student' user-type showing a common journey - signing in, navigating to a class, identifying a task to work on, reading/watching or otherwise following the teacher's instructions, before saving progress or submitting the work. The rigorous UX work behind this considered and catered to many scenarios of user behaviour.