Experience Design & Strategy
for Immersive In-Class Learning
ELA Quest: DECLARE YOURSELF
Amplify Education sought to develop a series of the new type of learning experience called ELA QUEST for middle school ELA with appropriate use of technology. Our Quest team challenged to create the next product around the topic of American Independence.
At the beginning of the Quest project, we asked ourselves
What do we love about this text, and how can we get students to love it, too?”
We sought to build an experience that enables students to genuinely tap into how people experience the time of independence.
I was a part of the Quest team formed by front-end web developers, back-end developers, playwrights, designers/illustrators, and digital prototypes. My duties were to help to define the ideation process, facilitating co-creation workshops, designing concept, building prototypes, overseeing user experience design, leading usability research, synthesizing research findings, working with developers for design implementation. For this Declare Yourself Quest project, I took a role as a design lead to help to define overall product strategy, visual/UX design, art direction for a 3D designer.
Since the experience lives in the classroom, the design challenge was not only about designing great screen-based experience, but we created the entire physical experience, and digital experience was a part of it. We sought to figure out what would make engaging learning experience using both physical environment as well as the digital environment.
The Declare Yourself! Quest is intended to pose the same question to students as that which confronted the Second Continental Congress: Should we sign this declaration or not? To find the answer, students have the opportunity to adopt the identities of various delegates from the Second Continental Congress. Through the course of the lesson, students assume each delegate’s position on the debate and try to win over their opponents using evidence, argument, and teamwork. In this Quest, students work independently and in small groups to create well-formulated positions from an ample selection of primary source documents. Students must defend their opinions in front of the class with opinion pieces intended to recreate the energetic debates from the time period of the American Revolution.
Research & Ideation
Based on each assigned book(s) or text resources, playwrights would come up with few pitch ideas. Then, multi-disciplinary team members meet and participate in co-creation workshops that I lead. Through ideation workshops, we explored various ideas and defined a direction for research exploration.
Then, the tech team, design team, writer team separately work on research phase to further develop concepts and discover feasible technology to implement. It is important to note that we paid great attention to no wifi connectivity in classrooms and our solution must work within this restriction. With this restriction in mind, we conduct tech research.
field research at the american independence hall
As part of the research for both learning experience, visual strategy / UX strategy, I made a trip to the American Independence Hall to get in touch with the real historical artifacts. We drew great inspirations from this visit for our visual design as well as learning experience design.
Speculative design and designing a Paper Prototype
Instead of going deep with design research with users (students) with design thinking approach, we utilized speculative design. Meaning, we first proposed "What if the experience would be like …”
Based on the in-progress learning concept, we designed a paper prototype and conducted multiple paper-based usability tests to examine the effectiveness of learning contents.
We then synthesize feedbacks and observation, determined further improvements.
We speculated “What if students would play a role as delegates from 17th centuries and write statements, conduct debate and deepen their understanding of the American Independence?”
building VISUAL strategy / Product branding direction
We developed visual language through mood board, concept sketch, the final illustration.
exploring user experience strategy
I led a team to explore various UX strategy and design and try to figure out both good user experience flow.
It was an exciting challenge to figure out a balance between physical interaction and digital interaction.
Wireframe and digital prototyping
We explored several UX strategies for how users would navigate the digital space during the Quest. Inspired by 17th centuries furniture, we determined to use drawer as main UI navigation to access four major parts of the interface.
We conducted a series of usability testing throughout the development process. After having a digital working prototype, we either visit schools or invite students to do a test to measure their engagement, level of learning and usability of digital products.
Phase 8: Final Design & product introduction
After several usability tests, I finalized the design direction and art directed/collaborated with 3D designer and illustrators to create final design assets for the interface. As a branding expert, I also took the lead on defining the product branding including logo, typography, color pallet, and overall look and feel.
Walk Through of the app
This product brings students together for an immersive team experience that feels so much like a game, they won’t notice how much they’re learning. Students collaborate to solve mysteries and make sense of historical events. This week-long narrative lesson plans build on the literacy skills students have been developing in traditional lessons while shaking up classroom routines and allowing students to take the lead.
Quests are dramatic.
During the week of a Declare Yourself Quest, students take on new roles and new goals. Amplify ELA aims to create fresh motivations for students by connecting each classroom activity to an exciting situation that the class needs to solve together. Quests encourage all students to take new risks and engage more deeply with their work and with each other.
Quests create new connections.
Declare Yourself Quest is intended to serve as a jumping-off point, providing students with the opportunity and incentive to delve more deeply into in a new field of study. Quests are packed with a variety of content-rich texts and other media, allowing students the autonomy to explore texts as dictated by their curiosity both inside and out of class. The lesson plans provide students the space to create personal relationships with the texts they’ve chosen, so as to give them keys to new bodies of knowledge.
Quests are collaborative.
Declare Yourself Quest create multifaceted opportunities for students to interact in pairs, groups and together as a whole class. Discussions, both in-character and out-of-character within the contexts of the works they read, are critical to each lesson, and students are encouraged to cooperate to achieve their goals.
This project gave me a deep insight into designing an appropriate design process for the in-class learning experience. The most relevant lessons as a designer were the following:
Traditional design thinking process didn’t work Well in this context, But instead, we utilized the speculative design to propose what it could be, before testing our concept with users.
Initially, we approached with a standard design thinking process by conducting the design research to understand who and how students are. Design research on students did not provide significant insights into what product we need to build.
A couple of lean design research, we developed exciting ideas and brought in front of teachers and students. What we realized is those excellent movies are not born out of design research, but rather from strong passion and energy from a movie director. Much like a movie director or scenario writer pitch ideas about overall storytelling, we empowered our playwrights to come up with great storytelling, and let them ‘speculate’ the possible future. Designers, technologists all then collaborate to refine further or change for a better course to develop an exciting learning experience.
I also learned that
“Immersive” meant different from rest of digital products, and we enabled immersion in the learning instead of the digital screen.
Lack of Wifi connectivity helped us to be creative. We came up with a fusion of printed materials and digital materials that don’t require connectivity, and we decided to rely on peer to peer interaction as supposed to the computer to human interaction. We learned that ‘immersive’ in learning experience does not mean to immerse yourself into the digital screen, but rather, engage yourself in the learning. So by design, we intentionally designed the digital product without much-sophisticated interaction, and let humans do the job.
Takao Umehara, Experience Design Strategy, Lead Visual Design, UX/UI Design Direction
Jean Pierre Dillard: Concept Development, Art Direction, Illustration Design
Chris Kalb: Illustration, Concept Development
Chris Leathers: 3D Modeling
Chris Compton: Content Authoring, Lesson Guide, Overall Concept
Nicole Stein, Dan Russo, Te Yi Liu, Eli Burmin, Beth Goebel, Mayank Sheth : Engineering and QA
Mike Lynch, Jeff Decker: System
Robin Yeung: Project Management