Improving the current Learning Management System to help with student time management.
As we began a semester of remote learning, we quickly discovered that time management became a task that was more challenging than usual given the unusual circumstances. Information became cluttered and cumbersome to retrieve, making the task of completing school work on time extra difficult. We focused on discovering and understanding how a typical University of Toronto student interacts with course information, and how they manage their tasks and time as students.
My reflections and notes
will go here.
To understand the problem space better, we surveyed 48 students through an online Google Form survey and interviewed 10 students via Zoom calls. We asked questions like: Do you currently have a system for keeping track of what’s going on in your courses? Do you consider yourself good at managing your time? What tools do you use for time management?
We chose a combination of online surveys and interviews because the two methods complemented each other. While the survey allowed us to ask quantitative questions to get a high-level overview, the interviews provided rich insights to underlying problems that were more personal and emotional.
of 48 students surveyed have low confidence in their own time-management skills
of 48 surveyed spend an hour or more on planning each week
out of 10 students interviewed struggle with procrastination
Affinity diagram showing consolidated interview data
"If you use too many softwares it kind of becomes like a lot of work, you know what I mean? Like it’s extra work to organize your time, in a sense."
– U of T student
We consolidated the interview data by writing each point on a sticky note and identifying themes among the pool of opinions/issues until an affinity diagram emerged, highlighting the following:
Popular tools and what they are used for
Problems with tools
Time management techniques
Self-evaluation of time management abilities
Commitments (course load, extracurricular activities)
Feedback on interactions with the current system
Due to resource limitation, the interview participants were recruited via the team's personal networks and were not representative of all faculties and student groups.
Quercus is the default learning management system used by all U of T students to access course information. Its lack of standardization makes retrieving information cumbersome and time-consuming. We decided to take the redesigning approach to this issue since the existing mandatory system is a tool students already interact with on a daily basis, and improving it rather than introducing something new would potentially bring the most impact across the student population.
Quercus also had many existing features that were not fully utilized by students due to low discoverability.
From our research, we found a need to help students feel more confident at task management, spend less time planning, and get things done with less friction and anxiety.
After consolidating our research findings, we created a persona to capture the main user needs, desires, and pain points.
We also mapped out a user journey to identify opportunities for improvement in the process of managing school work from Quercus.
We decided to set the location in a foreign city to address the needs of students studying from a different time zone.
Procrastination was highlighted as a key issue from our user research, hence we included it in the map for a better understanding of the user's underlying needs.
As a group, we decided to focus our efforts on the following areas:
How might we make retrieving information faster and easier?
How can we reduce the number of tools needed to plan?
How can we help students feel more motivated and reduce friction along the way?
Based on our persona, we created needs statements that guided our ideation process:
Satoshi needs a way to reduce time spent rummaging for course materials so that he can be more efficient.
Satoshi needs a way to be reminded of deadlines so that he doesn't miss due dates.
Satoshi needs a way to break down tasks so that he completes tasks on time.
Satoshi needs a way to stay motivated so that he procrastinates less.
Satoshi needs a way to be aware of time zone differences so that he does not miss deadlines.
Using the Needs Statements, we brainstormed ideas and used the prioritization grid to select the best ideas based on their level of impact and feasibility.
Prioritization grid for decision-making
Each colour represented a different area of needs. Each of us had 4 votes each for feasibility and impact, and we plotted the ideas that got at least one vote of either aspect.
After a round of brainstorming and voting, the team settled on 6 key areas of redesign to be sketched out.
These features were selected based on our findings of the most popular functions that students used time management tools for, like noting deadlines and listing to-do lists.
We identified 6 features that we think will significantly improve students' time management experience via Quercus. They are: Dashboard (modified), Personal Agenda (new), Ring (new), Time Zone (modified), Course Template (new), Notifications (modified).
To test our solutions, we brought our rough low-fi sketches to 3 actual Quercus users, and asked our participants to carry out specific tasks for each feature. As the users were shown the interfaces for each feature, they were asked to verbalize their thought processes and to instruct the presenter where they would like to click or point the cursor.
We used Google Slides to show our sketches. Although there were limitations to showing a non-functioning prototype, we valued the quick feedback from an early design stage.
First User Testing Results
We observed that the Dashboard feature was the most difficult to navigate, but had potential for integration with the Agenda and Ring feature. We also got feedback about how the signifiers for Notifications and Time Zone could be improved to become more intuitive.
After incorporating feedback from the first lean evaluations, we created our medium-fidelity prototype using Figma.
Time Zone Settings
Time Zone Calendar
Changes Made from the Last Iteration:
Integrating the personal agenda and badge of progress with the Dashboard to increase visibility and accessibility
Designing an all-courses view on the Dashboard with buttons displaying “By Courses/ By Calendar” and “Readings/Assignments” instead of having multiple filters
Improving the signifiers for the “Alert” and “Notification” features to distinguish their functions
Improving the signifiers for Time Zone settings to indicate the application of change across platforms
Four participants were recruited for the Mid-Fi Prototype Testing, 2 of whom also participated in the first lean evaluation. Participants were given access to the Figma prototype, and were asked to share their screens while navigating through a list of tasks.
Second User Testing Results
The majority of the feedback we got was very positive, with a lot of emphasis coming from the ways in which the Dashboard and Course Templates were designed.
However, some areas for improvement are:
Accounting for emotional pressure from progress streak
More appealing graphics
Dedicated button for Personal Agenda feature
Better signifier for when buttons are selected
More clarity with the confirmation of notification alerts
Address UI and aesthetics issues: as mentioned in the previous section, the design of certain buttons and signifiers could be improved to make the experience more intuitive and seamless.
Interviewing professors: since we began the project focusing on improving the student time management experience rather than a Quercus redesign, we didn't account for the professors' point of view in their experience with Quercus.
Time management is personal: every student has their own preferences and working styles. Although our product can't cater to everyone's needs, we still aim to improve Quercus' usability as a mandatory information management system chosen by the university.
Teamwork is gold: I am very grateful for a dependable and capable team that helped me through the journey. Each of us had strengths that complemented one another and made it possible to work well together despite the difficulties of communicating remotely.