Enabling a boost in skills in class, wins best in class

The Story

Northwest Educational Association (NWEA) provides educational assessment to roughly half of students across the United States. NWEA wanted to extend their product development with a new tool for monitoring student progress in the classroom. They needed the user interface to be easy to interpret, non-intrusive and engaging for both students and teachers. In addition building and district administrators needed to be able to interpret the data to make meaningful decisions.

The Challenge​

NWEA wanted some help with the wireframes they were developing. They recognized they did not have the expertise internally to get the best results from their usability and UX design initiative. The team was not familiar with User Centered Design but was very eager to quickly learn how to apply usability best practices.

The Agile development team was hungry to get their hands dirty quickly.

The Turning Point​

To complement the team’s early foray into UX, Experience Dynamics decided to front-load the Interaction Design (Rapid UI prototyping) workshops. We started out with a ‘Design Studio’ (Lean UX collaborative prototyping session). Many great ideas came out of this initial session.

We quickly followed the first workshop with field studies, visits to classrooms around the country. The data was fed back to the NWEA development team. Developers started thinking differently about requirements and started demanding that users be included in the dev process. The start of a UX culture was born.

The Execution

Having gained valuable insights from educators, we were able to continue refining the wireframe (design concepts) with specific UX requirements. Several more Design Studio sessions were held where field data and personas helped focus, align and strengthen the UI concepts. Without the in-depth ethnographic field data, the case for one UI direction over another would have been tricky. For example, gamification had been approached in the past, but Experience Dynamics was able to advocate for appropriate, deliberate and sensible game mechanics to enhance user engagement.

The Evidence

This product won ‘Best in Show’ for ease of use and innovation. Without a careful human-centered design approach, careful application of gamification, and close collaboration with NWEA, this would have been impossible.

I was impressed with the quality of the work produced by Frank and his team throughout the project. The insights that Frank gained from user field studies helped to change our thinking about what our users needed and helped us to build the best possible product. -Scott Dietrich, Engineering Manager, NWEA

The Result

Concepts were tested with teachers and students. Overall, users loved the direction, layout, and gamification interfaces. Students loved the avatars, missions, and rewards, and that was a good thing because teachers told us during the early interviews that students’ reactions would determine their adoption. A few months from launch, NWEA was awarded Best in Show by Tech & Learning magazine. The award recognizes the most promising products from the 2015 International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) conference, an annual showcase for cutting-edge instructional technologies. The award is based on overall quality, effectiveness, ease of use, and creative use of technology.

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