Our solution focused on the initial scaffolding based on our learning framework, which is the onboarding stage to support learners prepare an effective plan for pursuing long-term goals.
Welcome to Odyssey, a desktop app that guides learners to pursue long-term skill development goals in a relaxed, encouraging environment. Tori the tortoise, our wise assistant, is here to help anytime.
Tori is here to provide definitions, examples, and advice whenever learners need help during the onboarding process.
Once learners fill in their long-term goal, they are prompted with a brief self reflection where we ask them to imagine their future selves. The purpose of this step is to increase motivation by priming users to think about what values this goal will bring, and what excites them to pursue this.
We then introduce a guided, step-by-step process of breaking down the long term goal into milestones and tasks. Milestones are measurable, intermediate actions that need to be taken in order to achieve the ultimate goal. The smaller tasks associated within each milestone are represented as flowers, where each petal indicates one practice session. Eventually as learners document their work, flowers will bloom, a visual indicator of their progress.
After learners plan their itinerary, they build a support system prompted through self reflections. Here, learners may note any prior concerns they have, but also potential ways to resolve them. The aim was to provide emotional scaffolding around the most overwhelming area of the learning journey, which is often when learners face setback.
Finally, we offer the opportunity to sync their itinerary with Google Calendar. Odyssey may determine when and how the long-term goal practices may fit into users' everyday schedule.
Ultimately, the main dashboard will surface once onboarding is complete. The daily view focuses on their current milestone and task, where learners document their practice sessions; the color and size of the petals correlate with the length and quality of practice. Conversely, the map view presents a full depiction of the journey and how far they have progressed.
Delving into the broad topic of lifelong learning, our group began gathering diverse questions and mapping them into high-level topics. We were initially curious about how people discover their interests and how they might sustain their learning through different strategies like self-discipline.
We conducted mapping exercises to better understand the hopes and fears among different stakeholder groups: pre-college students, higher education students, and adults out of school. These groups provided insight on how learning changes with and without guided learning in educational institutions.
We identified common values and underlying themes to our stakeholders’ learning, mapping them into points of opposition and affinity. While this helped us contextualize the topic, it also generated questions for informal interviews later on, especially around stakeholders’ perceptions of their own learning and motivating factors.
To better understand learners’ relationship with their personal interests, we conducted interviews with seven CMU students, a mix of undergrad and grad. We realized the need to better define “personal interest,” as it posed different values, ranging from leisure to extra-curricular goals. Most students easily pursued leisure activities, as mental rest were essential to get through the everyday. On the other hand, skill-development goals outside of prioritized schedule were more challenging to achieve.
Based on the interview results, we identified learning gaps, which were coupled with associated preferred states. We then began brainstorming possible ways to bridge the gaps (green post-its). Through this early process, we realized we now needed more information on what gaps were more critical compared to others.
To further define our research question and specify learning gaps, we conducted surveys on 27 CMU students. The results were insightful as they pointed out which areas students were most confident or needed help with in the process of skill development.
Based on the interview and survey results, we developed a unique persona as a starting point for brainstorming solutions around her needs and frustrations.
Throughout the project, the greatest challenge was developing a research question that targeted a clear problem space. Based on the user research outcomes, we made several pivots that effectively narrowed our direction that delineated a clear intervention point.
In order to design an effective learning platform, we needed to study the mechanisms and pschology behind how learners learn. We referred to existing theories by Dirksen and McCarthy, and eventually we formulated our own framework that would become the backbone of our solution.
Background research on existing tools provided insights into various learning mechanisms from gamification to habit tracking. While most platforms already provided structured guidance, they often lacked a system for bringing users back into the platform when they face learning setbacks.
To better picture the overall experience of our solution, I formulated a mental model of the learner's journey through onboarding, including specific learning moments and support mechanisms for overcoming barriers.
Keeping in mind of the key learning points that we hoped to relay, we began to iterate on wireframes from low fi to the mid fi version. It was helpful to first focus primarily on content flow with only words, carefully considering how we hope to relay the journey metaphor and prime users to gain the mindset for upcoming reflective process. Going through rounds of group discussions and revisions, we realized we had several knowledge gaps pertaining to how clear and understandable our instructions were in each step.
Despite the concern that physical prototypes may confuse our users due to the diverse assets, our testing session ran smoothly. Users were able to flexibly interact with assets and transfer post-it notes from one page to another, and focus solely each page without external digital distractions. We gathered insights by observing participants behaviors and listening to their decision making for each stage.
Overall, our prototyping session ran smoothly. It was very successful, as we were able to gather diverse insights just by observing participants’ behaviors and the questions they raised during our prototype run-through. We also rediscovered the power of physical prototyping as it prompted users to flexibly interact with assets and transfer post-it notes from one page to another, while allowing them to focus solely each page without external digital distractions.
Our group had a difficult time tackling the complex, ambiguous, and meta topic of lifelong learning. A surprising (and pivotal) insight we learned from the project was that self-development and lifelong learning is something that people already want to do— we didn’t have to justify why lifelong learning was important. However, a crucial learning gap we attempted to fill was how people could make time, re-prioritize, or re-contextualize what their long-term skill goal was. How could we design and tell a story to reframe a goal to be achievable? Our team was very inspired to address this problem knowing that achieving something important can be an empowering positive feedback loop that leads to greater self-confidence, self-efficacy, and a stronger sense of identity.
This narrowed problem was very ambitious. However, through weeks of blockbusting, sketching, conceptualizing, and learning about learning models in motivation, scaffolding, challenge vs. ability, and chunking, we were equipped with the tools needed to address it. Research helped a lot in validating and clarifying a lot of our findings so we could narrow down on a final solution. To our undergraduate members of our group, visual design came much later in the process than what was “comfortable.” However, much of the visual design process felt streamlined having the learning models to ground the project. In all, our group learned a lot about trusting the process, delegating to peoples’ strengths, and the grand topic of lifelong learning through Odyssey.