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 Improving Learning management system for a great learning experience

Project Background

Canvas is not only a leader in the Learning management system market—it’s “The Learning Platform that Helps Great Education Happen” and also one of Northeastern’s next steps toward digital transformation through online teaching and learning. Initial research, and feedback from the Northeastern community, revealed that Canvas has the ability to support a university of Northeastern’s size and the needs of all of its campuses and learners

Role

Digital Experience Designer 

  • Conduct user research

  • Analyze research data

  • Recommend solutions

Duration

12 weeks 

Team

2 Designers

1 Developer

1 Business Analyst

The Challenge

As the pandemic hit, the university had to​ transition to Canvas a year earlier than planned. Many courses were moved to the Canvas Learning management system as a pilot version, faculty had to learn quickly how to set up the classes and course materials, and students had adapted to it, but students (our primary users ) faced many issues and faculty received a lot complaint emails about their course materials, assignments, etc.

Project Goals

Understand what is the experience of our users with Canvas

Understand difficulties are the users facing

Create a seamless, intuitive experience that is natural and easy for the student to navigate

#1

#2

#3

User Research

We began our user research by sending out a survey to a large audience and then decided to conduct usability tests to better understand the frustrations and goals of the users with the application

Surveying 700 users

40.8%

of the surveyed people mentioned that their work has been hindered due to difficulties/confusion presented by the interface

57.07%

of the surveyed people mentioned that they were not fully satisfied with the Canvas.

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Usability Tests

We wanted to understand what was the reason behind so many users mentioning that they were facing issues canvas. We conducted user testing, We tested five participants for an hour each which gave us first-hand insight into how students navigate and think about the application currently.

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Research Insights

We categorized our research insights into two categories, prioritizing issues that need immediate attention as Primary and Secondary issues.

Primary Issues

Lack of knowledge about Canvas

A lot of students mentioned that their instructors didn’t post the content in the expected locations. They mentioned instructors should learn more about Canvas and how to organize content within it

Lack of Hierarchy

All of the content is styled and presented similarly, so much that students have a difficult time finding assignments, announcements, and updates

File-sharing problems

Students are facing difficulty in finding files and sharing media on Canvas.

Secondary Issues

Unsupported Browsers

Users were not able to access all features of Canvas on different browsers like Safari and Lockdown browsers

Inept Preview mode


The preview mode for submitted files was really small and when users maximize it goes full screen, users did not like this and they mentioned it was better on the blackboard

Design Recommendations

Card sorting & Information Architecture

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We needed to understand how and where the users expect the content to be, for that we conducted open card sorting with three participants. This information helped us in making informed decisions about the kind of content hierarchy that works best our template, along with the appropriate methods of categorization.

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Wireframes & Prototype

Final Designs

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Users can now quickly find the course introduction on the contact information of their instructor without spending much time for searching the information.

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Users can see all the assignments in one place, they can sort it by date or type according to their convenience.

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Users will see everything related to the course materials like a reading list, lecture slides, notes from the instructor under the modules section.

Prototype

To articulate how our recommendations work, I quickly designed and prototyped how the courses should be laid out and where the content should go to provide a great user experience for our users

Results & Impact

We tested the final prototypes with 5 users,  users were truly happy about the experience, they mentioned they are more likely to use the application if the template was used. 

60%

Increase in findability of course content 

95%

are satisfied with the new template

90%

mentioned the experience is smoother and better