This is a project I worked on as Design Lead at Seiue, a Beijing-based educational technology startup, prior to coming to CMU. In 8 months we designed and implemented an integrated web-based management system for leading local high schools.
The Affiliated High School of Peking University (Bei Da Fu Zhong, BDFZ) is a leading high school in Beijing. It is also one of the pioneers of a nation-wide educational reform that underlines individuality. This reform will introduce course selection, diversified assessment methods and peer learning to public high schools, most of whose students currently follow unified assigned schedules, are assessed only by national standardized tests, and learn only through the one-way input from teachers.
Such a reform poses significant challenges to high school management. Seiue recognized this market opportunity and worked closely with BDFZ to explore how technology can assist this new mode of management and inspire new, creative ways of learning.
We identified three key stakeholders: students, teachers and school administrators. We talked with users from all three groups in BDFZ to understand their workflows and obstacles. We focused on how information flowed in a high school and how the reform was changing the dynamics between stakeholders. We were also interested in how they perform specific tasks with existing IT systems, in order to identify the opportunities for improvement.
Some of the key insights from the research include:
Based on the insights above, our vision is to build a system that provides seamless integration of learning, teaching, and school management. The system should be easy-to-use for students, teachers, and school administrators. It should be web-based to ensure maximum cross-platform compatibility.
We made prototypes in various fidelity levels, from rough models showing basic page layout and links to comprehensive wireframes showing every interaction details. We iterated our design based on user feedback for several rounds.
The final design features different functionalities and interfaces for three different user roles: students, teachers and administrators.
For students Chalk is a tool to manage their school life in one place. Students can select and register for classes, access class materials and interact with teachers and peers. They can also view their grades and each grade component for classes.
For teachers Chalk is a tool to easily handle everything regarding his/her course, including choosing the right students, taking attendance, distributing class materials, and giving grades.
For school administrators the most important functions are the management of courses and users. They are responsible to maintain a course inventory of the school, initiate and manage course selection, and supervise the attendance of every class each day. They would also have access to the profiles and schedules of all students and teachers.
Since its launching in November 2014, BDFZ has been using chalk for more than one year (4 quarters) and it has been regularly updated. Other leading local high schools such as Bayi High School also started to adopt this system.
Currently Seiue is working on improving Chalk and developing new social learning platforms to support and inspire high school education reforms. A new round of user research and prototyping is underway.
Thanks for reading!