Content Discovery in HMH Ed :: Empowering Teachers through an e-Learning Platform
Empower teachers to deliver impactful lessons to their students by connecting and enhancing the content discovery experience across the Ed e-learning platform.
As a Principal UX Designer, one of my key functions is to facilitate and foster connections between designers on our team in pursuit of a cohesive end-to-end experience for users. Often this is through the continuous evolution and daily reinforcement of our design system in use by our designers and the multiple development scrum teams they support. Strategically, however, this also means engaging with product management and engineering to collaborate on future vision concepts, cross-functional ideation workshops, and advocacy for our users as we work together to turn ideas into actionable design and development backlogs. In other words, I build relationships with colleagues across teams so that business requirements are infused with user-centered thinking and so that our designers have a hand in bringing that thought to life.
With HMH's web-based Ed platform, the idea of making connections is literal, as well. As a company with hundreds of years of history in publishing, the content library at HMH is massive, with hundreds of programs in active use by schools across the country, in addition to multiple supplemental and intervention learning tools that each have their own pools of content, experience models and interfaces. User research has highlighted that the wealth of content is as much a curse as a blessing, as teachers struggle to find the right content for their students quickly and easily.
I co-planned and participated in a design sprint with colleagues across functions as well as across content and platform teams to rapidly ideate concepts that might solve the core problems. An abundance of pain points were identified, and while the team pared them down to focus on the key issues, the resulting solutions combined several ideas. Based on past experience, I recommended collecting the workshop output into a single holistic narrative artifact that could be used for both internal alignment to the vision and, critically, to generate user feedback on the concept. I led the process of scripting and storyboarding the ideas, including illustration of the artifact itself.
As we worked to complete the storyboards, I also engaged with the sprint research team to plan a study with user participants. Our research results validated the core concept while helping the team prioritize the specific features that resonated most highly for rapid design and development. The entire process of idea generation, concept alignment, storyboard creation, research and data reporting took roughly two weeks amidst other ongoing activities.
Meanwhile, Connected Solutions:
Among those other activities was a broad effort to improve integration of HMH's supplemental products, also called "connected solutions," into the Ed platform. As mentioned in the introduction, teachers looking for activities in products such as Waggle and Writable must launch those separate interfaces from the Ed platform and perform all their searching, assignment creation and progress tracking in those other tools. While design ideation was germinating ways to help teachers better manage the wealth of content in Ed, we also recognized that this library should include resources from all the products a school is entitled to.
I led the team--which included members from design, development and product management across the platform and connected solution organizations--through creation of an end-to-end experience flow diagram. The result generated deep discussion about the multiple tasks and touchpoints with which teacher and student users would need to engage, as well as the under-the-hood communication that would be necessary between systems and libraries to make those experiences possible.
Coordinating with product owners, delivery leads, and our designers, I helped construct a plan for taking the work into wireframe and detailed screen design. In conjunction with our user research team, I also guided the planning of a series of research studies that would validate the core concepts of the connected assignment experience and the specific usability of both discover and assignment experience designs. To support these studies, I directed the creation of multiple click-through prototypes which have since also been used to foster internal alignment and clarity between the functional teams.
These upcoming features have been announced to customers with pilot releases planned for later this calendar year.
The specific features that rose from the design sprint study as high priorities are currently under development in close collaboration with our design team. I have been directing our design team through this work, and several key features will be released later this year with a roadmap plan to continue Agile development and rollout in the school year ahead.
In addition, future-focused ideation has begun in which I have been co-facilitating additional workshops and cross-functional concept development. This work picks up the higher-hanging, heavier fruit from early ideation and is unfolding it into a multi-year vision for the Ed platform at large. I'm looking forward to sharing more about this work as we release it to our student and educator users in the months and years to come.