As both distance and blended learning gain popularity, and a global pandemic forces remote learning, we look to provide a university experience to those who lack physical presence on campus.
Introducing FORA, a moderated, peer group learning service. Peer groups are formed by matching students together who have used reMark to highlight similar parts of a specific lecture. Students can easily connect with others, exchange knowledge, share discussions, and learn from each other.
As digitization has reached the learning sector, both distance and blended learning have become part of today’s learning experience. Moreover, remote learning has gained new significance during the corona pandemic. With a focus on university students and lecturers, our aim was to design ideal blended learning and teaching experiences, which require new services, software, products and spaces.
In this module we cooperated with two partners:
- Sennheiser, an audio-specialist with strong interests and capabilities in “campus streaming solutions”. As Sennheiser was our main collaboration partner, solutions developed in this course had to have the Sennheiser brand, services and/or products in mind.
- The project NEAR (Neue Arbeitsräume @ ZHdK) develops and tests concepts for the design of spaces that best support the practice and learning of skills for the digital age.
How can we enable collaboration on-site and remotely at ear and eye level?
We started our exploration phase with Desk-based Research, Competitive Research, Interviews, Personas. With the results we gathered, we discovered that online learning faces a huge barrier, which is it cannot provide a full sensory impression for the students. The students can only hear and see each other, and the quality of the audio and the visual is usually affected by a poor connection. For this reason, I suggested we could try different cultural probes to gather possibly inspirational data.
After our first cultural probe which is looked at how people worked inside their home offices versus outside. We discovered several problems of the current digital study are:
- The lack of access to materials outside;
- Students have been finding it difficult to communicate with each other and their lecturers in several ways;
- Students are also missing the social aspect of university.
For the last aspect, I came up the second cultural probe idea, which was an instagram account where students could log in and share their mood with a video, a photo, or gif, meme, etc. This was meant to see how students communicate informally as well.
During the ideation phase I created the meaning frame to give context to the decision making and to help steer the design process. From the meaning frame, we realized that we needed to focus on the pain point of communication, more specifically how it can be improved in various digital environments (e.g. lectures, studying, social events, etc.). To address this problem we came up with a handful of solution frames, such as virtual study room, whisper function, mood communication, etc.
How might we provide more modes of communication in order to address everyone’s learning needs?
After service exploration and service ideation, we began the first implementation loop. The outcome? Prototypes visualising aspects of our service in order to make them testable.
The prototyping phase began after our first presentation with Sennheiser. We received the following feedback from the lecturers and Sennheiser: to focus on how our various modes of communication function in different settings.
We therefore began with user story mapping in order to describe three, different experiences. Moreover, define the appropriate occasions of certain features.
Is there a business value for such service?
At this phase we tested our previously developed service prototypes and use the gained insights to improve our service concept. By using different evaluative method, we tend to find out if there is the motivation for our target user group to use our product therefore generate its business value.
We did an enactment of our service in order to further test our prototype. We pretended as if our service was already up and running.
We used a Google survey to imitate how the service would function. We asked the participants for their contact info, what skills and/or areas they feel confident in, and what skills/areas they would like help in from other students. We then matched our participants together, based on how they had filled the survey out.
During this phase I also conducted a survey to see how students study, both at university and at home. This evaluation helped us gained a few valid insights:
- Conversation flows better in smaller groups, especially online;
- Using breakout rooms on Zoom is “like closing a door behind yourself and enjoying a moment of silence”;
- If the Zoom breakout rooms are used on mobile devices, this allows for a change of environment.