Redesign of a learning management system dashboard.
Prototype and tester
The Canvas Learning Management System (LMS) used the University of Washington currently has an underutilized dashboard. Additionally, Canvas is missing ways for students to prioritize assignments and manage their time. I addressed this question:
How can Canvas's dashboard be improved and support better time management?
For this project, I interviewed Tyler Fox, past director of UW learning systems team as a subject matter expert to learn more about Canvas's functionality from an administrative side. I also interviewed three current users of Canvas to learn about how and why they use Canvas, their time management habits and most importantly, current practices. Interviews gave me qualitative data.
Here is what I learned:
688 respondents reported that their laptop was the most important device for their academic success. This was confirmed in interviews as interviewees used Canvas when completing assignments, a task done exclusively on laptops. This information drove the final design solution of the web-based dashboard redesign.
For reference when developing a solution, I described a typical user journey translated from interviews into a short storyboard. An insight was that students typically only opened Canvas when they were in a position to do schoolwork and they usually had some sense of what was due -- Canvas was more useful in prioritizing and submitting assignments.
From my interviews, I discovered assignment submissions to be a key part of the Canvas experience. I created a user flow of doing this to demonstrate the current process and found the submission process to be quite cumbersome. My eventual design solution cuts out a good deal of this initial process.
First I sketched out broad possible directions, trying to figure out ways of approaching my design. Afterwards, I nailed down specifics using detailed interface sketches.
To arrive at a solution for the dashboard, I sketched out dashboard possible designs. These are some thumbnail explorations.
These sketches are still exploratory and low fidelity, but show use of space and purpose better. I prioritized a laptop or desktop full browser experience due to research findings. I experimented with different layouts and decided to divide space up into three main columns: Calendar and assignments, classes, and a space with a temporary window that could be filled with different information, such as course information and assignment information.
I created a site map to organize information and then interactive wireframes for prototyping in Sketch. Next I put them in InVision for evaluation them using a usability testing protocol I created. My participants were Canvas users, so they were familiar with the current system.
Asking users to evaluate and try and complete tasks and locate information yielded helpful information for continuing the design. I conducted two short rounds of user feedback to see if there were features they were expecting or missing, and if the design read as I intended it to. Below are some highlights of the feedback I received during these two rounds.
The space on the right of the dashboard is used for both assignment information and course information. Here a course has been selected. Always present is the title and details about the course, and the top of the window is accented with the courses color. Users can navigate between home, announcements, discussion and grades. All of these were present in the original design, but my design consolidates and simplifies navigation.
This window shows an assignment. The assignment window shows the name of the assignment, accented with the course's color. Underneath, details about the assignment like due date, percentage of grade and the course it is for are shown. Users can upload and submit files as well as ask questions or post comments about the assignment. Frequently, many students have the same question about an assignment -- this design prevents students asking their peers and instructors individually, wasting time.
This redesign was created to help students manage their priorities, and simplify assignment inspection and class information at a glance. The Canvas LMS dashboard currently provides too little and too poorly organized information, and suffers from the these main issues:
The following features define the revised dashboard:
Within the project timeframe, I was able to successfully solve the problems I set out to solve. However, given more time I would like to further improve the interface design, and use more rounds of testing to further improve functionality.
The way I tested my wireframes provided some usability insights but revealed more about concept validation. More rounds of fidelity usability testing would be important moving forward.