Lead UX Designer
since June 2018
Se Eun Park
CS Academy is an world-class, interactive high school programming and computer science curriculum that bridges the gap between the fun, engaging K-8 resources and rigorous AP CS courses. Microsoft TEALS has adopted this curriculum as part of their Intro to Computer Science offering.
Students learn through interactive notes and over 250 coding exercises, ranging from drawings to animated games!
As the lead UX designer, I prioritize short-term goals within long-term goals through research, feedback, and business needs. From site visits, teacher interviews, and competitive analyses to surveys, design sprints, and affinity diagrams, I lead the team in discovering and tackling problems. We design iteratively, test out multiple designs, and stay in check with feasibility.
Students don't read. This was my first challenge in joining the team. I started out by asking two questions:
Why aren't students reading?
What if students don't have to read?
Understanding why students weren't reading and recognizing that reading is only a means to an end, I redesigned how students approach problem solving. I sketched out user journeys and created low to high fidelity prototypes to test with potential users and present to the rest of the team.
The final design was an interactive checklist, which makes understanding the problem more digestible, engaging, and fun. It also ties in closely with the programming test cases, which students use to debug their code.
Amidst redesigning the exercise experience, I discovered that confusing microinteractions in the exercises were taking away from students' problem solving and learning. I fleshed out the use cases, edge cases, and visual language that these contexts could translate to.
We discovered that teachers were not using a lot of the resources in the platform. Through our research, we found that some tools were irrelevant to teacher needs, possessed too high of a learning curve, or were so lost in the weeds that our teachers couldn't discover them. We wanted to redesign this teacher experience.
One of the biggest pain points was confusing navigation and congested content. Our work involved reworking the site taxonomy, cleaning up content, and improving information hierarchy.
How can we improve our visual language and design more efficiently?
We have been redesigning the design system not just for our users but for the team and the long-term vision of CMU CS Academy. While we have many foundational elements currently in flow, we are evolving to refine and flesh out the system further.
How can we improve on the accessibility of our platform?
People have different mental models, modes of learning, and disabilities when it comes to problem solving. We are pursuing a more personalized approach towards coding exercises. Modular coding environments perhaps?
How can we keep teachers more informed?
Teachers need to keep up with a lot of things—quizzes, grades, progress, deadlines, etc. While teachers initially expressed an interest in receiving notifications, we quickly realized that people don't always want what they say they want. This is a problem of awareness and a notifications feature isn't necessarily the answer.
How can we reduce the learning curve?
CS Academy has a plethora of teaching and learning resources, including a 24/7 Q&A support system. However, these resources can be quite dispersed, causing users to lose the right information at the right time. How can we design the experience to better onboard teachers and students?
How can we improve the onboarding experience for new CMU CS Academy team members?
It can be difficult to bring important tacit knowledge to the forefront and bring new team members up to speed. What do they need to know? Who can they communicate with when? How can we integrate them into the culture?
My role as UX Design Lead has given me the opportunity to learn and grow across so many disciplines. With a new metrics team, I'm excited to use more quantiative data to inform UX Design, and vise versa.
One of my favorite things about working for CS Academy is seeing the excitement and creativity students bring to learning and coding from scratch. Seeing how the course personalizes learning for students and transforms the role of the teacher from a deliverer of knowledge to a debugger and guide, is truly rewarding.