Author: tre

In Profile of a Learner (Part 1), you experienced our redesign of the CCOL Profile. One update shows the achievements each learner completed and highlights in-progress activities for them to continue their aspirations. Another change allows the learner to save their interests to the CCOL Profile. Now fast forward three months, and the tech team has iterated and strengthened the learner’s experience based on those selected interests.

User Experience Research

Digital Youth Network has always maintained a strong product feedback with our users. Mentors, teachers, and students have helped shaped all of our products including iRemix and Chicago City of LearningWe invested some valuable time to understand how learners were using their new profile, and whether it matched up with our pre-launch research. Our assessments came in the form of tools like CrazyEgg and old fashioned f2f user observations.

F2F
Our first research technique for this particular feature consisted of unstructured observations.  These observations were designed to avoid impeding a learner’s workflow. The team wanted to see what the learner’s mental model was when they interacted with a new experience. (sorry about the technical jargon)

The primary outcome was quite positive with many learners successfully self registering to any of our programs and exploring thousands of activities. However, the question of ‘What now?’ or ‘What do I do next?’ did arise several times.

CrazyEgg

As a complimentary tool to our observation, we employed Crazy Egg. This UX tool allows us to see a heat map of what learners were doing when they returned to this page. Many of our call to actions were taken as expected. Learners updated their interests, continued their in-progress online challenges, and registered themselves to activities and badges.

Per CrazyEgg’s site: Crazy Egg is like a pair of x-ray glasses that lets you see exactly what people are doing on your website.

Crazy Egg Heat map of CCOL Profile Image

Crazy Egg Heat map of CCOL Profile

One area stood out: our learners hovered over their interests…quite often. We did not design the interests themselves to be interactive. But the evidence presented on the heat map combined with the user research feedback suggested an opportunity for a focused call to action. The action was to make the interest icons interactive by presenting 3 activities as options for what to do next.

How did we convert research into “impactful value” for our Learners?

In the screenshot below, the application presents three Top Picks based on the learner’s Game Designer interest. These picks will be a mixture of face to face and online activities. With this enhancement, the CCOL Profile allows learners to dive into activities based on the interest they want to pursue right now.

This engagement-based update creates a valuable feedback loop that encourages learners to update their interests when their interest in subjects or professions shift. And because those can change as often as their avatars, CCOL can present new and challenging activities for our Learners to explore.

Top Picks on CCOL Profile Image

Top Picks for Interests on CCOL Profile

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In March, our team introduced 1-Click signup for CPS students. This highly focused feature allows current CPS students to register in CCOL in a single step.

1-Click CPS Signup

Benefit:

Quicker signup allows first time learners to start exploring activities sooner. Quicker exploration allows for simpler CCOL integration into in and out of school learning activities such as Hour of Code. Teachers can introduce CCOL and students will still have time for signup, exploring their interest and claiming their badge.

Impact:

  • Teachers can reliably onboard students at consistent pace.
  • Learners have more time to personalize their profile by setting interests and preferred location.
  • Learners can pivot to discover activities suggested by Top Picks or related to an awarded badge.

1-Click allows students to signup in seconds. We’ll see the impact in the next few months as CPS continues their efforts to increase online learning.

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The Office of Education Technology (OET) recently released its 2016 National Education of Technology plan. First of all, you should get familiar with the Office of EdTech if you aren’t already. Their mission is clear:

…Provide leadership for transforming education through the power of technology. OET develops national educational technology policy and establishes the vision for how technology can be used to support learning.

Secondly, OET highlighted Digital Youth Network’s Chicago City of Learning as an excellent model for connecting schools and community institutions. We’re super excited that progress and impact has been so great that OET wanted to tell everyone.

Interested in reading about the learning vision: OET Learning NETP 2016

Interested in reading the entire report [PDF]:  2016 Technology Plan 

Footnote: Others can and should try to duplicate, replicate, and/or reverse engineer the unprecedented success that DYN has had in Chicago over the last two years. Why? Because youth everywhere benefit from stronger, connected learning and valuable digital badges.

2016 is going to be the best CCOL year ever.

Follow along to see just how amazing it gets.

At Digital Youth Network, we work with dozens of organizations across the nation on numerous campaigns. As DYN has shifted to a more data-centric strategy, the need to monitor the popularity of our campaigns is increasingly important. Sometimes we use Constant Contact. Other times we communicate with end users or stakeholders through one of our numerous platforms. And of course, social media allows links to point to anything from anywhere. This keeps tracking from being simple.

For our Chicago City of Learning (CCOL) messaging campaigns, we created our own url shortener. CCOL is composed of primarily user-generated content from our network of 100 plus organizations and partners. Campaigns point our audience to content such as organization pages, workshops and online challenges.

By creating custom links, message owners can see how many times their link has been clicked. As a content owner, we can see how many times a page has been viewed separately from the incoming links. So we could have a different twitter, handout, and email links that point to the same content. Much simpler to determine what works best for a given audience.

For instance, our most popular link in February so far is a playlist for Digital Learning Day — http://ccol.io/zp8eq

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One of our annual goals is to increase access to opportunities and experiences through technology. Chicago City of Learning does it. iRemix does it. And since 2014, our aptly named Broadening Participation initiative does it. Ugochi Acholonu leads this research initiative, and recently she presented a summary of programmatic efforts in 2015. Here’s a brief look at some of the presentation.

First she talked about a student’s ecosystem of learning pathways:

IMG_20160129_094816

Next up was Hour of Code that DYN hosted at DePaul University. The number of participates and potentially increased interest in coding and designing was substantial.
– 639 Students from Chicago Public Schools
– 412 Badges earned to represent their learning experience.
– 12 different schools participated


Finally connecting Minecraft to deeper connected learning. While kids are building and designing, they are reaching achievements. The BP team has designed some achievements to translate into badges to mark important skill accomplishments. Using an existing framework like Minecraft to add custom achievements and badges is our next step for connecting outside of school activities to highlight their interests and skill sets inside of school.

In 2016 badges earned in our Minecraft universe will get pushed to Chicago City of Learning. This will allows students to see their programs and skills learned and to share those accomplishments with mentors, parents, teachers and employers.

20160129_093340

 

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Engagement is important for any platform. Understanding when and how valuable users engage your product separates good and bad user experiences. CCOL is a multi-sided platform — three or more user types engage our platform in order to accomplish one or more goals.

To make the DYN team’s collective lives easier, I integrated a webhook that sends a message to a Slack channel whenever an organization performs a valuable action in CCOL. For example, if an org adds a new program for the upcoming quarter, the platform alerts our team. Of course, that’s nice, but what’s the impact?

Impact
  • From there the CCOL Support Crew will reach out to see if they need help with the next expected steps including digital badge creation.
  • And we can discover if there were any issues and create a valuable feedback loop between development and social practices.
  • And our customer experience aka marketing team can thank them for contributing more learning experiences for the youth of Chicago.
  • We can even automagically tweet out that program to everyone or send an SMS to all teens that have expressed interest in this type of program.

Just from pushing data and activity forward to the right (slack) channels. Impact.

 

The Chicago City of Learning started with complex but connected objectives. These objectives included building a platform that enabled every youth organization in Chicago to add their programming, creating a framework for identifying and badging skills in those programs, and designing an exploration interface for parents and youth to find programs to fit their schedule, skills, and interests.

This alone would make two valuable apps.

But another beneficial need pushed to the forefront once these features meshed: Highlighting the learner’s activities and skills. Helping the learner explore their interests with pathways.

Appropriately, we built CCOL for the learner with community organizations as the primary opportunity broker. The tech team waited to iterate on the learner profile design. After so many ambitious organizations added over 17k programs and learners earned over 130k badges, the design team shifted focus to redesign the two year old user experience of the learner’s profile.

First requirement: Recommend activities based on their interestsMy_Profile

We had our work cut out for us. DYN Tech started simple. Get each student’s interest with a visual icon-based selection process. These interests came from our ground team that works with teens in the classroom and in afterschool programs.

The images had to convey more than just the simple label beneath it. They each had to capture our learner’s imagination and hopefully spark their interest.

We didn’t stop with three interests. By designing a low friction process, we hoped our learners would be charitable and provide roles that captured their future interests as well. Roles are notoriously difficult because teens don’t always know what they want to be…when they “grow up.”  However the process is quick enough that they can (and do) update it every time they change their mind. And just like that CCOL offers recommendations based on those selections.

What I Like / Want

Second requirement: Show the skills and dispositions young people have developed in and out of school.

Things I’ve completed. For our learners, we display badges they earned from our organization’s programs and our platform’s online challenges. As part of identifying their skills and dispositions, we show the learner programs or events they have attended. Now our users have a repository of things they have done or earned. The landscape of learning is evolving and digital badges will play a big role in the documentation of that learning.

What I’m Working On. Our profile’s true call to action is nudging the learner to continue working on their skills. If a learner bookmarks a challenge, we have a card to remind them when they come back. Same reminder for a started challenge. If our learner starts a self-paced challenge but leaves before they complete it, we’ll add that to the Working On section as well.

Our design increases the visibility of activities they want to do or started but didn’t finish. Finish these and our design shines light on your accomplishments which usually result in digital badges.

Big step yet this is only step 1. Part 2 – engaged recommendations.

 

 

The Destination Chicago pop-up shop traveled around the city to provide youth more opportunities.

 

For nearly 10 years, the Digital Youth Network has provided Chicago’s under-resourced youth access to the ever-evolving array of tools and technology needed to be successful in today’s educational and professional world. Founded by DePaul’s Nichole Pinkard, associate professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media, the organization has gained traction over the last few years through successful outcomes, growing programs and funding from the MacArthur Foundation. Read on to learn just some of the ways the organization is making a difference.

Read the full story on Depaul’s Newline

 

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