MyCourses - helping students organize and achieve

Redesigning MyCourses, a course management platform used by our college that allows students to manage classes, access material, and submit school work.

Estimated reading time: 5 mins

College is a stressful time, especially for the smart kids at here at the Rochester Institute of Technology. MyCourses is supposed to make student's lives easier but currently, it’s inconsistent, hard to use, and even harder to learn,

“It’s a pain find anything.”

“Lack of consistency is frustrating”

“Lack of visual hierarchy and all flat design is stupid.”

“Each professor uses it differently, keeping track of things is hard.”

Students didn’t need another barrier to schoolwork outside of the classroom. They needed something that would serve them what they needed most and get out of the way.

User Research

Through surveys, 1-on-1 interviews, and screen recordings I started identifying pain points, frictional processes, and everyday frustrations.

Observing user complete task in current implementation.Observing user complete task in current implementation.
Observing user complete task in current implementation.


Users do a few things, a lot

Submitting work, checking grades, or viewing course materials were all daily processes.

The online content experience is soul-sucking

Users aren’t notified when new content is added. The PDF viewer is inaccessible. Reading pages of online content alone is tough.

Students forget.

With no aggregate view to see assignments, students are held responsible to track multiple class “pages” with varying degress of usage dependent on the professor.

User Stories

Based on the feedback and insights gained through research, I was able to categorize users into a few groups.

How do we show students what they need to see?

Currently, MyCourses most used features are buried and scattered in the hierarchy of the platform.

Checking grades: 3 clicks, 3 pages

Finding a syllabus: 4 clicks, 3 pages

Submitting work: 10 clicks, 4 pages

By slimming down the upload process and bringing scannable information for each class to the dashboard, users can scan faster, act quicker, and spend less time on the platform.

Below is a modal concept for work submission, accessible from anywhere in MyCourses, paring a 10-click process down to three.

Scannable cards present students with a quick status report for the class.Scannable cards present students with a quick status report for the class.
Scannable cards present students with a quick status report for the class.
How do we keep students engaged online?

Extensive reading on a screen sucks, especially with a lackluster PDF viewer. When students read uploaded content, they’re learning alone. By designing things like readability controls, social commenting, and shared highlights, students can learn together, outside of the classroom, at any time of day.

PDF controls are simple and shown firstPDF controls are simple and shown first
PDF controls are simple and shown first
How do we help students manage assignments?

There’s no easy way to assign work on MyCourses. As a result, professors all tend to do it differently. Because of this lack in consistency, deadlines and requirements are scattered, making them tough to find, and even tougher to manage. Providing a to-do list feature let’s professors populate assignments and requirements in an easy and consistent way and allows students taking multiple classes to reference one source of information, instead of many.

Survey says…Survey says…
Survey says…

The nature of checking a to-do list is different than submitting work or accessing content. It’s quicker, requires less involved interaction, but has a higher frequency of use. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to explore myCourses most hated quality; the mobile experience.

Mobile Exploration

Here, I’m trying to compile multiple streams of information (Classes, Schedule, and Assignments) into one browsable “status report”. The goal of this prototype was to show how a student may keep tasks organized on-the-go.

One feature I designed in this version was the ability to make nested tasks or subtasks. Adding another layer of depth allows for more specific action items or perquisites to be completed before checking off the overarching task. Clearer assignments > more consistent submissions > less work for professors.

I spent some time figuring how to best communicate subtasks completion before I settled on a final animation.

Incremental task completion
Showing and Telling

Putting some of the final prototypes in the hands of students was rewarding. A quick guerilla testing sessions helped me fix a couple common sense errors in my mobile task flow.

Project Takeaways

Articulating problems is half the battle

Translating pain points into goals that addressed them directly was tough, but rewarding. Listening to the way students student spoke about pain points helped me understand what they were expecting when myCourses threw them a curveball.

People adapt differently

When it comes to bad software, everyone adapts differently. Students had their own workarounds for the current version, and seeing this in screen recording session informed my redesign.

Being a target user means regulating biases

Even though I was a student, I couldn’t take my assessments, my problems, as gospel. Students had problems outside my own, ones that affected my decision down the line.