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Advancing Online Education in Singapore: A Northell Case Study

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@northellNorthell

We design, develop, and maintain B2B/B2C companies throughout their business journeys.

Modern education is becoming more and more digitized: while even ten years ago notebooks and printed materials were necessary for studying, all you need today is a laptop and an Internet connection. Various classroom management systems are now used for the education of all levels, from primary schools to corporate training. It is a sure way to make the learning process more efficient —  for example, taking quizzes and tests online helps automate grading and provide immediate access to the student’s performance. 

With such convenience, it’s no wonder that learning management systems are on the rise. From universal solutions, such as Canvas and Blackboard, to more niche platforms that target specific tasks or subjects, this software becomes necessary for many institutions. Still, according to Capterra’s research, nearly 40% of K-12 users say their school has had their LMS for less than a year. This data clearly demonstrates that there is a great need for further implementation of such systems in education.

At Northell, we had a chance to contribute to making the learning process simpler and more accessible both for teachers and students. Our team worked on redesigning a Singaporian platform Smartjen — a solution that is, first of all, aimed at simplifying worksheet preparation but includes many other useful features.

SmartJen: a personalized education system for facilitating effective learning.

SmartJen is a classroom management software that helps teachers save time preparing for the classes while making the learning process more organized and fun. This platform allows educators to manage student groups, create, assign, and grade tasks, give feedback, and control the progress. At the same time, students can track and complete assignments as well as keep in touch with the teacher. 

SmartJen’s main feature is the worksheet generator. The teacher can choose a subject, topic, and level to get a set of questions. Of course, it is also possible to compose new questions and remove the irrelevant ones. No need to explain how much more effective planning the lessons and exams can be with such a tool. 

Who can use this platform? 

Educators for saving time organizing tests and quizzes.  Students for engaging in lessons and keeping in touch with a teacher.  Parents for having access to the class information, such as assignments and grades.

Despite the main focus being on the worksheet generator, SmartJen is a fully functioning class management system. Let’s take a look at some of the features that make SmartJen a great solution both for teachers and students:

Creating and customizing worksheets

Educators can choose questions from SmartJen’s bank or make their own. There are fully customizable worksheet templates.

Assigning worksheets

The platform functions as a stand-alone solution; there is no need to print the worksheets or use email to distribute them. Students can access and complete the tasks on the platform.

Personalization

While there are ready-made templates to save time making them from scratch, a teacher can adapt worksheets to suit each class or student’s needs. In this way, the test’s structure and content match the students’ knowledge level.

Assessment

The platform features auto-marking. Educators can additionally send feedback in any form they prefer, be it a text message, audio, or video. 

Messenger

It is easy to ask questions and give clarifications with no need to use outside messengers.

Performance pages

The results of tests are compiled into performance reports for each student and the class as a whole. They are grouped by the worksheet, topic, and ability. It is a simple way to track students’ progress.

Creating a Classroom Management Platform: 4 Considerations for an Excellent Solution

SmartJen contacted us as they needed a platform redesign and more advanced features. It isn’t a standard platform: SmartJen, first of all, functions as a worksheet generator, which adds some peculiarities to the way it is organized. With this in mind, we started analyzing the existing solution to suggest some improvements. Based on our experience, we believe that to make any solution truly useful, it is crucial to dedicate enough time to each of the following aspects:

1.  Know your user

First off, we conducted user interviews. Any kind of product should be helpful for the users, so it is critical to know their requests and problems. As SmartJen was already a working service, we had a perfect opportunity to find out some pros and cons of this software. 

Many businesses might underestimate this step, and they clearly shouldn’t. User interviews often give the most useful insights for product development. They reveal frustrations that the current users might and give the company a ground for improvements. For a person familiar with a specific platform, its structure might seem obvious, but for the newcomers, a confusing organization and complexity can be a reason to abandon it.

During SmartJen user interviews, we talked with educators, students, and parents. Despite the differences in age and platform’s perspective, the interviewees mentioned the same requests:

Adding some gamification elements: the platform seemed too plain   Offering a more diverse range of worksheet features

We took this feedback into account while drafting SmartJen’s new structure. For example, now the platform features a leadership board and an option to choose various characters for one’s profile picture — gamification in action!

2.  Know your field and competitor

After finding out what exactly the users are looking for in the platform, it’s time to see how SmartJen fits the learning management software market. Market research helps find out what similar solutions offer and, as a result, determine competitive advantage. 

Based on the collected information, we made user personas: hypothetical customers. This method helps organize and visualize the information we gathered during our research and user interviews. As was mentioned above, there are three types of users who might access the platform: teachers, students, and parents. It is crucial to clearly establish the requests each of these groups might have. With this in mind, we created user journeys — chains of steps that users take on the platform.

Our team also dedicated time to evaluating SmartJen’s business logic. It allowed us to assess the platform’s current functioning and see how our suggestions might suit the existing architecture.

3.  Plan carefully

When we had all the information we needed, it was time for some actions. Starting out with the full scope UX/UI solutions is not the best idea: there might be some alterations in the process. That’s why we began with prototypes focusing on both teacher’s and student’s perspectives. 

We made high-level wireframes to demonstrate how we see all the platform’s features and their organization. Such an approach gives the design and development teams a clearer view of the project. Moreover, it provides the clients the possibility to look at the results in the early stages and give their feedback. 

As one of our primary tasks was to add some advanced features, it was essential to stay in touch with the SmartJen’s team so that they would voice their opinion on our ideas. Wireframes made it possible to adjust the solution as we worked on it.

4.  Implement using best practices

The final step of our process: the very UX/UI design. We worked on the designs having in mind that SmartJen will be used both by adults and children, so it is necessary to make the website easy to navigate even for the youngest users. Building a child-friendly solution also means paying special attention to the visual styling. It should be equally pleasing to all age groups.

We also kept in touch with the SmartJen’s team to provide assistance with the development. For example, we created some additional designs to make the development process more straightforward. 

Building an intelligent learning platform: how to make studying effective and fun?

UX/UI is a tool that transforms the idea of comfortable learning into a tangible solution. Making eLearning accessible and understandable for various age groups was our primary task in this project. While working on SmartJen, our team made sure that the platform has:

  1. Consistent and simple enough layout 
  2. Visuals that are appealing to all age groups
  3.  Intuitive navigation 
  4. Responsive design

All these features encourage teachers and students to use the platform and make it a preference over some other services or creating worksheets from scratch.

Now, the world needs solutions like SmartJen more than ever: learning process organization is going through transformations, and online learning is currently the only choice for many institutions. SmartJen can be great both for in-class and remote learning: it has all the features not only for preparing worksheets but also for organizing the learning process and communication. 

Various learning management systems will likely become an integral part of studying, and students won’t need their print textbooks ever again. It shouldn’t come as a surprise considering how such platforms simplify learning organization. As for now, we can see a clear tendency — classroom management software is used in more and more classrooms all over the world. 

Have an idea of the next great education tool? We can bring it into reality!

Also published on: https://northell.design/blog/how-northell-contributed-to-advancing-online-education-in-singapore/

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@northellNorthell

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We design, develop, and maintain B2B/B2C companies throughout their business journeys.

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