Udacity Classroom Experience
Udacity is the place to learn from world-class leaders in the tech industry, gain new skills, and up-level your career in bleeding edge tech categories.
In early 2016, we had seen huge growth and interest in all areas, due to new Nanodegree programs. While we were creating great content, the platform was lagging behind.
This project started out with early assumptions on how to improve the classroom experience making it a more exciting, enjoyable, and successful experience for students. Ultimately we wanted to increase the number of students visiting the classroom and graduating. After multiple rounds of user testing, we launched a v1 of the designs to a single Nanodegree Program, Self-Driving Car. We saw immense success along with some issues as well. This was a key inflection point for us as we saw the "term" model was extremely successful and the catalyst to moving forward with a complete rollout.
As lead designer, I spear-headed the direction of the signed-in experience complete overhaul. To get traction I had to get buy-in from key leadership across the board, partnering with product, engineering, content, and design. While I lead the project, it was the smart people around me that got the project across the finish line successfully.
This project had plenty of technical challenges as there were already two versions of the codebase and plenty of technical debt.
While I designed for best case scenario for program content, I had to partner closely with content to bring a cohesive experience for all Nanodegree programs and courses.
1) Update styling to be aligned with marketing refresh.
2) Resolve technical debt with multiple code-bases.
3) Simplify student ux and learning path to graduation.
4) Bring focus to student progress & task at hand
With a content structure that a Nanodegree is comprised of parts which contains modules, which contain lessons, which contain concepts, it was inevitable there would be issues especially if UX reflects the content structure closely.
Students were having to go through multiple layers to get to their learning material.
Student Orientation /Syllabus
We want the student to feel confident about their program in terms of the actual content they'll be learning, key deadlines and projects, and general expectations around time commitment.
We do this be first introducing basic UI updates, and then giving the bird's eye view of their program in a syllabus which is always accessible at the top of their left panel.
Shifting the student focus to the task at-hand is key to student progress and success. This was achieved by always bringing the student's current lesson into view and moving the parts navigation to a tertiary level (in the sidebar). We also remove the module grouping of lessons, as it was something we found wasn't critical to the student's experience.
We also make the syllabus much more visually exciting by giving the students a hint of what they'll be learning in each lesson card.
We address the issue of students having a lack of orientation or understanding about their progress at the granular level in a few ways.
1) Clear lesson progress indicators on each card along with part progress in the sidebar.
2) Project review status system telling students about key milestones.
Once the student is in "learning mode", we want the student to feel focused and distraction free from the rest of their Udacity experience. We do this by making it all about the content with unique layouts for articles, video, quizes, and projects. Navigation is secondary and hidden by default as the student is auto-advanced through the lesson.
Design System Foundation
From this exercise, I also lead our first design system. While it was just the foundation, it was the start of a larger design systems team running with it to working react components across platforms.
Conclusion and Next Steps
After 6 months of hard work, the redesigned classroom launched to all Udacity students. With some bumps in the road, we saw an increase in student enrollments, time in classroom, and graduations.
We see this project as a big step forward with some key learnings. We've since made further improvements around skills and will be continuing to build out a dashboard for progress and motivation for the ecosystem as a whole.