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Design for Distance Learning

01 motivation

Like most parents, educators, and students, I was not prepared in the slightest for the changes that distance learning brought. Experiencing it for myself and through my child made me realize there were so many design ideas to explore that I've spent the last few months doing so.


02 chatbot teacher aide

wandering attention

Children's attention spans are short

children will listen

Children will listen to stories and engage with a simple bot

keep it honest

Children know it's not human; that's part of both the fun and the fear


Undertaking some quick design research with 10 kids age 6-10, I quickly built a bot using Dialogflow and Alexa inspired somewhat by Amazon Stories via Alexa and Duolingo Stories to engage kids by telling them about various facts from Wikipedia pages.  

03 the whole ecosystem

I wanted to consider the whole experience for parents and teachers as the 2020-21 school year began and we all had to navigate another year with LMS (learning management system) tools that were developed to be a supplement to classroom learning.


My hypothesis was that features could make a world of difference.  What I quickly learned was what many people forget: schools are a world unto themselves that go far beyond education.  Teachers play the roles of educator, mentor, social workers, mediator, and so much more.  However, now that they are no longer the ones in direct contact with students, the burden of most education now falls on the parents directly. 


04 user research

Researching parents/guardians and teachers during this time is challenging because of how overwhelmed both sets of users are during this time. So far, I have interviewed three parents of elementary school age children and three teachers. I have additionally conducted some research via Twitter - this is NOT meant to be exhaustive, merely to give some insight into what teachers and parents are saying about their day-to-day experiences in distance learning.

Based on this, I created two very quick personas: these are works in progress as is this project currently. 

Mercedes San Miguel

Age: 36

Teaches: 5th grade English

Like all teachers, Mercedes pushes for her students to excel. However, she spends much time worrying if her students have internet access, her students aren't learning from each other in an online platform as they would in a classroom, and she finds the platform she's using too brittle for her changing needs as a teacher in distance learning


Meryem Bouziane

Age: 48

Household Income: ~$110,000/year

Meryem is married and she and her husband have a 15 year old and an 8 year old. Managing her 8 year old's education is draining her - she has to monitor them during class time, keep their homework assignments straight, and help her child with her difficult subject of math. Meryem does not have help from her husband, so she is often up all night completing her own work.


05 current status

Currently, looking at what small changes could be made to practices or technology to accomplish small changes in the quality of life for the supporting adults during distance learning, along with speculative ideas on how to improve student engagement and interaction. 

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