Student Learning Assessment

Home page of assessment application saying two assessments

Overview

The Student Learning Assessment (SLA) was a new online provincial assessment tool that provided formative assessments to help teachers identify the strengths and areas of growth of each individual student.

This was a pilot project starting with grade 3 students (SLA3) aimed at replacing the year-end paper-based assessments called the Provincial Achievement Tests. After the grade 3 pilot, this assessment model was planned to be rolled out to grade 6 and 9 students.

Team / Role

Shortly after a proof of concept of the application had been approved I was brought onto the project as the only UX designer. My role was to take the existing proof of concept and develop it into a student and teacher focused application.

Our team worked in an agile development methodology with weekly sprints. The core product team had five developers, one QA tester, one UX designer (myself), a project manager, and a product owner.

Design Process

Building off the proof of concept, I first developed a prototype of a new teacher dashboard based on some fundamental business requirements. I tested this prototype at a local school to see if the conceptual model of the application made sense for teachers since this type of assessment had never been used in their classrooms before. From these sessions, I developed confidence in my design direction and continued to develop the application based on the weekly sprint user stories prioritized by the product owner.

Sketches showing design layout
Sketches from various points in my design process

Design for Students

The design for the student application and tests (called testlets) needed to be clear, simple, and engaging since the pilot was for grade 3 students. It was extremely important that the assessment was not impacted by poor design. The test needed to assess the student, not their digital literacy. I worked with an illustrator to develop a Yeti character that would guide students throughout the tests, telling them how to start, when they skipped a question, and when they finished.

A first version of the testlets were tested at a school in central Alberta. It was enlightening watching young children struggling with their mousing skills and reiterated the importance of clear design and grade-appropriate language.

french language test for students
Example of student test design for French Literacy

Design for Teachers

The design of the teacher application was developed over a six month period leading up to the first first pilot.

process diagram showing assessment registration

The first pilot year was made optional for schools and I was able to sit in on one classroom for that first year and observe the teacher administering the assessment to the students.

Home page of assessment application saying two assessments
Teacher application for the first pilot year

After the first pilot year, I continued to develop the features and requirements as prioritized by the product owner.

Wireframe used to communicate design decisions with developers for the second pilot year

The process between design and development was facilitated through a shared AxureRP prototype and weekly design meetings with the team to demo new features. Because there was no UI designer, I developed a style guide in HTML and CSS for the developers to reference with the prototype. As my development skills increased I was able to develop new features in code to communicate design concepts.

Style guide of application features
I began developing my designs in HTML / CSS with usage notes for the developers to reference, mixing design and policy

A few months after the second pilot I left the project to pursue a Masters in Digital Experience Design.

Retrospective

One thing that was missing from this project was a lack of analytics and data. This would have been extremely helpful to analyze the usage patterns after the first and second pilots since qualitative testing was so limited. This was identified as a need but never became a priority during my time on the project.

Documenting the decision-making process would have also been beneficial during the weekly sprints. Often times the reasoning and rationale behind why something was done a certain way would get lost, and we would ask ourselves four months later why we made a particular design decision.

Personal Successes

The scope and impact of this project kick-started my passion for design in the public service. I was proud that policy decisions were influenced based on my design concepts, and it showed me how design and policy can be an interlinked process.