Game-based real-world science learning software
2019 - 2021
Product Designer, Team Lead
"A Town Without Food" is a mini-game in which a town has a run out of food to eat. Players use the scientific method and insights they learn from the townspeople to help come up with a solution.
A lot of times, I didn’t enjoy what I was learning at school because I felt like it wasn’t giving me any useful value, and I wasn’t able to apply it anywhere in my life. This was especially true in science class.
Some students find science to be boring and aren’t motivated to learn about it. There’s no way to apply learning in a way that makes it useful, and so people don’t see the point in what they learn. The biggest thing students can apply their knowledge to is a test — which isn’t very meaningful or effective.
Interviews and online research confirmed my assumption. I conducted 40+ interviews (phone, in-person, email) with different teachers, students, parents, administrators in the U.S. education system, and EdTech thought leaders. In addition, I communicated with 24 teachers and parents on online forums such as education-related subReddits. All these allowed me to determine the pain points experienced by different stakeholders.
A common issue stated was that students wanted to work on more meaningful problems while learning science.
Teachers wanted students to get more exposure to real-world problems.
Several administrators and EdTech leaders interviewed affirmed that demand is increasing for products that can help students undergo learning in a way that makes it practical and immersive.
Bored Boris. 5th grade student whose performance suffers in science class because he remains unengaged and unmotivated while working on worksheets, textbooks, and exams that teach him nothing about how he can use what he’s learning.
Recent assessments by the National Assessment of Education Progress, however, show that only 32 percent of U.S. students perform at or above proficiency in science.
In Florida, 2019 only 53% of 5th graders passed the Statewide Science Assessment (SSA).
Only 20% of US high school graduates are prepared for college-level coursework in STEM majors.
A majority of lucrative jobs in the future will be STEM-based. A lot of innovations and technologies that improve the quality of life and economy come from STEM.
The Department of Education recently invested $540 million in STEM education.
Value of K-12 Market: ~$670 billion
Value of STEM Toy market
There are a variety of different solutions that exist to help students build their science proficiency — however, none of them offers students a real-world scenario to apply their learning to, nor do they provide students a meaningful problem to work on.
According to our interviews, these are the primary reasons that students lost interest while using these products.
Interestingly enough, many of these companies are earning millions of dollars and have millions of users — further validating demand for the problem to be solved.
A video game platform where students work on real-world, meaningful problems to master science.
Students will get to see how their learning is applied to something useful or how the topic impacts their day-to-day life, and will be required to improve their ability to use the scientific method to get through each topic.
The goal is to make students feel passionate and excited about solving problems using their knowledge of science.
Leading a team of 3, a prototype was built where users got:
We generated paper wireframes to outline key features from the very start without being distracted by the clutter of other extraneous features.
We crafted user flows to map out the user journey to understand how a student would interact with our product, from start to finish.
We utilized audiovisual feedback — like animations and sound effects — that would provide an external emotional indicator to the user about what they did when performing actions.
We moved straight from paper wireframes to a working prototype through the engine GameMakerStudio2.
To make sure that our product was working as intended, we conducted beta and usability tests with 50+ students and other stakeholders. After having them use the product, we collected feedback (in-person, and through surveys through sites like SurveyMonkey and Game Tester).
Achieving success meant that users were:
We used our surveys to collect quantitative data and qualitative feedback that drove the design decisions behind our further iterations. In addition, we used Google Analytics to assess playthrough rates and how far users got in the product during the user journey.
Some of the questions we asked when obtaining feedback to determine success were:
Armed with feedback, we designed and modified features in the product to improve function and usability for the user over a series of 5 tests and iterations, utilizing the Design Thinking process the whole way.
Over the course of our 5 iterations, we learned more about what we were doing well and what we needed to add. Other than bug fixes, this led to specific features to make the product more educationally-effective and immersive, like a:
Our test reports showed that:
We also won some notable rewards:
In our last iteration, we learned that users felt that the product — though it was educationally-effective and better than the alternative — could’ve been engaging them more. Since our product was a game, we needed to focus on making the game fun and simple, which we were having difficulty doing. Our product was targeted towards schools, which had numerous requirements and factors to be taken into account, which complicated our product and made it difficult to keep simple.
This has led us to pivot to a different product concept targeting a different target demographic that we’ve currently been working on — one that will be fun and engaging to use while remaining meaningful and scientifically educational.
Primary research, secondary research, concept direction synthesis, competitor analysis, user flows, paper wireframes, prototyping, usability testing.