In this project, we explored the potential of open portfolio-making in the learning space of Carnegie Mellon University’s Integrative Design, Arts and Technologies (IDeATe) program. We redesigned the IDeATe Gallery, an online portfolio platform for IDeATe students, to scaffold the feedback process and create a supportive community where novices and experts can combine their expertise and build projects together through progressive and targeted feedback.
Lu Yang, Ye Jin Lee, Mengxin Yu
I conducted research, designed and prototyped initial UI screens during the course. After the course I continued to design a more complete user journey with more screens and prototypes individually.
Learning Media Design,
IDeATe Gallery is an online platform where CMU students can share their work and practice documenting projects. Students thought of IDeATe Gallery as a space for showcasing polished work, and they were intimidated by this idea and were not participating in the community. However, Gallery is intended to be a learning tool where students can learn to document and curate while building portfolios, as well as understand the iterative nature of design process. We aim to explore ways to engage students and help them develop the skills to build professional portfolios that are important parts of initiating their career.
INTRODUCE THE NEW GALLERY
The new gallery helps novice students invite expert students in the community to give feedback on their work-in-progress. We imagined multiple feedback loops in the process to help students learn the iterative nature of portfolio-making and build their projects with progressive and constructive feedback from experts. Experts can be any member of the IDeAte community because IDeATe students come from different disciplines and therefore are experts in their own domain.
A novice in physical computing
Katherine is working on a project that uses outdoor sensors. She starts asking her question in physical computing by inputing her project hashtags. The system displays the relevant IDeAte area, tools, skills and projects. For her hashtags, she selects physical computing and sensor from the suggestions, and types in “park walk.” Then she checks if there are similar questions that have been asked. If not, she adds a project description and uploads project images in the next step.
Katherine clicks on the images and adds questions there. Then she invites experts to answer her question.
IDeATe students who have answered ten questions with the physical computing hashtags will gain a crown in the area. The expert list is ordered by the number of questions answered, crown status, and social distance (classmates will be shown first).
An expert in physical computing
After receiving Katherine’s invitation, James decides to respond to her question. James are encouraged to give Katherine actionable solutions. If he feels stuck, he could check common issues in physical computing to scaffold his feedback.
A novice in physical computing
Katherine receives James’ feedback, and she likes it and replies to it. She can also see who else has answered her questions, and clicks on the orange bar to see feedback. Prompts are given to help her construct replies. At last, Katherine is invited to answer Emily’s question on laser cutting to pay it forward, as Katherine is an expert in this area.
UNDERSTANDING PORTFOLIO MAKING
To better understand portfolio-making process, we initially interviewed four students with varied experience in portfolio making and conducted think-alouds with them while going through their websites. We synthesized data using affinity diagram and found that portfolio-making, in its simplest form, entails documentation, curation, and presentation. We used the synthesis model below to represent conceptual, dispositional and motivational needs of portfolio makers.
UNDERSTANDING STAKEHOLDER VALUES
We met with Kelly Deleany, Assistant Director of the IDeATe program, to gather a better understanding of IDeATe. Kelly explained IDeAte is a space where different departments from around the university converge to learn from one another through collaboration. We then interviewed Daragh Byrne, who heads up the IDeATe Gallery, to learn how Gallery was intended to help students practice portfolios. We understood that the two drivers of Gallery were documentation function and comment function, and currently the comment function was not active. We also learned that Daragh hoped Gallery to be a space where students learn portfolio-making process, and transfer what they learned to make highly-curated professional portfolios.
PICKING UP THE PIECES
After having an understanding of the portfolio-making process and students’ motivations behind it, we started our site study in the IDeATe maker spaces. In order to learn how Gallery was being used by students and professors, we conducted guerrilla interviews with three students and one professor. To our surprise, only one of the students heard of Gallery and the student believed Gallery was used for showcasing the best students’ projects. The professor was not using Gallery for his classes because he already built a class blog to collect students’ work.
We wondered, “How might we help students become more engaged in the IDeATe Gallery?”
Students in physical computing lab making a robot
The Recently Discussed section in Gallery was not active.
Interviewing with an IDeATe student
INTERVIEWING IDeATe STUDENTS
We contacted nine IDeATe students and alumni who had their own portfolio site or had projects showcased in Gallery. We invited them to tell their experiences with Gallery and portfolio-making process, as well as the challenges they faced building different projects.
We found students we interviewed fall under two user groups. The pink group represents novices, who are constantly seeking feedback on their projects and less worried about site customization. The blue group represents experts in portfolio-making, who values customizing their sites and self-evaluating their process. We made two personas, Katherine and James, to represent the novice and expert user in IDeATe.
One of the novice users asked for feedback on his project on Gallery. Unfortunately, the student has not received any feedback yet after eight months.
FRAMING THE PROBLEM
From the interviews with stakeholders and IDeATe students, we learned that students believed that Gallery is for showcasing polished work. However, Gallery is intended to be a learning tool where students can learn to document and curate while building projects. Novice students strongly desire feedback on their projects, but the feedback function was not working. Therefore, we decided to explore how we could build a supportive community through the right touch points that bring people back to participate.
How might we build a supportive community where feedback and opinions can be given in a way that is helpful?
We visioned multiple feedback loops in order to help students learn the iterative nature of portfolio making, and create a supportive community where novices and experts can contribute their expertise and build projects together.
MAPPING THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE
We layered the cycle of engagement — aware, join, use, develop and leave — onto the portfolio documentation phases as shown below. Through tracing two personas (expert/novice) across the experience with a set of storyboard panels and touch points in the channels, we narrated how our users could all evolve in the iterative portfolio-making process.
The circular elements are suggestive of the feedback loops. We see the whole process as multiple iterations that are growing in scale. There are three rounds of feedback given to novice at different stages in their portfolio-making process: 1) After documenting an idea, 2) After building one project with multiple documentation, 3) After composing different projects into one cohesive narrative.
Evidence from Literature Review
Breaking up review tasks in stages could help broaden focus.
Showing drafting process could deepen feedback.
DESIGN PROBE IN IDeATe Space
We focused on the first feedback loop in the journey map, where students get the “Aha” moment and need feedback on their initial ideas. We adopted a design probe method to understand the subtle qualities of feedback experience. We wondered, “How are IDeAte students going to engage in feedback?”
We designed two posters to probe students’ interactions with image-based prompts using a laser-cutting project as a prompt to gather feedback on our first poster. Our idea was to build a squirrel den for the coming winter, and we designed a second poster in order to enable students to put their own sketches up there and gather feedback using our poster. We hung up the posters in the IDeAte space where students frequently visited (beside the bathrooms), and drew conversation bubbles of different shapes to make it easier for students to give quick feedback.
After a week, we collected the posters, and were happy to see there were three pieces of feedback. The community did want to help! The feedback was very targeted towards the questions we asked and used emojis. The feedback post-its were put right on the parts of the sketches where question were asked. Therefore, we decided to continue on this path and design image-based interactions.
Using paper prototype, we wanted to understand:
Do novices feel comfortable uploading early sketches for feedback?
What kind of experts do novices want to invite?
What keep the experts motivated to give feedback?
We used building a laser-cutting cat house as a prompt for the learning experience. Our first user struggled to sketch a cat house and pose questions, so we adjusted the approach, asking students to think of their passionate projects and invite people on Gallery for feedback. This time, we were able to see real questions students would ask. By giving users some voice, we let them draw sketches they can relate to and ask questions that truly matter to them.
Wireframes for the paper prototype.
Novice students were comfortable uploading early work as long as they could get feedback.
Novice students want to invite students with related IDeATe projects or with relevant credentials for feedback.
Expert students are motivated to give feedback for topics they are passionate about. They want to get inspired and pay back the community. They also expect follow-up from novice students.