4.1 | Prototype

When creating the prototype for our idea we had to think of a couple of things. Like what we wanted to accomplish, how to accomplish it and where with who. We knew we had to create a digital solution since our entire idea revolves around an already digital platform. We got to this step before learning about Adobe XD. At the time we planned to straight-up make a live mockup site of

Canvas and edit its HTML and CSS to fit our needs. We scrapped this idea before we even began looking at the code as this would take forever and would also use too many already existing assets. But then we got introduced to Adobe XD and its tools. Something that made this a lot simpler for us.

 

We shifted focus over to creating an Adobe XD based prototype and had to come with a quick solution to all things we needed. We figured out that Adobe XD actually lacks a lot of the features needed for an effective site. Elements like text fields and lasting updates after button presses. The solution to this would be creating a buck load of steps, and have Adobe XD act as a button to get to the next site. Almost like a powerpoint presentation, with more accurate clicking involved. Here is an image of how the entire workspace looked, at the end of this post is all the linked pages so you can see exactly what I’m talking about.

–// PROTOTYPE \\–

Click the prototype link above to walk through the prototype as you like.  Below you will find both a simple walkthrough of the prototype in a video and also the second video where there is more of a talking-heads style explanation video.

— Quick Walkthrough video

— TH Prototype  Video

What was our vision creating this prototype?

We wanted to create a fully, or at least semi-functional site containing the whole package. Our idea was supposed to be comparable with the current live version of Canvas. You should be able to have both beside each other and point out differences and feel how much greater our product was in the end-stage.  We were limited by the current technology that Adobe XD currently has packed, we were lacking important features that would make out most if not all our idea was based on. Being able to have lasting changes made by the user, and text input fields. We really needed these things in our prototype, or else our product would not be correctly observed and tested later.

We had to create the illusion of progress. Creating step by step workplaces that gave the illusion of progress. It ended up being a lot more work than we thought but we are really happy with the result and product we are able to present today.

Below are the visible connections between the pages. Giving insight into exactly how we created this project.

5.1 | Testing

Testing our product/prototype.

One of the final stages before either going back to scratch or going forward.  We already knew that the idea of our idea was liked by laymen as we found this out during the Cultural Probes Exercise.  So we created something awesome that we felt represented our idea to its full potential. The remade Canvas, more customizable than ever.

What did we want to accomplish with these tests?

Our main goal with this test run was simply wanting to know if our idea held water.  We wanted to see if our product still held up to the positive feedback we got before.  If we were still on the path we hoped to be or if we had stepped away from a product that people actually wanted and needed. We wanted to hold ourselves accountable if we had shifted too far away from what our feedback had given us previously.

We did the test on three different people.  We wanted to present different students from different courses with different methods of presentation.  We chose to present only the video to some, and both video and an on-site prototype for them to test live.  We let them first have a look around before answering questions. Below are some premade questions we asked the students after presenting the prototype/video prototype.

The questions were  as follows:

  1. Is this something you would use?
  2. Is there something you miss or you think could be improved?
  3. Do you register any obvious flaws with the product?
  4. What features do you like?

 

Person 1 ( Presented on-site demonstration of prototype + video prototype)
Currently studying Digital Media and Design Bachelor.

  1. I would absolutely use Canvas more if this was implemented. It removes a lot of the need to tab to other services and is a huge QoL improvement overall.
  2. Not at the time as I can think of, as much of what I can think of would easily be introduced through the plugins page.
  3. Maybe a short introduction walkthrough? But that said we don’t get that in the current Canvas either so.
  4. I really liked the plugin function. Being able to add stuff to the current Canvas reduces the need to switch apps and third-party sites to operate at a decently good pace. The built-in code editor was genius.

 

Person 2 ( Presented on-site demonstration of prototype + video prototype)
Currently studying Political Science (Second year, extra semester) + Language

  1. Yes, I would use this program. It seems like a much greater overall experience and looks a lot clearer and generally easier to use. Also, plus points for adaptability for people with weaker vision, etc. I would use this if Canvas manages to run it cleanly.
  2. Maybe some more customizable options when it comes to how Canvas looks? This is generally small things and could be implemented with the plugin and addon function.  But would fit well with the whole customizable Canvas theme.
  3. A little clearer name maybe, like settings or edit(TM)? Not really a flaw as much as personal opinion on the overall product.
  4. I really like the possibilities to change font size and adapt canvas for Universal design-needs. I enjoy the possibility to edit the menus so that only things I feel is needed is there.  The idea to implement plugins is also greatly favored as long as it doesn’t remove the stability of Canvas.

 

Person 3 ( Presented with only the video-prototype)
Currently studying Digital Media and Design.

  1. I would gladly use a better, customizable Canvas.
  2. Predesigned Canvas themes? It’s not a feature that’s necessary, but it could be nice to have some nice looking themes to choose from.
  3. I haven’t noticed any flaws. In my opinion, the rework looks pretty good.
  4. As it is now, Canvas isn’t well-organized, and it might be cumbersome to navigate through the website. Your Canvas rework solves those problems, as it is possible to choose which menus are supposed to be displayed on the main page (emneinfo, kunngjøringer, etc.) I also like the addon and plugins idea, especially the Outlook plugin.

What did this test tell us?

Overall what we learned from this test is that it actually seems like people want a new Canvas system. We wish we actually got some negative feedback in this test so we had something to work with and reflect on, but even when asked if there were any obvious flaws with the system, none of the questioned students had anything to say.

There were few differences in the answers from the students having a complete introduction to the test and the students having only a video preview.  That allows us to come to the conclusion that they all got the overall theme of our product.

If we would have had a larger sample of test subjects (tens, if not hundreds, more) we would gain more room for both negative and constructive criticism and feedback. We would have used this to give us a further understanding of what people actually wanted, and we would be allowed to pinpoint it even further. But we take the feedback we have gotten as a sign that what we produced was a product that actually showed up, spiked interest and questions regarding our current Canvas. A function that was mentioned most was the plugin function, having the possibility to create your own learning platform.

That was what we wanted to create, it was what we wanted to prove. And according to our feedback, it is exactly what we managed to do.

2.1 | Defining our research questions

How we defined our research questions.

The cultural probes

In order to define the problem, we needed to synthesize the data we achieved through the cultural probes and the expert interview. We began with the cultural probes by laying all of the tasks from all five probes in five respective piles and go through all of the answers one pile at the time while systematizing them in a simple form:


Results from the Circle Around the Word task:
– Stupid, Confused, Annoyed
– Confused
– Stupid, Confused, Annoyed
– Boring
– Confused, Satisfied, Smart

Results from the Pick a Face task:
– Bad / sad
– Bad / sad
– Happy
– Happy
– Okay happy

Results from the Expectations while using Communication Platforms task:
– «That» everyone » is on the platform and that it works well. Will also use the one that people are most available on.»
– «That it works properly.»
– «That I get replies quickly and that the platform works well and quickly.»
– «The fact that the platform is fast, can send files, seldom downtime, easy to use, no restrictions on what to share.»
– “Possibility of a group chat, that they are easy to use, that no problems occur while using them. Also, the ability to send more than just text, such as pictures and files. »

Results from the Weekly Basis Communication Platforms task:
– Facebook, Snapchat, SMS, Discord, Instagram, Twitter.
– Discord, Messenger, Snapchat.
– Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Email.
– Facebook, Steam, Discord, Instagram, Snapchat, Canvas, Email, YouTube.
– Facebook / Messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, Vipps chat, in game chat functions like League of Legends Client chat, Email, SMS, YouTube.

Results from the Statements task:
1. «I always know where and when I have lectures thanks to Canvas.»
– Agree
– Neutral
– Strongly disagree
– Agree
– Neutral

2. «It’s easy to organize for group work in Canvas.»
– Neutral
– Strongly disagree
– Disagree
– Neutral
– Strongly disagree

3. «It is easy to respond to messages from teachers / lecturers.»
– Neutral
– Agree
– Disagree
– Disagree
– Disagree

4. «I can find my grades and feedback from my professors in Canvas quickly.»
– Agree
– Strongly agree
– Neutral
– Neutral
– Neutral

Results from the Complete the Sentence task:
«What I wish it was possible to do in Canvas is…»
– “I want a neatly organized Canvas where all subjects have the same structure and name and are in the same language. Better and more explanatory titles would have been nice, too. »
– «Don’t use more than one scroll bar.»
– “Instant chat with teachers.”
– “Organize the website the way you want”
– “Chat functions with those you are working with on group projects + Opportunity for co-writing (better).”

 

When we had gone through all of the probes, we were able to see a few patterns emerging, so our next step was to categorize the probe answers by organizing them in clusters.

The results from the cultural probes, organized in clusters.

Canvas/LMS was the main cluster in the centre from which we derived the results into three sub-clusters; Communication, Emotions, and Wishes/Improvement suggestions.

From Communication, we divided the probe answers further. Many answers brought up features we usually find on social media platforms, such as chat, so obviously we had to have a SoMe sub-cluster, as well as an Expectation sub-cluster. From the probe answers, we noticed that the expectations the people were having to LMS was often connected to the ability to communicate, like file sharing and chatting. Other expectations were connected to the more technological aspect of LMS, such as user-friendliness and stability. Chat functions were also echoed in the Wishes/Improvement suggestions sub-cluster, but this cluster also brought up another exciting suggestion: The possibility to organize the LMS yourself.
For the Emotions cluster, we noticed that a majority of the probe answers were those of negativity when dealing with their current LMS (Canvas).

The expert interview

Trying to synthesize data from the expert interview was a more challenging task, but even here we saw a clear pattern emerging as we analysed the interview.

The expert interview organized in clusters.

We noticed that we could easily divide mr. Bisseberg’s main statements into two major sub-clusters: What is good with Canvas, and what is bad.

The good features are mostly technological, like constant bugfixes and updates, and little downtime, just to mention a few. Should the service be down for some reason, then Canvas can provide good support.
The bad features are often based on the user experience, such as a less than optimal user-friendly design, limitations in regards of co-operating and custom design the LMS for your own needs. «The «one size fits all» doesn’t fit all» statement sums up this aspect rather accurately.  It made us wonder, though: Would it be possible to hold on to everything that makes Canvas a good technical user experience, but simultaneously change and improve upon what makes it bad?

3.2 | Storyboard

About our storyboards.

Just like the scenarios, we went along with having just two storyboards: One for the student’s point of view, and the other for the teacher’s.

The student’s storyboard

The teacher’s storyboard

We tried to just include the most essential scenes from the scenarios in the images in order to make them appear more storyboard-esque, and not like an ordinary comic.

We used the digital services of storyboardthat to make our storyboards.

3.2 | Scenarios

About the scenarios.

We based the scenarios on our personas, introduced in last post. Whereas the personas focused on the target users themselves, the scenarios takes us to hypothetical situations the user is most likely to use our product.

We decided to do two scenarios, instead of three (one for each persona), simply because the student and the high schooler’s personas doesn’t differ that much.

The student’s scenario

Truls is taking a new course in his second year, and the first assignment is a group project. Truls doesn’t know anyone yet from this particular course and has no idea who the people he has ended up with in the group are or how to recognise them during classes. This stresses him, because he doesn’t like to waste time having to look them up on social media and initiate contact there. Fortunately, he has their names, so he logs into the LMS, types in their names in the chat bar and starts a group chat with them, where they agree to meet up in the hallway outside the auditorium at eleven o’clock and discuss their ideas further.

The teacher’s scenario

Jan Kåre has gotten the opportunity to involve digital technology in his lectures, but the software needed is quite new and requires a licence for money. He proposes his idea to the school administration, and they agree it’s an exciting idea. They buy a school licence, and the software is added as a plugin feature on the school’s LMS, easily accessible to Jan Kåre’s pupils.

 

As we can see, the teacher has a far more mod-esque role than the student.

Now, lets try to visualize these scenarios in a storyboard, shall we?

3.2 | Personas

The three ideas we generated in last post further narrowed down our main target groups. We thought the first and the third idea was similar enough to be combined into one «big» idea (or the two sides to the same coin, if you like), so we based the personas, the scenarios and the storyboards mainly around those.  A two-in-one solution, so to speak.

While we conducted our expert interview with mr. Bisseberg, the conversation never strayed from the fact that our main target group was students, but it also made us aware that these students also included users all the way down to elementary school pupils! Another group that was also brought up, was the presence of teachers, professors, and educators. On the account of this information, it felt natural to base our personas on these three users.

Without further ado, let us introduce..

PERSONA 1: THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE STUDENT

PERSONA 2: THE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT

and last, but not least

PERSONA 3: THE MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHER

The personas are an important tool to visualize our main target users and the situations/scenarios in which they will most likely use our product.

Persona template by Alexander Georges.

3.1 | Generate Ideas

While we were synthesizing the data we collected from the cultural probes and the expert interview, we were also brainstorming ideas for our next phase: How to use the data we just retrieved to further develop our original idea. Strangely enough, the main pros and cons resulted in almost the same answer, namely that our project was so specific to begin with, there really weren’t that many ways to do it differently! Of course we had a few nutty ideas (like a LMS + hoverboard combo), but those only generated laughs and were not taken seriously enough to be a part of the contender. However, we did manage to come up with three ideas that did make the cut:

Idea One:

Advancing the Canvas application further than what it is now. Making it more like an open-source platform where you can download plugins and addons to make Canvas a more advanced and specialized tool rather than just an informational platform. Letting the students themselves choose what addons they want to have and what plugins they want to disable. And let them customize the course sites and groups.

This will create a new way of using Canvas. Instead of the user having to cave in and adapt to how Canvas is currently set up we can let the user decide and form their own platform. Do economy students need the same tools as IT students? Probably not. Some will use a lot of the same tools but some course-specific addons would create a more directed tool. Also letting eager students creating their own addons or plugins they can choose to share their idea/plugin/addon in the Plugin library (monitored by some form of authority).

 

Idea Two:

During our expert interview, mr. Bisseberg informed us that 47% of the students interact with Canvas through the app. Now, that’s a large number! Through our student interview, we learned the Canvas app was more user-friendly than the web browser version, but still had room for improvements.

 

Idea Three:


Our third idea is similar to the first idea, except this idea revolves around the teacher: The open-source platform solution where you can download plugins and addons can benefit the teacher, giving them the opportunity to choose what kind of software, plugins and addons they want to use as digital tools when teaching or is relevant to their subject.

1.2 | Expert interview

Mr. Bisseberg is an engineer, working at Østfold University College, and THE go-to-person with all things Canvas and LMS related!

Name: Per Olav Bisseberg
Location: His office at campus Remmen – Face to face interview.
Occupation: Head Engineer at the IKT department of HIOF.
Other Experience related to this: Canvas Top Admin.

In this interview we wanted to collect data about LMS (mainly Canvas) and the expert user’s experience and position towards these and their functions.

We wanted to gather as much data according to this to help us understand how and why we could improve these.

Interviewer(Q): «What do you do in your position here?»
Per Olav Bisseberg (A): » I am the Canvas top admin, and technically, that means I’ll have to make sure all integrations towards other systems are working. If Canvas goes down for some reason it’s my job to get it up and running again. I am the the one that keeps in touch with the supplier, and I’m involved with the operating of Canvas here.»

Q. «What experience do you have with LMS like Canvas?»
A: » I got a lot of experience with LMS overall. I am also in a national team that works towards better systems for students when it comes to school related platforms.»

Many of [Canvas’] features are acceptable, but as I see it, could have been done better

 

Q: «What is your perspective when it comes to group work in Canvas? Does a lot of people come in these doors with group related questions?»
A: «No, not really. Most of the cases gets cleared by the IT-Support team. What comes through my door is usually more major issues that has to be failchecked, or searched for, or in some cases, notified to other parties so they can fix it. But from experience, we had a intro project in Canvas the fall of 2017 and throughout the spring of 2018, and there were a lot of questions about almost everything from both the staff and users that were chosen for this pilot, but ever since, the rate of support cases have decreased majorly. Most cases from students where there are problems, are coming from huge projects or classes that have tried to use the «Rate Each Other» function in Canvas. That function is not always working properly, and Instructure (company name of Canvas owners) are working overtime to get a new solution out for this. I’m saying, and you might quote me on this if you’d like, I am not a Canvas evangelist, I do see a lot of problems with Canvas as it is today, but compared to all the other options we have, Canvas is the least faulty learning platform.
Back when we used the Fronter (another LMS), the situation was a lot worse, and we encountered a lot more problems. It was also up to each teacher to actually use it. Today we use Canvas and that is mandatory for all teachers that all the information they hand out should go through there, as well. Canvas puts the students in focus and the teachers next.»

Q: «What do you think is the biggest challenge with Canvas at HIOF today?»
A: «The biggest challenge we face with Canvas today is for the teachers to use it correctly so that it get to be a good, easy and pleasant experience for the students.»

 

Canvas puts the students in focus and the teachers next.

 

Q: «HIOF has a lot of future teachers under training, and I know that they are very focused on using digital solutions, what are your prospects there?»
A: «They’ve built up a big IKT section that’s looking into how IKT works with school and the educational worth around it.»

Q: «With your experience with Canvas, are there any functions that you’re missing as today?»
A: «On the admin side of things I do miss a lot, mostly tools for us as admins, but overall I think Canvas is good. There are small problems here and there, like the Wiziwig box where you write comments and such does not support the writing of code as things might get unorganized and highlights ect. might not be shown. That is a thing I’m missing, they said they were going to do something about that, but that was back in 2017 and is probably not as high on their priority list. I do wish they had used some more time on creating user experience and interaction design. It is a lot, especially for the teachers, that is a bit clunky that with better design could have been avoided, and down to the more fundamental things that they don’t have one set of iconography. Their symbols aren’t coherent. There is also a lot of Google Translate integrated that’s not always working properly. Like recordings got translated to «registrering» in Norwegian that caused some problems. If the iconography and the translations had been better it would probably save us for a lot support cases.»

Q: «Do you have any data of what is the most used devices to use Canvas with?»
A: «Yes, we do actually. And our data tells us that approximately 47% of all our interactions are from Smartphones. We do have some future problems there that we need to handle, as we got a lot of teachers that uses Canvas primarily as a information channel towards their students, works great on a smartphone, but we also got a lot of people that uses it as a file system, and that doesn’t always work so good on smartphones as they might not be able to read the specific type of document on their phone. If we had everything as PDF it would make it less of a problem, and if they had everything on Canvas as pages, then this would have scaled down while your on the phone as well.»

Q: «Do you have any other data that could help us in our search of making Canvas better?»
A: «The last information we gathered were the interaction data from 2018. We haven’t done any data gathering in 2019, and that is primarily because of the ruleset of something called GDPR that tells us what kind of information we are allowed to use. We want to make sure what data we can look at and what we can analyze until we get a signal from UNIT that it is legally okay for us to do so. A new wind that is coming is called Learning Analysis, that uses all these data to determine what learning methods that have good effect, what might not have such a good effect, how the stream of student are and so on, but we can not go into this data yet. America and China has gone to the extreme when it comes to learning analysis as their laws around personal privacy is lacking. In China this has gone to far, as liking a particular band might not get you accepted to certain schools as they have data that says their former students that also liked that band did not do so well.»

 

I wish Canvas was only a basic site.

 

Q: «What is Canvas best at?»
A: «I’m a critical person, so I usually see things in systems that usually doesn’t work way before I see what’s actually working, but I do think it works great in the way that teachers don’t really need a lot of training nor time to use Canvas to inform or share material needed for their lectures. Other than that, there is very many things that are okay, not good, but okay. Many of its features are acceptable, but as I see it, could have been done better, but that is probably because my developer background kicking in. They got to get some credit on their uptime and the fast communication from school to instructure and vica versa is really good. They have extremely good procedures when it comes to fixing problems and pushing updates out. Every third week they send out a new update, and the size of these updates are regularly huge and comes with a lot of fixes.»

Q: «Is it anything you miss in Canvas that you think could be implemented?»
A: «In many ways I feel like Canvas already have too many functions. There are so much information, so many things that you can do and to keep in mind. So i understand that for many teachers and students Canvas can become a bit overwhelming. I wish Canvas was only a basic site; a platform for teachers to inform about their course, deliver assignments and get reports on those assignments – and that’s it. That you could instead add other services to your basic Canvas platform. Canvas uses something called L-10, that allows us to integrate a lot of tools to their site. If it was up to me i would have putted a lot less functions on Canvas and made sure those were operating at a high level, and then have each institution get the additional functions they themselves wanted to add.»»

Q: «Thank you for taking time talking to us on the matter of Learning Management Systems and Canvas!»
A: «You’re welcome.»

 

Findings: Students are not the only ones having problems when it comes to navigate Canvas. Canvas seems to have a lot of problems, but less than other competitors LMS. It would probably be hard for us to find information regarding Canvas and stats in for the Norwegian region. Almost half of all interactions with Canvas is by smartphones, even though it ain’t compatible for many things there (not all phones can open all the different files, the website would look weird on some phones etc.) Good uptime on Canvas, good support from Instructure. Canvas might be over complicated – can we make a clean version with the L-10 plugins? Some restrictions to what type of files teachers can post might benefit smartphone users.

 

In addition to our expert interview with mr. Bisseberg, we also wanted to have a student’s point of view, and sat down with our fellow student Eric Michael Lea Paulsen for an Average User Interview.

Location: The Library at campus Remmen – Face to face interview.
Occupation: Student – studying Digital Media and Design at HIOF.
Other experience related to this: Studied Photography and Filmmaking at a Folk high school in Norway for one year – mainly focused towards filmmaking.

In this interview we wanted to collect data about LMS (mainly Canvas) and the average users experience and position towards these and their functions from a student’s point of view. We wanted to gather as much data according to this to help us understand how and why we could improve these on the user’s -the student- conditions.

Interviewer (Q): «What experiences do you have with learning platforms like Canvas and group projects while being a student?»
Eric(A): «I have no previous experience when it comes to using Canvas, but I’m trying to adapt to using it and I think it’s a good tool for making groups and doing group projects. We never did use much of electronic learning platforms , only Itslearning a bit at high school. It worked quite well back then, we never really had any major issues with it. When it comes to group projects, I’m fairly new at that, but when we’ve done group projects earlier it has mostly gone through Facebook, or some other social media platform we had at hand.»

Q: «When you used Facebook, were there any specific tools you used more than others doing group work?»
A: «I mostly just used it to start a chat and to share files.»

Q: «From the experience you have accumulated so far, what seems to be the most recurring problems when you use Canvas?»
A: «For me it’s got to be that it is very confusing and messy at times. Especially when they put the Informatics Class tasks with our tasks, so we get a lot of tasks that are irrelevant to our courses and it creates a lot of confusion. Many times I will have Canvas notifying me of tasks that I haven’t delivered yet, and even though I understand at once that they aren’t a part of my class, it puts quite the fright in you. You don’t want a notification saying «not delivered» on your frontpage all the time. That for me is quite irritating. I do also feel the interface in Canvas could need some work, it is just too much stuff going on there and makes it kind of hard to find what you’re looking for. I think some video guides would be really useful for first time users.»

Q: «Have you participated in any Canvas learning courses?»
A: «At the start of the year they tried to show us how Canvas worked, but the teacher doing so had a hard time finding stuff himself, so it was a kinda poorly presented and did not give us much information. Didn’t get really much out of it, so we had to look around a lot by ourselves to find things. The same goes for when teachers shows us print screens and so on from Canvas from their side of the view and tells us to do something that looks completely different on our view of Canvas. A «show as student» button would be a nice thing.»

Q: «What do you think Canvas does best?»
A: «What is Canvas good at? It’s a good file sharing tool in class and to give students their assignments. Of course, it’s kinda messy to find the correct ones at times. I’m not even sure if it there is a sorting button there, but if it is, it is hidden quite well.»

Q: «Where do you use Canvas the most? On you computer or your phone?»
A: » It’s mainly the app for Canvas on my phone that I use the most. When I’m sitting down and working on a assignment I usually tend to use the computer.»

Q: «Is there any reason you favour the one over the other at certain tasks?»
A: «I think it’s easier to use the app on the phone, and it’s more organized compared to how it looks on in a web browser, as it’s a bit more compact. When it comes to the files, they are more organized on the web browser.»

Q: «Do you have any wishes for what Canvas could include in the future?»
A: «I don’t really have any wishes at this time. A sorting button to sort between deadlines, when things are due and such. A multi-sorting button.»

Q: «You said you had used Facebook and such for group projects before. Any reason your group choose to use that line for communication?»
A: «The main reason we were using that platform for communication was that it’s a platform we used a lot more regularly, as most of used it in a social setting as well and made all of us available more often. I gather Canvas is only used when people have their minds set on studying and might leave it at that, making some information either go very slow innside the groups or that some information would even be lost to some. Again, most of us were using Facebook for social activities as well and had a higher chance of getting the info to each other at all hours.»

Q: «If you had access to all the chat functions and group functions that’s on your social apps, would you be more active at Canvas?
A: «Well, it’s something about Facebook and those things that gives you the opportunity to be 90% focused on work and still have that 10% for other social interactions. It’s both hard and draining to sit down and work a 100% with your work, and I feel the mindset when doing so is very demoralizing. By putting all the functions we use in Canvas we might be more focused on the task at hand, but our energy drain and the feeling of logging into Canvas would be harder for me to do. A small part of my brain would probably tell me to check up on the social activities on other sites while I’m logged into Canvas if it was that way. »

Q: «Have you used any digital tools to work in group projects before?»
A: «I’ve used Microsoft Teams to some extent. In high school we mostly used Google Docs and that worked very well. I tend to use to this day as it’s free and is very easy to use. Co-operating and co-writing in Google Docs works well.»

Q: «What feelings do you recon with logging into Canvas?»
A: «Well, i feel like i usually comes into Canvas with a lot of motivation to work that quickly decreases as I’m having a hard time finding what i need to find to start my work.»

Q: «Thank you for answering all of our questions, and we hope your studies goes well this fall.»
A: «Thank you, and too you, as well.»

Findings: Through this interview we found out that some work could be needed on Canvas regarding the functionality of finding what ones is looking for. «A multi-sorting button», as Eric pointed out, might have some usage at different places in Canvas. A way to remove tasks that are inactive for your class might help improving organizing. Overall it seems like Canvas have to many options for new Canvas users. Easy acces demo videos of what and how to do things at the front page might be an option. Overall the subject was pleased with Canvas, but most of their problems seems to be fixable trough organizing it one way or another. The idea of having a possibility to easily change their mindset from work to leisure seemed to be a factor in using Facebook and other such ways of communicating inviting when working on group prosjects – is this something we can help avoid trough means in Canvas? Mainly it seems from this interview that the organizing part of Canvas might be a good place for us to start looking for im provements.

 

1.1 | Exploration through Literature Search

Preparation.

Heading into the empathy phase from the idea phase we had set ourselves a topic. We had the ideas ready and knew what we could search for, but without defining it even more we would get a broad spectre of sources from all across the internet. And most of them wouldn’t really be relevant to what we needed. So before we could define even more what we were looking for in the next stage of our research period we needed to define what exactly we were looking for. We had already decided that our topic would be about digital learning platforms and their use as a socializing platform, or rather the lack of ways to socialize through the platform. 

We started out trying to scout for information using the keywords “learning platform” and quickly found out it gave too broad and too many irrelevant hits for us to continue using that phrase. However, adding the word “Digital” in front of learning platforms gave us a more specific and more pinpointed direction. We would learn that the term “digital learning platform” was more often referred to as “Learning Management System”, or LMS for short. Both of these keywords gave us accurate and search results more satisfactory to what we imagined we would find. 

In the preparation period, we set some goals for what information we wanted to find and where to find it. We wanted to not only find useful information but information that was relevant to what we had in mind. Doing the pre-work we would heighten the chance of finding relevant information that we could use.

The main goal was to create some sort of overview of what people had already done before us. Both in content and if someone had already tried what we are trying to do before us. Creating this plan would remove unnecessary researching and give us a clear path for what we were actually looking for. And if what we were initially looking for where the right way for us to find information or if we were heading the wrong direction.

In a way, the goal was to find answers to what we were questioning. Answers we could use to further develop our understanding of communication systems for higher education. But where we find answers we want to create more questions and see if there is a way we could make it even better, or go even further. We also wanted to update ourselves on the field we were researching so we could understand and go more in-depth on the topic we set for ourselves.

 

To ensure the quality of information we were basing our research around, we had to make sure we used the right keywords for our particular subject. It was important for the group that we did not get unrelated results, so we could manage time and eliminate unnecessary reading for efficiency. 

For the sake of our attention to research a communication platform between students and professors, we made sure our keywords matched our initial thoughts around that subject. Some keywords weighted more than others for instance “Student”, “Professor”, “Communication”; and “Collaboration” was heavily favored contrary to “Pupil”, “Teacher”, “Instructors” and “Cooperation”. 

It was also important to narrow down our keywords for the right conditions, so the review applies to our field of research. We used Google Scholar because its more relevant for academic use, and we eliminate the possibilities of false information, seeing that research papers always, or most often, have a source of information you can track.

During the search, selection -and evaluation step of this assignment, we ruffled through about 25 – 35 research papers and study reports to disclose which papers should be excluded for our review, and what papers were relevant for further exploration of answering our questions.

 
As stated earlier, we carefully preferred keywords and used them for further progressing in the assignment. The image ***above/below*** are the headlines of the papers we chose to take a closer look at. Some papers were first looked upon as if they were outdated, but at a closer look, they applied for some reasons as being relevant when it comes to information flow between participants in a group project – even though our goals are targeting online platforms, and the research did not. We then realized the papers were participants of trials didn’t commence online, it still had relevance to our subject based on how the way of communication was achieved. 

Reading through what we found and what we deemed to be relevant to our exercise we found out a couple of things. Some information that yielded more important factors that often would come again and again and repeat itself. And some information where shortly explained and didn’t get as much light as other blocks of information. This is natural in a scientific text, however, sometimes the what we found in the less represented topics and problems might actually be the foundation to the bigger and more relevant problems. 

A topic we found revealed that the digital learning platform would work wonders for a single student who worked by themselves, but when putting the same students in groups the effectivity would drastically drop, but only when outside the classroom. So if we look closer to that we see that group projects in itself aren’t the problem. The students managed it well and would work efficiently in the classroom and complete the task given to them to finish by the hour. 

So, what exactly is the problem then? Well, when another set of students or even the same students were given the exact same exercise but were told to do it at home after school in groups. They would fall behind or even drop the exercise. Of course, some groups managed to do it as easily as before and had no problems at all. But the majority of the groups fell behind to some degree.

What exactly caused them to fall behind? There could be multiple factors at play, one would be that when at home, the urgency to prioritize the assignment would considerably drop and the student would have other tasks or other things to do. This problem didn’t get answered in any of the papers we found. There were multiple thoughts and possible deciding factors, but no clear answer. We will go into the factors shortly. 

As there was no clear answer to what, who, why, etc. We set our attention towards this and found a possible problem that we could focus even further on. Ask more questions, represent the problem in words, find a solution. Was our initial topic relevant to the final possible problem? Some of the points that came up would be that at home, the student would prioritize differently and fall behind. Maybe the student had other tasks that needed the prioritization or would daily needs (dinner, breaks, etc) get in the way of effectively doing the task given. Some might ignore the importance of the task and procrastinate because when at home you are home. Other activities such as gaming, hobbies, TV or other digital viewing platforms would get the student’s attention.

Even students who were grouped with friends were found to fall behind, even with the tools to communicate through social media and the likes of voice chat services they didn’t quite get to work and complete the task effectively. That might conclude that it might not be the student’s relationship to each other on the group but something else. We raised a question to this, what if the problem is not in where the student finds themselves but where the students communicate. What if communication platforms that are unrelated to the digital learning platform actually help to worsen the effectivity. Since the communication platform is unrelated to learning and education they set the mood to be something else, as they would use platforms they often use to other tasks or hobbies.

Hear us out: When one opens a program like Discord (digital communication software, both text-based and voice chat-based) or Facebook you have a certain set of expectations and feeling towards the app. You often use the application for something else that is not education-related at all. The application Discord is often used amongst friends and groups of people defined by either hobby or other activities. Servers dedicated to games and play by friends is a huge majority of what the platform is about. And when you open said platform your brain automatically assigns itself to a state that is closer to what you usually are when you open a platform you use for other activities. Your brain might have a hard time focusing on a task and you might sidetrack or end up doing the activities you usually do when you gather a group of people on this specific platform. The same principle would go for facebook as you often use the facebook chat for small talk and banter rather than important messages that has a more important factor.

If we tunnel vision ourselves around this idea that nothing else matters, it doesn’t matter if the student is home or at school. But rather what setting the brain sets itself to when you are doing the task. Then there could be a solution to be found in all of this. If we could then integrate something as easy as a chat to the digital learning platform then it would execute some of the mistakes made in the other programs. The mindset would be on school and would be set as such. Creating a bubble for the student to be in his own mindset, creating a space where the student has less of a chance to sidetrack and fall off.

This is our theory from what we gathered of information across the relevant texts. We had to read through a lot of blocks of text to find somewhat relevant information and even in the relevant articles a lot of them didn’t really have that much to do with the stance we set for our first 

As we dug into the different articles we kept running into the same reasons why many of these LMS were created in the first place; Someone had an idea of improving a tool and adapt it for the future. As incredible advances in technology have reached our classrooms in the last few decades, LMSs have allowed educators and students to interact remotely and reveal the enormous potential of distance learning and online education. The first of these to come to our mind is Canvas, the one we as students use here at Høyskolen i Østfold (HIOF).

Some specific research into Canvas as an LMS yielded us with the information on how this started and we got some direct insight into the concept of «Why?» this LMS was designed and its purpose.

in the early 21st century, web-based media and social media sites started to expand and develop rapidly.

Two computer scientists, Devlin Daley and Brian Whitmer from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, saw the need to integrate this ease of use in LMSs. They were frustrated by the learning tools available to them which focused more on administrators than developing connections between students and teachers.

In 2008 they founded Instructure. They wanted to create an LMS that functional, intuitive and would capitalize on the technological skills the users already possessed. This LMS would be called Canvas.

As more research led us to how huge this really is and the extreme variations of what could be the benefits and what new problems could occur out of this we decided to narrow down our search material to Canvas oriented problems and to challenge the problems we find for better user experience.

In such a rapidly growing field of science and education, there are bound to be both short-term and long-term problems that come along with the new innovations and improvements.

When it comes to LMSs many such problems have been identified and we are adding as we find them.

Ashraf Jalal Yousef Zaidieh wrote «The use of social networking in education: Challenges and opportunities» where he encountered problems like teachers showing them unsuitable material, bullying, sexual predator, harassment by peers, privacy, real friendship, miscommunication and the chance for it to consume a lot of extra time.

There are a lot of good things as well though; Increased Flexibility, Repeatable, convenience and accessibility.

His conclusion was that there are obstacles and benefits by integrating education and Social networking. If we can get a better grip and understanding of what part of the flexibility and repeatable aspects of Canvas people tend to use and like we can use that to our advantage when it boils down to the solutions we make.

 

 

References

Abbad, M. M., Morris, D., de Nahlik, C. (2009). Looking under the bonnet: factors affecting student adoption of e-learning systems in Jordan. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning.
Retrieved from
http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/596/1232

Zaidieh, A.J.Y. (2012) The Use of Social Networking in Education: Challenges and Opportunities. World of Computer Science and  Information Technology Journal (WCSIT),2(1)
Retrieved from
The Use of Social Networking in Education Challenges and Opportunities.pdf (wcsit.org)

John, R. (2014) Canvas LMS Course Design. Livery PlacePackt Publishing Ltd. Retrieved from
https://books.google.no/books?hl=no&lr=&id=kulaBAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT8&dq=canvas+LMS&ots=QAdpBwRjbQ&sig=Sqykiim3fouuQ-RD_t47MunOMZU&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=canvas%20LMS&f=false

Instructure (2019) Our Story.
Retrieved from
https://www.instructure.com/about/our-story

Suswanto, H., Nidhom, A. M., Putra A. B. N. R., Hammad, J.A.H. (2017) Developing An LMS-Based Cross-Platform Web Application For Improving Vocational High School Students’ Competitiveness In ASEAN Economic Community. Jurnal Pendidikan Sains, 5(3), 72-79.
Retrieved from
http://journal.um.ac.id/index.php/jps/article/view/9694

Swan, K., Shen, J., Hiltz, S. R. (2013) Assessment and collaboration in online learning.
Retrieved from Assessment and collaboration in online learning.pdf wiredinstructor.us

Bharamagoudarm, S. R., Geeta, R. B., Totad, S. G. (2013) Web Based Student Information Management system. International Journal of Advanced Research in Computer and Communication Engineering, 2 (6).
Retrieved from
Web
Based Student Information Management system.pdf, academia.edu

Islam, N., Beer, M., Slack, F. (2015) E-Learning Challenges Faced by Academics in Higher Education. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 3 (5).
Retrieved
from http://shura.shu.ac.uk/10403/

Singh, M., Tripathi, D., Pandey, A., Singh, R. K. (2017) Mobile based Student Attendance Management System. International Journal of computer Applications. 165, (3).
Retrieved from
Mobile based Student Attendance
Management System.pdf, academia.edu

Vera, M. C. S., Comendador, B. E. V. (2016) A Web-Based Student Support Services System Integrating Short Message Service Application Programming Interface. International Journal of Future Computer and Communication. 5, (2).
Retrieved from
A
Web-Based Student Support Services System Integrating Short Message Service Application Programming Interface.pdf, ijfcc.org

1.3 | Cultural Probes

About our probe.

The main goal of our probe is to invoke feelings whenever the user is using a LMS, in this case, Canvas. Having the user who in this case are students, mainly around HIOF that uses Canvas to a day to day basis, and make them do tasks that revolves around their current feelings, will hopefully give us some information about what we can do for the user, and what the user wants from a designer who would be to rewrite or rework the subject (in this case, the Canvas website/system). 

Our probe boxes

Our probe project is planned to be presented in a portable probe box. The box will contain five tasks, which are mainly emotional and will give us insight into the user’s feelings and experiences, to again generate inspiration to us for what we want to explore further in our LMS project.

Our tasks were simple and focused on what the participant thought of LMS and social media; how they used them and what were their preferred platforms.

One of the tasks in the probe box

These are some pictures of the creating of one of the tasks in the probe:


Here are a few pictures of the various boxes and some of the tasks:

We also included a pencil to write down the answers with, and a piece of candy, as a «thank you for participating in our little project!» 🙂