Helping tutors to better support learners

Overview

Getting a good grade is vital to learners, and personalised guidance from educators can help achieve this. As the cost of FutureLearn courses has increased, along with the number of learners enrolled on them, it's become clear that our existing offering isn't meeting this demand. The current tool that educators use to manage assignments and grading is outdated and hinders their ability to support learners. Our objective was to scale up and improve it to make it easier for educators to manage and grade large volumes of assignments quickly and help them support learners better.

Duration

3 weeks

Role

User research

Information architecture
UX design
Visual design

A desktop screen showing assignment submissions and a notification to publish them

Our aim was to help tutors support learners better by scaling up and improving the assignment grading workflow.

A user journey map showing the grading workflow

Observing tutors

By observing tutors, I learned that grading assignments on FutureLearn is time consuming. Tutors have difficulty finding the courses they’re responsible for and are under pressure to review and grade all their assignments at once, as they don’t have any flexibility with publishing grades. This was hampering them from carrying out their job of supporting learners.

A woman presenting her sketchesA man marking assignments on a laptop

Co-designing with tutors

Through co-design, I learned that tutors want FutureLearn to do the hard work for them and surface assignments that requires their immediate attention. I identified a need for tutors to keep track of upcoming assignments, allocate roles, and keep an eye on learners that are falling behind.

A venn diagram showing learner and tutor needs

Identifying the opportunities

We created three design principles primarily aimed at helping tutors identify and support learners who are underperforming. These included showing timely content relevant to the tutor, providing them an intuitive way to organise and allocate tasks amongst each other, and giving them flexibility over how and when they give feedback and grades to learners.

A tutor commenting on low-fidelity wireframes
Sketches of initial ideas

Iterating at speed

We used Whimsical and Slack to share low-fidelity designs with tutors and get feedback as early as possible. This meant we were able to go from nothing to a fully formed concept within just a week.

Three wireframes showing dashboard iterations

Showing timely and relevant content

Initially, I explored giving tutors a high-level view of the assignments they're responsible for. However, we quickly learned that they required more detailed information at a glance, so in the second iteration I improved this by featuring the most pressing assignments upfront. I iterated on these further to strip down the noise, surfacing what tutors needed to know to prioritise their workload, and identifying which learners need support.

A before and after image of the marking workflow

Managing assignments and learners

We restructured the information architecture to help tutors find assignments quickly, and enabled them to do bulk actions to give them more control over how they publish grades to learners.We also displayed statistics about learners' performance and the average grade to give tutors an insight into how their classes are performing. Tutors found this valuable as it also helped them assess how fair they were with grading.

A screen showing a learner's assignment submission and comments from the tutor

Contextual feedback

Existing user research revealed that the assignment feedback learners currently receive from tutors is too basic. I solved this by enabling tutors to add more specific, contextual feedback to learners' submissions. This allows tutors to provide more detailed guidance, akin to in-person tutor/student relationship.

Two screens showing the assignments being marked and published

Outcome

An improved assignment tool that allows tutors to manage and grade assignments on FutureLearn, and identify learners who need support. Tutors now have flexibility and control over when and how they give feedback to learners. Learners in turn receive more in-depth, personalised feedback, helping them identify areas for improvement and in turn perform well on the course.