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ECoach

A web app that provides undergraduate students with tailored resources to promote equity on campus and empower them to succeed.

Empowering Students to Succeed

ECoach is a $1.9 million NSF-funded web application that provides undergraduate students with individualized resources to help them succeed. ECoach has been shown to improve student grades by half a letter grade or more. I led a complete redesign of the user experience, drove the creation of a style guide and visual identity, and art directed a graphic designer to bring it to life.

 
 

Client: University of Michigan
Role: UX Design & Research
Platform: Web App
Timeline: Fall 2015 – Spring of 2017

 
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Freshmen at the University of Michigan began using a tool in the fall that mixes their personal and academic data with data on how earlier students did, advice from them and study guides from professors. After students complete a survey about their expectations for success in a course, the program digs into the data to see if those expectations are realistic. When they sign on, it takes them through questions and answers in what feels like a conversation.
— New York Times, Feb. 2, 2017
 

THE CHALLENGE

This project had two main goals— to improve the student experience using ECoach, and to create a framework and visual identity that would allow it to scale. ECoach was just one of a suite of student-facing tools being developed at the University of Michigan’s startup incubator, so it was important to seamlessly integrate these disparate experiences under the same visual umbrella.

Another big challenge was differentiating the ECoach brand from other educational platforms, like Canvas. Based on user research, I designed a color scheme and selected typography that felt lighthearted and inclusive. By differentiating the color palette and illustration style from traditional University of Michigan offerings, I created a visual identity that was flexible enough to work at any college or university.

 
Before the redesign, ECoach was a functional but limited interface that lacked a clear visual hierarchy and was difficult for students to navigate.

Before the redesign, ECoach was a functional but limited interface that lacked a clear visual hierarchy and was difficult for students to navigate.

 
 

The Approach

Undergraduate students are bombarded with information, and ECoach cuts through the noise by delivering a hyper-tailored experience. However, the previous design felt fragmented, and navigating between tools within ECoach elements was a challenge. I began by creating a map of the entire system to show where different things connected, as well as to surface pain points in the experience. Based on this understanding, I sketched and iterated in close collaboration with the lead software developer and behavioral scientist, and conducted interviews and usability tests with both students and professors.

 
 
 
Early sketches of the redesigned Course Coach homepage. I filled the better part of two sketchbooks over the course of this redesign, making note of questions and scrawling rough ideas as I went. I discussed each iteration with the lead software developer to discuss implementation and stress test the designs.

Early sketches of the redesigned Course Coach homepage. I filled the better part of two sketchbooks over the course of this redesign, making note of questions and scrawling rough ideas as I went. I discussed each iteration with the lead software developer to discuss implementation and stress test the designs.

Sketches for the Exam Playbook feature. I worked closely with our behavioral scientist to weave in interactions that would help students create an effective study plan.

An early paper prototype of new grade calculator functionality. This allowed me to gather rapid directional feedback from students and validate concepts before jumping into higher fidelity prototypes.

An early paper prototype of new grade calculator functionality. This allowed me to gather rapid directional feedback from students and validate concepts before jumping into higher fidelity prototypes.

I designed a color palette for ECoach to differentiate it from other University of Michigan tools. The goal was a fun and approachable interface.

A diagram of the ECoach ecosystem, including all of the different features and tools that needed to be incorporated into the redesign. I made note of gaps and pain points that we needed to address in order to be successful.

 
 

The result

ECoach has now been used by over 25,000 undergraduate students at the University of Michigan and UC Santa Barbara, with plans to expand to additional campuses across the U.S. In addition to an improved onboarding experience, the redesigned ECoach makes it easy for students to find the info they need at-a-glance with minimal clicks, while allowing instructors the flexibility to prioritize the things students see first.

 
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Things like Canvas are just for viewing slides and the syllabus. ECoach is there to help, unlike a mandatory tool. It gives you information on how to actually do better. I’ve never seen a site that really does that. I wish it was in all my classes.
— University of Michigan Sophomore studying Chemistry
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