TASKMATE

Helping teachers maximize the productivity of their planning time through task-batching and time-blocking.

Timeline: 2 months, Spring 2023

Role: Sole UX/UI Designer

Tools: Figma | FigJam | Maze

This is a conceptual project completed through Designlab’s UX Academy

CONTEXT

They say teaching is like having a hundred balls thrown at you all at once and someone just yells ‘CATCH!’

On top of the regular instructional duties and responsibilities, there's a constant onslaught of managing student behaviors, mediating conflicts and student interactions, responding to parent inquiries, fulfilling requests from school service providers, juggling post-pandemic safety regulations while all keeping your head above water.


One survey found that elementary teachers have an average of only 47 minutes of planning time each day, which is approximately 10% of their workday. This time is crucial for providing high-quality instruction to facilitate students’ pandemic recovery in education. Unfortunately, this time can be unreliable and inconsistent for teachers, leading to burnout and high turnover.


While more planning time for teachers can’t really be made without systemic changes in the education system, what if tasks can be done in a more systematic and efficient way so that when the 100 proverbial balls are thrown at them at once, they know which ones to catch?

PROBLEM

Teachers need a way to effectively manage and complete their tasks to maximize their non-instructional time in order to get things done efficiently and minimize burnoout.

USER RESEARCH

Teachers are responsible for much more than planning lessons during their non-instructional time.

As a former teacher, I understood this deeply. In conducting interviews with 9 teachers with professional experience ranging from early childhood to high school across multiple states, and school types (public, private, and charter), I found that last-minute requests from school admin, mediating student conflicts, and unexpected parent communications were among the unplanned events that occur frequently for teachers.


By digging further into teachers’ behaviors and habits on how they use their non-instructional time and using an affinity map to analyze user insights, I found further commonalities:

1

Participants had dedicated times for specific tasks

2

Experienced teachers no longer used the organizational strategies they found success with from earlier in their career

3

Teachers (almost) unanimously agree that prioritization is the key to staying on top of things

SECONDARY RESEARCH

News flash: We should not be multitasking!

Intrigued at the commonalities in participants’ experiences and curious about the shared value placed in the prioritization of tasks, I conducted further research that revealed valuable insights to better understand focus and productivity from a scientific point of view in order to enhance teachers' approach to task completion.


Studies have found that:

IDEATION

Looking for ways to give teachers more time (without literally giving them more time)

Without the magical abilities of the Time Turner Hermione used in the Harry Potter series to give teachers the ability to be in two places at once and get twice as much done in a period of time, I brainstormed other ways that could help teachers maximize their non-instructional time.


I soon realized that there were many constraints to giving teachers more time, namely that:

  1. As mentioned previously, more planning time within the school day is a systemic-level change that a digital product cannot solve

  2. WIth non-instructional times being the only time (aside from before- and after-school) that teachers can attend meetings without seeking coverage, teachers themselves often have limited control as to how their non-instructional time is used.

Time turner.
(If you're seeing an illustration and not a real depiction, I regret to inform that you are indeed a Muggle)

Ideation exercise exploring possible solutions

Narrowing in on teacher control

Narrowing in on teacher control

Narrowing in on teacher control

To narrow in on influencing teachers' own actions and behaviors during their non-instructional time, I used a prioritization matrix to identify features and user flows that would best address the three main user interview insights.

Research Insights
1

Participants had dedicated times for specific tasks

2

Experienced teachers no longer used the organizational strategies they found success with from earlier in their career

3

Teachers (almost) unanimously agree that prioritization is the key to staying on top of things

Product Feature
1

How might we give teachers a way to organize and a assign tasks to specific times?

2

How might we make task management easy and efficient so it doesn't add to a teachers workload?

3

How might we allow teachers to effectively prioritize and complete prioritized tasks?

USER FLOWS

Identifying the essential user flows of the MVP

From ideation exercises, I focused on two primary user goals for the minimum viable product (MVP) that would guide users through the essential elements of the user experience.

Add a Task

Using Natural Language Input for ease and efficiently, with prioritization features such as setting a reminder and flagging high-priority tasks.

Schedule and Assign Tasks

Keep your workflow and focus on track by scheduling tasks to specific non-instructional time blocks.

WIREFRAMING

Moving toward a more teacher-centered design

Between sketching and mid-fidelity wireframing, I found an opportunity to move from a more generic task management app to one that better served teachers with the inclusion of task organization by class or by lesson.


These shifts included grouping the tasks by class and organizing lists in an agenda that reflects a teacher's schedule to align the product to reflect a teacher’s workday.


However, there was something about this solution that just didn't click, but I couldn’t yet put my finger on why.

A snapshot of mid-fidelity wireframe explorations

A DETOUR

Arranging tasks based on class schedules didn't fit users' real available time.

Grouping tasks by class does provide a certain layer of organization, particularly for any teacher who has ever needed to plan a last-minute lesson (Guilty!). However, considering studies on the drawbacks of context-switching—like reduced focus and increased stress—I refocused the design strategy to focus on task batching.


Task batching involves grouping similar tasks together to complete at once, addressing teachers' challenges of frequent distractions and time constraints.

A NEW SOLUTION AND HYPOTHESIS!

By allowing users to batch and schedule tasks at specific times of the day, users will be more likely to perform focused work to complete those tasks within the scheduled time.

HIGH-FIDELITY WIREFRAMES

KISS (Keep it Simple and Serene) for Teachers

In bringing the designs into high-fidelity, it was important to ensure that the visual style and UI stuck a balance between a professional yet calming tone.


With the addition of task batching, users would now be able to use the tags assigned to each task to batch similar dasks together prior to assigning the tasks to a time slot.


A third simple but essential user flow of completing tasks was added because the point, after all, is not just for users to organize and track their tasks, but for them to complete them as well.

Hi-fidelity wireframes

USABILITY TESTING

Users found the product valuable in addressing their teacher-specific needs, and they could easily complete each task given.

Once the high-fidelity prototype was complete, I conducted moderated usability tests with 5 school-based K-12 teachers. In the usability test, I incorporated an additional user flow of completing a task to lead users to their primary goal of completing tasks


Overall, users found the product easy to use, with a few opportunities for improved clarity in the text elements. These were addressed through iterations that led to the final solution.

FINAL SOLUTION

Natural Language Input easily helps you tag and schedule tasks.

You can also prioritize your tasks and see them at the top of your daily list so you can tackle the most important tasks first.

Batch similar tasks and schedule them to a time block.

Say goodbye to wasted time and make the most of your sacred non-instructional time to stay on top of your workload and manage your energy.

LEARNINGS AND NEXT STEPS

Going back to the drawing board.

It took multiple rounds of ideating—some planned, some not—to land on the task-batching solution. What helped drive the final product at each step of ideating and designing is centering the solution around the user.

Desktop or web design for computer use

While teachers are constantly on the move, it's important to acknowledge that tasks like lesson planning, data management, and email correspondence predominantly occur on a computer. Providing a desktop app or responsive website would meet user needs and improve retention by enabling access across multiple devices.

Sharing is caring!

Task-sharing was a feature that emerged from both the ideation phase and user testing. Research indicates that the social aspect of collaborating together enhances intrinsic motivation, so designing a feature that allows users to share tasks would fulfill their needs when working collaboratively on tasks or projects.

Next up…

0 TO 1 RESPONSIVE MVP DESIGN

RouteWise

RouteWise

RouteWise

Designing the MVP experience to help travelers create optimized routes for their daily itinerary.

Designing the MVP experience to help travelers create optimized routes for their daily itinerary.

Designer, teacher, human

Designer, teacher, human