The Challenge

JerusalemU is an Israeli non-profit whose mission is to educate young jews about Israel and Judaism. They have numerous channels through which they provide educational materials, but their core offering is an e-learning application through which young students can explore premium content. The original platform has worked to test the need for a product like this, but it was not an intuitive user experience and did not give the JU product team the flexibility that they needed to really connect with their user base.

The Process

Discovery

JerusalemU had a product, a user base and a model for educating young jews across the globe. However, they were struggling to get students to engage beyond this stipend program that the team created in which they would pay $100 to users that completed a certain class. This model was not sustainable, so we needed to find a way to drive more engagement on the platform. To further understand the challenge, we spoke with members of the JU team, as well as different users of the platform.

Validation

By having conversations with existing users, we were able to identify a common pattern with regard to what JU was known best for – content. Almost everyone we spoke with remarked on the quality of content that they are able to get from JerusalemU. In addition to quality content, users found the requirements of the stipend program underwhelming. The JU team also made us aware of the cheating issue that has plagued the stipend program for some time now. Clearly students were more interested in the reward, than actually doing the work.

Product Hypotheses

This is a big project and there were a lot of different areas in which we made decisions based on our user research data. Based on the desire for high quality content that many of the users stated, we had to make sure it was all easily available. To accomplish this, we decided to design library pages for all of the existing content, and new content that the JU team will be creating for the platform.

Our conversations about the stipend program made it clear that we needed to focus our time on redesigning the model, which ultimately dictated the product. Rather than offering students a one time reward upon completion, we collaborated with the JU team to create a more gamified model. We decided to use a points system that would give students an incremental reward each time they completed a class.

Prototyping

With our product hypotheses in hand, we took to the drawing board to craft prototypes of the core flows. We tested the stipend program to figure out whether it could be easily understood that there was a distinction between general viewing and stipend, in which a student earned points. We came up with this sandbox concept in which a user, while they were completely the stipend, wouldn’t really have to leave that area of the product. After testing this sandbox concept, we learned that it was actually quite confusing to potential users. Additionally, we decided that it didn’t make a lot of sense to give users two completely different experiences.

The Result

User Interface Design

Based on what we learned about user behavior around our stipend sandbox concept, we redesigned the experience to identical whether a student was in the stipend program or not. We also focused on customization. The old product forced a student to pre-pick what they wanted to watch and then they would only have access to that course. The new platform allows students to create their own watch lists from the larger catalog of content, and watch accordingly.

The new platform allows a student to track their progress by points, and choose new classes based on their target goal of 100 points. Our hope is that allowing students to see the progression will drive further engagement with the content, rather than push users to complete the content for their single reward of $100.

Development

Building a brand new e-learning application presents a series of challenges. From uploading content, tracking data and presenting it accurately to users, our team had a lot to juggle. This project also went through a series of iterations before we arrived at the current product. On the development side of things, we had to make significant changes to how our databases were structured to fetch data correctly on the front end. In addition to capturing and displaying the correct data, we had some significant functionality requirements on the front end. The team really stepped up here to bring our designs to life and offer JerusalemU’s user base a delightful user experience.

Takeaways

E-learning applications like Lynda and Skillshare are true works of art. We came into this project with the goal of building a product of that caliber. We realized pretty quickly how difficult that can be. However, after learning more about the JerusalemU and their users, we were able to craft a product that is specific to their needs. It’s a truly unique product that we recommend to check out!

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