Introducing an interactive agenda for students with ADHD
Our team's proposal was picked as one of the Top 3 out of 9 by Microsoft.
As part of my Product Management class, we were asked by Microsoft to develop accessibility features for a product in their M365 Suite. While we were all involved in all aspects, I took the lead on developing the features and designs, assessing MS Team's current product, and defining success metrics.
Team of 4 (myself + 3 Informatics undergrads)
Product Manager & Designer
PM & Software Engineer @ Microsoft
Microsoft Teams for Education is doing a lot to expand its offering during COVID-19, but what about those learning disabilities?
Teams for Education has been a rapidly adopted tool since COVID-19 forced schools to go virtual because of its vast educational features. In response to the pandemic, it quickly expanded its education offering and announced 25+ updates to the platform to help ease the transition into virtual earning.
Although Microsoft has always placed a large emphasis on designing for disadvantaged groups, the rapid adoption of Teams for Education during COVID-19 might have meant that the needs of the broader student population were addressed first. Therefore, we wanted to propose a 26th update that addressed the needs of those with learning disabilities.
CHOOSING A TARGET GROUP
Approximately 11% of students in the U.S. struggle with ADHD.
Attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder that 11% of students face and is generally characterized by inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Because of these behaviors, students with ADHD often need more support in class to learn and stay focused. Some of the ways teachers support these students in the classroom are:
Breaking down tasks and content into simple steps
Utilizing sound and visual cues to refocus students
Allowing time for short breaks during class
Now, imagine how the shift to virtual learning due to COVID-19 has made learning even harder for these students.
Teachers already needed to provide extra support for students with ADHD in a normal classroom. The shift to virtual has exacerbated this problem even more because not only are teachers unable to utilize previous assistive techniques but students now also face additional challenges brought on by the shift to virtual classrooms.
Students face a sensory and cognitive overload in video calls
Students lack visual and auditory cues
Students do not know what to expect in class
Teachers are unable to engage distracted students
While we were targeting a specific user group, we still wanted our feature to align with the Education team's current goals.
My teammates did a lot of the user research, but I took the lead on understanding how our proposed feature could fit into the Teams ecosystem. It was important to me that our idea, while targeting a different user group, still fit into the current goals of the Education product to create a unified experience.
Through research, I discovered that the 25 new features could be arranged into 4 overarching goals. Based on the user pain points we found, we decided to propose a feature that focused on the goal of promoting engagement and collaboration for students with ADHD.
BASED ON WHAT WE LEARNED, WE ASKED OURSELVES...
How might we translate the physical act of teaching and engaging with students with ADHD in a virtual environment?
We had 2 promising ideas, but decided to move forward with an interactive class agenda feature.
Our initial idea was to build simple sound cues that go off periodically throughout class to simulate how a teacher would use sound cues in a physical classroom. While we liked the simplicity of this idea, we deemed it to be too simple and wanted a more impactful solution. A few brainstorms later, we landed on the idea of an interactive agenda because it not only addressed the specific pain points of students with ADHD but could also be useful to a broader student population.
Although a 3rd party agenda app plug-in was already available, it lacked functionality and discoverability.
Teams is selective over what they build internally but instead, offers many 3rd party apps that users can add. One of the offerings is an agenda app called Decisions. While this app offered some functionality, there was room for improvement.
Given the push to release new updates to ease transition into online learning, we decided that building an agenda tool internally would be worthwhile because it aligns with their current goals, offers far more value to students with ADHD than Decisions, and would really enhance the Education product. Below are some of the problems with the Decisions app;
Our feature is intended for teachers and students that are affected by ADHD who need a structured yet interactive way to increase focus and engagement during online learning.
Prioritization of features.
We utilized the MoSCoW framework to better understand what should be prioritized in the product roadmap and how could this inform an MVP and an ideal solution.
Let's meet Nathan and his teacher, Torrie.
Nathan is a 6th grader who has struggled with ADHD his whole life, which makes it especially tough for him in school.
Now, let's see how the agenda tool can change how Nathan learns ✨
Nathan and his teacher, Torrie, can now enable agenda view.
Nathan craves more structure and likes to know what's expected of him in class. By enabling agenda view, he can see a visual reminder of what to expect, live tracking, and can also see content broken down into smaller, manageable chunks. If he or any of his friends find it distracting, they can disable it through the options menu at any point.
Torrie can help Nathan refocus through engagement prompts.
Nathan has a short attention span and often loses focus in class. His teacher, Torrie, can help him and his classmates refocus by providing short breaks between sections and utilizing breaks to gauge how her students are feeling about sections. Torrie can do this by prompting emotion and knowledge checks to promote engagement and interaction between sections.
Torrie can signal when she's completed a section.
If Torrie finishes a section before the allotted time, she can indicate that she's completed the section by clicking "next" or using a hot-key. This will reflect on the agenda.
How could we measure success?
During our pitch, the client challenged our success metrics and suggested they were too vague (e.g. increase in support tickets and NPS). Based on feedback from the client, I used Google's HEART framework to delve deeper into how we could measure success and understand how users (both students and teachers) are responding to this new feature.