Introducing Group Assignments
Helping educators with a service that streamlines the process of sharing files between teachers and students.
As a classroom teacher, I utilized Google Classroom to assign both individual work and whole-class assignments throughout the year.
However, there is currently no simple way to create group assignments through Google Classroom. Not having the option forced my previous coworkers and I to have to work in very round about and tedious ways through homegrown solutions.
I was inspired to put on my design cap and create a solution for this commonly faced frustration. My goal was to introduce a group assignment feature to save valuable teaching time and cycles for teachers and students.
Losing Valuable Teaching Time
Many teachers can attest that there isn’t enough time in a day to teach everything that they’re expected to. As such, it’s important not to waste the hours that one has.
Creating group projects is an area where hours are often squandered. Some times we'd have to carefully strategize about which student could be best at sharing document permissions. Other days we had to hope for the best that every student actually remembered their email and could type it in correctly. It wasn’t a rare case that we would waste an entire block of our day to get the documents in place and ready to go.
Focusing our Target
Google Classroom is primarily utilized by two users, students and teachers. Some home grown solutions revolve around extra efforts on the teacher’s side. Other strategies focus on students creating their own group assignments.
Since the teacher is the one who initially creates the assignment in every situation though, I decided to focus my solution from the teacher’s perspective.
While I was a teacher who faced these issues personally, I wanted to ensure that I did not let assumptions cloud my process. As such, I set out some research goals to keep me focused.
Discover how teachers currently use Google Classroom.
Understand how technology is used in schools.
See if teachers truly have a need for a group work assignment feature.
I first set off to better understand the market. I looked into Google Classroom’s history and usage.
80 million users utilize G Suite for Education
80% of teachers believe access to tech is good/great
75% of teachers use technology daily with students
50% + of teachers have 1:1 student-to-device ratio
Learning through Other's Experiences
Through my research, I found out that it is mostly upper grade teachers that use Google Classroom frequently. As such, I interviewed four upper elementary teachers about their experiences using Google Classroom. My user interviews validated my assumption that teachers are frustrated with the inability to assign group work. Of those interviewed:
of users access Google Classroom daily to weekly to create, assign, and grade.
of users frequently assign group work in their classroom.
of users use a work around to assign group work in Google Classroom currently.
of users prefer to give verbal directions over written ones in the assignment.
of users were frustrated about how unsubmitting assignments doesn't work.
"I both love and hate how accessible Google Products are."
- 4th Grade Teacher
Defining the Solution
From Personas to Roadmaps
To capture the needs, responsibilities, and frustrations I learned from the user interviews, I created Victoria. Victoria is a representation of the voices heard throughout my user interviews. Having her as a persona allowed me to continuously focus on who my target audience was and how to really meet their needs.
Creating a persona helped me to focus on my target audience. However, I also wanted to deepen my understanding of her goals, frustrations, motivations, and needs. I designed empathy maps, storyboards, and how might we questions to help me navigate those questions.
With a deeper understanding of the user, I was then comfortable with starting to think about the solution and how we could set up the framework. I created a sitemap to determine where this new feature could best be imbedded. Once that was determined, I created task flows to establish how users should navigate to it. One focused on how users can create a group assignment. The second revolves around how users would check on students' progress on the group assignment.
Capturing the Look and Feel
It was critical to maintain the look and feel that Google Classroom currently has. I consistently referenced their branding and current design as I sketched out wireframes. I made sure to add in the new features in a seamless manner that would make the most sense.
Introducing Group Assignments
A Seamless Integration
In this new feature, teachers follow the present flow in creating assignments. When creating a task, the new group assignment is a presented option. The framework for creating the assignment remains relatively the same as the other assignments to maintain the brand and design. The biggest difference is the introduction of number of groups and selecting who will be assigned in those groups.View Prototype ➔
Adding Students to Groups
It’s important that solutions actually address the frustrations and issues at hand. As such, I conducted a usability testing with five teachers who actively use Google Classroom. I purposefully recruited teachers who ranged in their years of experience in teaching and also in their comfort with technology. This would help me get a more accurate understanding of any issues revolving around the new feature. Overall, the new feature was very successful. However, there were some areas of concern such as the wording of directions.
The Future of Google Classroom
Since beginning this project, Google Classroom has been making frequent updates to improve their service. It's great to see that they are trying to better understand their users to improve their experiences. I'd love to see a group assignment feature one day as my research showed that it would be extremely beneficial to teachers.
Another design I'd love to explore in future iterations is a way to send feedback to students. Many teachers I interviewed shared their frustrations about revolving submitting and returning work. Since students rarely work on only one draft alone, I'd love to implement a feature where students can formally ask for feedback before formally turning in their work!