Gotham space agency .edu

Gotham Space Agency seeks to capture the imagination of future scientists and engage them in an exciting journey into space through the deployment of a 2U CubeSat carrying a crew of 3D printed characters. GothamSpaceAgency.edu is the companion education website intended to accompany the mission during the post-launch/legacy phase of the project. 

project Overview

Our challenge was to develop the concept and initial interactive wireframes for GothamSpaceAgnecy.edu. Through comparative research, quantitative and qualitative user research, and working iteratively with the client, we arrived at a design that envisions teachers creating and sharing their own space related earth science lesson plans, with the ultimate aim of inspiring students to study the Earth from space. 

Client requirements: 

  • Create an easy and fun to use educational resource for teachers to share and find lesson plans dealing with earth science content.
  • Allow integration with Google EarthEngine and TourBuilder into the lesson plans.
  • Keep site free and accessible. 

Time: 6 Weeks

Team: The team for this project included three other NYU User Experience Design students. My role in the team was to head the qualitative and quantitative research for the group and present our findings to the client. 

Methods

Competitive analysis, persona development, user flows, paper prototypes, interactive wireframes, surveys, user research and feedback. Download the full 32-page report of our our process and final recommendation.

PROCESS

 

discovery process and initial research 

To develop a better understanding of the current state of online space science platforms and trends in educational websites we analyzed a series of competitor sites that either had the best web traffic statistics for our demographic or presented novel approaches to educational software. 

Our findings were that the most successful learning sites were either geared towards supporting teacher mediated learning or towards student self-directed learning, but rarely both. Our findings helped the client define the audience they wanted to target. 

Persona development and user flow

To focus our design process on a memorable set of users, our team developed a series of personas detailing demographics, goals, environment, and pain points with educational technology. We used our personas to generate user flows that imagined a high-level account of how our users might arrive and navigate through the site. 

user research overview

Our user research happened in three stages; A discovery phase in which we conducted in-person interviews to corroborate our initial research and get feedback on a few initial prototypes; a more focused stage in which we used surveys and an interactive digital wireframe to collect quantifiable data supporting our design decisions; and a refinement stage in which we used contextual inquiry to identify any problems or inconsistencies that we had overlooked. A more detailed account of our research process can be found in our final report

 

design iterations

Based on the findings from our research and the constraints of our client, our design iterations can be categorized in two thematic stages:

1. Learners First and Teachers Will Follow

View interactive prototype

Site map of one of the learner-centered prototypes

Site map of one of the learner-centered prototypes

Based on the feedback we received from teachers and students, our first inclination was to follow the model of popular learner-led sites such as https://diy.org/ and https://scratch.mit.edu/ to create a site which challenged students to use Gotham Space Agency's mission to conduct, document, and share their own earth science experiments. Our assumption was that we could appeal to both educators and learners by designing a site in which the learner was the primary initiator of contact and sustained interaction. 

However, based on our client's resource constraints and feedback from teachers that their primary concerns were that lessons could be applied in a modular fashion and were clearly linked to state and/or federal learning standards, we revised our design. 

2. Supporting Teacher Curriculum

View interactive prototype

Pivoting to focus primarily on teachers, our next round of prototypes addressed teacher need to find curriculum that related to the Gotham Space Agency mission but which supported their learning requirements and standards. 

Site map of one of the more teacher-oriented prototypes

Site map of one of the more teacher-oriented prototypes

Site map of final proposal

Site map of final proposal

In our final design we envisioned a teacher driven online community where teachers can search, upload, share, and iterate on lesson plans that use Google Earth Engine and Tour Builder. Drawing inspiration from sites such as https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/ and http://scratched.gse.harvard.edu/ we found that giving teachers a community to share their own lesson plans and resources was a lean way to generate motivation to engage with a tool. An emphasis on how to use the site, through an initial pop-up tour video and a “Tour” menu item serve to make it easy to communicate the sites functions to teachers. Since so many of our previous user testers expressed hesitation in creating a login account, we chose to create a platform where teachers could create and share lesson plans by just entering their name. If a teacher wanted to find or edit something they created previously, they could search for the content based on their name and then edit a copy of their original. 

conclusion

The challenge of delivering space science curriculum to time-strapped, standard specific teachers who want full control of content without a login account forced us to rethink the idea of how to connect teachers with new content and tools. We wanted to avoid creating a simple resource portal like the NASA education site, which is riddled with out of date and visually incongruous links, but which could be found just as easily by using a search engine.

Instead, we settled on the idea of “crowdsourcing” lesson plans from teachers to allow for lean content generation and visually congruous navigation and design, as well as giving teachers more control over lesson plan design and search.

With additional time and resources, we believe that our first concept (the mission-focused portal inspired by DIY) would be an interesting direction to explore. However, given the feedback we received in our initial presentation to Gotham, along with that of teachers and university professors, we believe our final concept still accomplishes our goals of being a useful resource for middle school teachers while highlighting the usefulness of Google Earth Engine and Tour Builder as educational tools.

Our hope is that by designing a community where teachers share their creativity, insights, and expertise in implementing new tools for studying Earth from space, that we will not only engage and attract users, but create advocates for future use of Gotham Space Agency EDU.