Improving piano education by bridging the gap between students, parents and teachers.

Ensemble is a digital platform designed to improve the piano learning experience by creating a student-centered focus. While developing the student’s experience, it addresses the motivations of all parties including parents and teachers alike.

Individually, it assists piano teachers during lessons, guides beginner students during practice and promotes active communication between the parents and teachers.

Context

Completed over 7 Weeks
Senior UX Design Course

Roles

User Research
UX Design
Content Strategy
Prototyping
Video Editing

Team

Sabrina He
Shiny Chu
Qianzhen Goh
Joshua Lukman

Challenge

Tasked with creating a design solution for a domain of our choice, we began with exploring the extracurricular music education space. Through our primary research (user interviews and surveys) with professional and inexperienced music teachers, we began to identify problem areas to focus on:

Starting lessons is an area of difficulty for teachers as students would come to class unpracticed.

Gaining trust from parents was difficult because lack of practice required repetition of lessons, portraying little student progress.

Problem scope

Mapping the Journey

To better understand these problem areas, I led the use of journey maps based on our initial round of research. This would help us identify potential moments for intervention. After mapping the weekly music journey, I identified key pain points during the start of the lessons for the teacher, and mid-week practices for the parents.

Primary Insights

To investigate these key moments, we conducted further primary research with teachers, parents and students. Through this we were able to validate our assumptions about their experiences and gain a better understanding from all perspectives. After summarizing our findings, I helped identify overlapping insights amongst our three audiences. At this stage we established that  lack of empathy led to poor learning experience for all.

1 | Parents often assumed they knew what was best for their children often putting their children in lessons based on their own personal values.

2 | Teachers had low commitment to communicating with parents regarding the progress and plans of their student’s education as they often lacked formal educational training.

3 | Student’s often felt unmotivated to practice or share their goals due to lack of active support from both the parent and teacher.

A Key Insight

While conducting secondary research on music education we found that:

The most effective teaching and learning occurred where the parents, teachers, and students communicated well, demonstrated mutual respect for one another, shared a sense of common purpose, and adopted child-centred, as opposed to teacher-centered, goals.

(Upitis, R., Abrami, P. C., Brook, J., & King, M., 2017, page 2)

We determined in order to properly address the cycle of poor attention and motivation, we could meet the needs of all three audiences by first focusing on the student’s learning.

Framing the challenge

After establishing the context and design space of our project, I reframed our problem from a relational perspective.

How might we establish empathy between teachers, students and parents to create a continually motivating music education experience?

Target Audience

In order to establish a foundation for creating empathy between our users, we refined our three research-based personas to focus on our users’ most immediate needs.

Guiding Principles

From our research insights and understanding of the existing experience of music education, we established three guiding principles to develop and evaluate our solution.

1 | Personalized Music Learning
Customizing student’s learning curriculum in order to create a compatible experience.

2 | Seamless and Active Communication
Providing opportunities for simple and easy communication between parents and teachers regarding the student’s learning.

3 | Mutual Respect and Understanding
Encouraging mutual consideration of each person’s goals in the music learning process.

Solution

While my teammates took the lead of UI and visual design, I took lead in two roles.

Firstly, as a UX lead, I was responsible for contributing to the design of user flows and prototyping. I specifically helped shape the flow of Ensemble’s student onboarding, and lesson/practice assistance. As we were entering a traditionally pen and paper based experience, I was considerate of the real-world implications of our platform.

Additionally, I contributed to the content strategy of our UIs and presentations. As our solution covered a wide range of moments in the music learning process, communication of our idea in an understandable and digestible format became vital for presenting a persuasive concept.

Pivoting

During the initial development of our solution, we focused on the personalization of our student’s learning through an onboarding quiz. This was intended to guide the teacher when creating lesson plans as it would serve as a base mark for teaching in the student’s preferred method. In turn it would hypothetically improve the students chances to learn well.

Despite our admirable idea, we quickly learned that this “learning style” approach for education actually has not shown any merit for improving someone’s ability to learn and apply a new skill. In fact, the truly impactful aspects of somebody’s ability to learn are repeated application and prompt, explicit feedback.

(Upitis, R., Abrami, P. C., Brook, J., & King, M., 2017, page 2)

In turn we scrapped this approach and applied our new insights throughout our entire solution. We would then intend to improve our student’s learning experience by encouraging frequent focused practices over irregular imprecise practices

Final Solution

Onboarding

In the onboarding process of a new student, we immediately involve the parent in the process of their child’s learning.

As the parent shares information regarding their child’s experience, the teacher is able to contextualize their curriculum through the platform’s store of standardized piano material.

Adding new Student/Parent

Signing Up as Parent

Prepaaring lesson plans

Lesson

At the start of each lesson, teachers can customize their plans on the spot as they review their student's progress. Intuitively they can uniquely adjust to each student's learning with pre-made exercise modules.

During lessons, teachers can seamlessly annotate focus areas for the student to practice. In addition to identifying common mistakes with rhythm, notes, and articulation, the feature allows the teacher to fluidly add comments through voice recording.  As the lesson ends, the exercises and comments completed are then compiled for the student to practice during the week.

Reviewing and Annotating during Lessons

Post Lesson

Upon completing the lesson, parents are able to review their child’s lesson including the individual focus areas for homework. In communicating this information, Ensemble passively assists the teacher in bringing the parent into the child’s learning. In addition, relaying this information can begin to enable parents to support their children during their practice time.

Reviewing Child's Lesson exercises for homework

Prrogressive Exercises

Ensemble utilizes a tablet format for the student dashboard as it offers higher legibility and interactivity during practice exercises.

To address problems with rhythm, notes, and articulation, incremental exercises are introduced to challenge students during practice. Progressive clapping, and play along exercises encourage students to enter a flow state as increasing difficulty matches their skill level.

Student Starting a practice exercise

Feedback and Repeat

After each repetition of each focus area, Ensemble provides immediate and specific feedback for the student to recognize their mistakes. By communicating how they can improve in addition to their progress, students can feel motivated while practicing.

In addition, secondary features such as streaks, progress indicators and encouraging language motivate students to return and practice more repeatedly.

As students continue to practice, the teacher and parents are able to receive updates on their practice sessions.

Giving feedback and showing progress

Value Propositions

In addressing the needs of teachers, parents, and students together, Ensemble aims to break the cycle of poor music learning.

By providing the necessary tools for teachers and parents to support music education, students can feel empowered to take hold of their own learning, in turn creating intrinsic motivation for all again and again.

Reflection

Over the course of this project, I learned that balancing many stakeholder desires can be a daunting task as problems are often intertwined and complex. However, rather than remaining in stagnation and instead beginning with a simple inquiry, we as designers can create solutions which inspire change.