Learning Media Design x CMU IDeATe

Group Work with Mianhong Chen, Mohammed, Joyce Chen

Contextual Inquiry | Affinity Diagram | Persona | Experience Map | Prototyping 

Skills and Tools: Sketch

[The full-text can be download here.] 

Invistigate the learner's experience and design for the tool to foster students giving feedback and pitch other's work in IDeATe Community. 



The Integrative Design, Arts and Technology (IDeATe) program at Carnegie Mellon University connects diverse strengths across campus in order to advance education, research, and creative practice in domains that merge technology and art expertise. Our semester challenge was focused on applying the Maker Ed open portfolio initiative - how learning artifacts are captured and documented, and how these digital portfolios can enhance an educational or professional experience - to the IDeATe program. Through careful and methodical research, concept ideation, and prototyping, we explored the documentation practices currently used in the IDeATe program, and we worked to develop a public feedback system that would improve the student experience in their documentation and portfolio processes. Below, we present the problem and vision statements of our design solution.









Problem Statement

Although the IDeATe program houses creative thinkers and makers, all students who are constantly developing unique projects and learning artifacts, the documentation of such creative works often does not keep up the pace. The Maker Ed open portfolio challenge questions how we can better construct a documentation experience for students, and we identified two specific reasons why students in IDeATe courses are not currently more engaged in documentation and portfolio practices. The first overarching weakness in existing IDeATe documentation practices stems from the overwhelming demands of the documentation and critique process. In addition, student vulnerability also prevents students from showing incomplete or simple projects.


Vision Statement

We believe we can address students’ vulnerability and the documentation learning curve by (1) structuring the feedback process, and (2) displaying projects anonymously to public critique. We plan to do this by using a feedback process open to the general public, which implements familiar communication channels such as texting or social media. Our aim is to motivate students to build a culture around documentation, as well as to better value the feedback and iteration that is necessary for successful documentation and portfolio practices.


Design Research & Synthesis

This section would showcase how we conducted the research and how we synthesized all the findings to reach a conclusion. We conducted the literature review and analyze the existing platforms, three rounds of user studies. 

User Study 1: Affinity Diagram















User Study 2: Student Interview Spectrum, interview, concept generation.


































User Study 3: Student Persona and Consolidated Model






































As a result of our initial research and discovery - background readings, user studies, and analysis models - we developed the following set of design needs. These needs would then form the basis for our problem statement, as well as the specific target areas for our design solution.

One of our primary discoveries from this phase was the idea of vulnerability. The idea that students are uncomfortable showing off simple or unfinished work, as well as being uncomfortable with the feedback and critique process, is a design problem that does not lead to a straightforward answer. In addition, general lack of student motivation to document their IDeATe work stemmed from several different causes. Students typically prioritized core classes over the elective and exploratory courses found in IDeATe, so more of their academic focus centered around courses for their individual majors. In addition, students find documentation time-consuming, and it can be difficult to learn new techniques and platforms. Finally, in order to fully understand the benefits of documentation, students need to get feedback from their peers (or field experts) in a timely manner. On the instructor side, we found that it was difficult for instructors to address all of the different documentation skill levels found in a single course, so any potential design solutions would need to appeal to both beginners and experts in documentation practices.



Concept Prototyping and Refinements

This section provides our ideation and realization phases of the semester. First we present our concept generation process, which took place through storyboarding and mapping a user’s experience through a documentation process in IDeATe. Next, we present our three iterations of prototyping. While some of these initial prototypes were relative disappointments compared to our intended goals, we constantly refined our ideas and methods in order to achieve our goal.




















Prototyping (Phase 1)


After the in-class brainstorming and group analysis, we finally scoped down our initial ideas about enhancing public feedbacks and comments into a specific one. We decided to set up monitors displaying student projects throughout Hunt Library. These screens would prompt nearby students to tweet/text in a short comment as feedback to the project creator.


In order to attract students passing by, we decided to design and utilize some physical signs attached to the monitor to capture students’ attention.


Although the monitors (project & feedback displays) are going to be run unsupervised, our team members will spend some time monitoring the areas where these are displayed. In this first iteration, we also planned to students after they send in a tweet/text, and ask for their opinions on our idea.



















Prototyping (Phase 2)

According to the observation and feedback from the first prototyping, we integrated the insights and implemented the second round of prototyping. The detailed design elements changed in location and audience, screen size, slogan languages, feedback methods and so on. 

Unfortunately, this second prototype also resulted in overall disappoint, as we received 0 public responses. After our struggling prototype session, we turned to the course instructors for the suggestion about the improvement of the design. First, they suggested that we make the process of giving feedback easier - perhaps we could place an iPad or some other mobile device next to the monitor, providing a dedicated and convenient method to answer a survey form. In addition, we should pay even further attention to the words we used in the call to action. While the move from “artist” to “maker” was a step in the right direction, appealing for the public to help a single “maker” might indicate this is just an individual project. In order to have a larger impact and engage more people in the community, we wanted to consider changing from “a maker” to “makers” to target the whole IDeATe community on a broader scale.

Prototyping (Phase 3)

As we moved into the third round of prototyping, we wanted to incorporate all of our learning from previous iterations. We started by applying the expert feedback from our second iteration, such as the use of an iPad and the plural “makers” term. In addition, we also added the different elements described below:

  1. In order to maximize the potential for public responses, we set up the project display in both the basement and the first floor of Hunt Library.

  2. To accommodate the two displays, we placed a laptop in one station and a tablet in the other. We predicted that it would be easier for a student to engage and provide feedback if they could enter their responses into a dedicated device, rather than needing their own devices.

  3. We changed our call to action from “Help out an IDeATe maker” to “Help out our IDeATe makers”. We hoped this modified phrase would appeal more to the voice of the community, rather than a single maker.

  4. We altered the content showing on the monitor to switch between the 1-minute video and a project description slide.

  5. We also added a layer of extrinsic motivation, offering free coffee or a bagel to anyone who completed our survey. At the end of the survey we provided a coupon that a feedback giver could redeem at Maggie Murph Cafe in Hunt library.

  6. Finally, for the third iteration we did a 3 hour observation to capture students interaction with the design even if they didn’t provide feedback.

Final Design Recommendations

Synthesizing all our research and findings from all the three iterations, we concluded that a successful public feedback system should include the following: 

  1. The presented project should be simple enough for the audience to quickly understand the concept.

  2. The optimal presented project should align with audience passion.

  3. The public feedback system should be intuitive to use, with optional channels to communicate back and forth with a project creator.

The public feedback system should be set up in a common location, to develop the habit of feedback-giving in the community.

Moving Forwards

To combine all the factors and design elements, which have the impact of engaging people for feedback, we generate the concept of “Feedback Hub” as a system of feedback posting. We are willing to implement it if possible in the future. 

Imaginary interface

Based on the design ideas above, we first came up with the hand-drawn design scripts to depict the different components in the system and process of system working. And then turned it into a high fidelity interface.

Review Session Critiques

After our final review session, we read and analyzed the helpful feedback from our course guests.  Overall, the feedback provided important suggestions that we would want to implement for future development on this public feedback system. One important note was that creating a “culture” of documentation (one of our main goals in our vision statement) was inherently a difficult challenge. However, one aspect that could be further played to our advantage is the idea of familiarity. If we can expand on the ideas, concepts, and technologies that are already present in IDeATe courses or curriculums, then we would not need to design a completely new system for users. In addition, another point of feedback mentioned that using the “artist” sign in a location where the community consists of more artists (or at least students who identify as artists) could also yield interesting results. Perhaps in a future iteration of this system, public feedback could be displayed in another building or department wing, where student backgrounds might be more coherent.


Another important insight we got from feedback came from its application in actual IDeATe courses. While the idea of anonymously displayed projects can sound great as an isolated system, how would this integrate with actual coursework? Would instructors react badly about students getting outside feedback that might oppose the course instruction? In addition, what would the interactions between the artist and the feedback-giver look like in real life? One point of critique from our final review suggested that knowing the context of the artist, or perhaps even speaking face-to-face with the creator of the project, might encourage more feedback.