Study Bites: Succeed in AP History Writing
Study Bites: Help AP History Students Improve Writing Skills
Yilan | Anglea | Jihye | Leslie | Me
Study Bites is a website (http://study-bites.com/) developed to help high school teachers and students tackle the abstract, overwhelming, and disorganized nature of World History using intuitive UI and web navigation.
Our client would like us to further enhance the website by designing a feature that helps students with their writing process by developing their critical thinking skills to write stronger arguments on their AP exam.
Our client has a preliminary concept of this feature. For this project, our client would like us to redefine or recreate the concept based on user insights and also acquire about how valuable the feature would be for students.
Finally, Design Bites hopes to receive a style guide and high-fidelity designs that their team can implement.
How might we help students improve their critical thinking skills for AP World History exam?
Design a feature that supports students in their writing process and specifically helps them extract evidence, make an opinion, and create an argument.
Make the essay writing process easier for students
Provide learning & practice essay to guide students
Make study material more digestible
Promote collaboration and engagement
Research (interviews and survey)
Understand AP History Exam
Sketching: Crazy Eight
Remote usability testing with target users
Analyze test results
Increase fidelity of the wireframe
Refine the design
Client's Product Definition
In order to make history a bit more fun and help students feel more confident in their ability to learn (Vision). Study Bites will solve AP World History high school students' problem of tackling the abstract, overwhelming, and seeming disorganized nature of World History(User Problem) by using intuitive UI and web navigation (Product Strategy).
Study Bites is constrained by specifically focusing on AP World History students, and as result, trying to understand what a student will be motivated to purchase (Constraints). We know if Study Bites works when we see students automatically seeking out and turning to Study Bites when studying and eager to purchase a site plan to help them with their course (Goal).
Prior to our research, our client has surveyed over 100 students and teachers by asking these questions: their interest in World History, difficulty studying for the AP exam, and the current resources they use to study for the exam. The problem that the students most struggled with and confused about is studying for the essay portion of the exam. Teachers were also concerned about students' writing and critical thinking skills. Our team created a diagram summarizing our findings from our clients.
To help Study Bites better understand their users, we utilized the continuous discovery method to conduct user research starting with interviews & surveys.
Primary User Group
High School Students
currently preparing for the AP World History exam
Secondary User Group
High School Teachers or Tutor
who are teaching AP World History or play a large role in helping students prepare for the exam
Survey & Interview
like to improve
their writing skill
Writing section is overwhelming
The writing section is confused
The student felt overwhelmed and confused about the writing portion due to lack of time, difficulty organizing thoughts, and Difficulty creating an argument
Lack of time
AP Classroom, self created material
The teacher found students need the most help in outside evidence, analysis of documents, and the complexity point
Listen to Users
After we conducted many surveys and several interviews, we've received many valuable feedbacks from participants that are currently taking AP World History and preparing for the exam.
“I mainly try to understand how the essay flows. Contextualization. Try to understand how much or how little you should write. How to make your writing efficient to meet the points on the rubric. ”
“The resources are all standardized with no deep insight or instructions on how to answer my specific questions. I know there are sample questions the College Board releases, but it's not what i'm looking for and it doesn’t explain it well.”
"Textbooks are overwhelming and dense (e.g. Text Heavy)"
“Free resources are very dated. Some parts are relevant but no one has recent materials.
"There is no peer review because students slack off. I think peer review is helpful so long as it is good feedback."
“I've searched for resources to prepare for LEQ. All of them say the same thing, they are redundant and often have no examples. ”
Key Insights & Oppotunities
Practice makes perfect. Our teacher interviewee offered 10 practice essays for her class. Student interviewees also believed more practice often helps them better prepare for the exam.
Break down the rubric to know why students did not receive specific points, and less overwhelmed with information. Provide a comprehensive study guide and advice about the most common mistakes or particular topics. Keep all material up to date.
Our interviewees expressed that they enjoyed having others review their essays so they can learn from each other, especially since studying is remote now. Teachers are not always available, therefore, getting feedback from peer review can be very helpful.
This persona was created with observations, interviews, and questions from multiple student participants. We created this persona showing a student's pain points and goals when studying for exams. This persona also summarized our many findings from our researches.
“I am a sophomore of San Francisco High School, a private Catholic school. Due to the Covid-19, I am studying remotely at my home in Ohio. The major reason for taking AP classes is preparation for college and gaining college credits. I am going to take 3 AP Exams this May. My goal is 4 for the essays, but I want to have 5.”
AP Exam Planning
AP U.S. History
AP World History
Outgoing + Helpful + Hard Working
Not confident about the exam, because of relying on self-study.
All the resources online are scattered. It takes a lot of time to google appropriate resources.
Challenges on AP World History
Free response question: LEQ and DBQ, DBQ is the hardest.
Time limit causes nervous
Analyzing Documents is difficult
Coming up with 2 facts to support the thesis
The concept that meets client goals & the quickest version of a product that we can design and ship. We used MVP to gather additional data and test assumptions before the final design.
We created a user flow using the following scenario:
The exam is 3 months away and the student needs to practice the writing section of the exam. They are specifically looking for ways to increase their writing score.
Ideate & Prototype
Our design should make the essay
writing process easier for students.
Our design should make the study collaborative and engaging.
Our design should provide information more digestible.
Group Brainstorm Activity: Crazy Eight
Low Fidelity Wireframe Development
3 Student Participants via Zoom
Do students find the learning and practice modules helpful?
Do the interactions make sense to students?
Are there any important steps or features that we missed?
The AP World History Exam is 6 months away, you want to learn more about how to best approach long essay questions. How would you start the learning process?
The AP World History Exam is 3 months away, you want to practice easy essay questions. How would you go about doing that?
participants liked the step-by-step instructions and the exam-like layout
participants had confusion about the title, ‘Explore the AP World History’.
participants had trouble finding a writing module selection page.
Design Iteration | Homepage Content
Learn about Study Bites mission and key feature
Design Iteration | Rename Explore AP History
Changing "Explore AP History" to "AP World History Unit". Students found Explore AP History is confusing with Learning Module.
Design Iteration | Select a Module
Improve the flow of essay writing modules
Reorganize the order of the flow to ease the process
The main color choice was clearly purple. We selected a color palette that's welcoming, exciting, and ambitious.
We decided to use a sans-serif font, as they are easy to read and enhance the modern vibe that our target audiences enjoy.
We created simple and basic icons. We do not want to confuse our users or have them learn a new system.
Help students feel comfortable about the exam’s timed writing portion.
To help students learn time management and reduce test anxiety.
Can be paused in the "Beginner Level"
Pain Point Time management issue.
Map & Timeline
Create an easy and engaging way for students to digest and connect related concepts.
To help students create arguments using supporting materials
Pain Point Connecting the dots & lack of critical thinking
Breaks down successful essays & the
AP World History essay rubric into four simple section
Highlights key examples in writing samples that were able to earn points on the rubric.
Pain Point Need for step-by-step instructions
Practice & Online Peer Review
Offer a peer review system to let students grade for each other anytime & anywhere.
To make students more familiar & understand with the rubrics.
Pain Point Unfamiliarity of rubrics
This website has so much potential and an excellent resource for busy AP students. Studying for a test can be tedious and dry; making it intuitive yet exciting is critical. Learning and practice modules can definitely be upgraded into more interactive learning tools. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students regarding our online community for AP History, especially writing reviews. We all felt a community section that allows students to answer questions for other people, review practice essays, and talk about the upcoming AP test is a helpful tool, and it's always available.
Throughout the process, we built a strong relationship with our client by providing transparent communications and collaborations. Our client was excited to see the final product and enjoyed the new features we suggested, such as the community for writings and the structure of the modules. We also provided feedback on her existing designs that she was uncertain of to help her further develop this website with confidence. Overall, our client was delighted and looked forward to creating the next iteration of the website with our proposed ideas.
If I were to continue working on the project, I would like to explore how to make study fun. The client and I believed that learning through games is a future trend in education, which could be exciting for the next stage. I look forward to the next iteration of this website.