Photo credit: Adrian Sanchez Gonzalez, Montana.

Science Action Club

Client

California Academy of Sciences

Duration

9 months

Teammates

Katie Levedahl, Laura Herszenhorn, Rik Panganiban, Cesy Martínez, Andrew Collins

Role

interaction design, product design

Tools

Storyline, Litmos, Drupal

Challenge

Science Action Club (SAC) provides curriculum and professional development to afterschools. SAC wanted to overhaul its content delivery system in order to extend its impact to a national audience.

Solution

I designed and developed an online learning program for SAC's network of educators. Due in part to the program's success, SAC now serves 5,000+ youth and 500+ educators in 15 U.S. states.

1. The problem space

Many of SAC's afterschool educators are middle-aged people from suburban/rural areas who work multiple part-time jobs.

Based on a number of conversations and interviews, I came up with a list of user characteristics.

Here are two sample personas of SAC educators.

2. Our Concept

We used a blended learning approach to train our educator network. Accordingly, each educator would go through the online training and an in-person workshop.

The service blueprint below builds out the specific exchanges of information and artifacts during SAC's training process.

Product vs. Service

SAC needed to transition from a product to a service in order to provide an end-to-end experience for our users.

Most mature products are designed as services to create an end-to-end user experience. The Science Action Club service includes tangible products (such as an online learning course), multiple artifact-based touchpoints (including recruiting material and surveys), as well as a steady stream of communication.

3. Revising the curriculum

I worked on a comprehensive revision of SAC's afterschool curriculum in response to feedback from past users.

In the Bug Safari curriculum, students learn about arthropods and engage in citizen science by contributing to the iNaturalist database of observations. Link to curriculum here.

In the Bird Scouts curriculum, students learn about birds and engage in citizen science by contributing to the eBird database of observations. Link to curriculum here.

In the Cloud Quest curriculum, students learn about climate and engage in citizen science by contributing to the GLOBE database of observations. Link to curriculum here.

Each SAC curriculum unit is accompanied by a kit that includes a number of supplies for hands-on activities.

Here's a photograph of petri dishes and a magnifying lens from the Bug Safari kit. The materials are being used to photograph a small insect to add to iNaturalist's database.

4. Building a platform

We built an online training platform to scale SAC's impact from 5 sites in the Bay Area to 500 sites across the U.S.

I built three online trainings using Articulate Storyline 2 and hosted them on a learning management system called Litmos. Here's a high-level outline of each online training:

The online learning platform provides an easy way for our national network of educators to access SAC's online trainings.

Here is a screenshot of the online learning platform on a desktop.

Here is an outline of the online training for the Bird Scouts curriculum.

Photo credit: Adrian Sanchez Gonzalez, Montana.

After the online training, all educators complete an in-person workshop with other SAC educators in their region.

5. Responding to Users

We organized a user test with 25 educators and employed contextual observation as well as think alouds to capture our results.

Feedback

Many educators had trouble summarizing the key takeaways from each section of the training.

Response

We added summary slides at regular intervals to reinforce the most important information from each section.

Feedback

The online training was too long for our educators to complete in one go.

Response

We sprinkled Take a Break slides throughout the training to remind our educators to take regular breaks.

Feedback

Many educators wanted the training to be more interactive so they could validate their progress.

Response

We added knowledge checks throughout the training to allow our educators to test and augment their learning.

6. Impact

Here's a map showing SAC's reach after our new blending learning model was implemented.

    Check it out

    Science Action Club now features three environmental science units—Bird Scouts, Bug Safari, and Cloud Quest—that take students outside to investigate nature, document their discoveries, share data, and design strategies to protect the natural world.

    SAC curriuculum and training

If we had more time...

We would conduct contextual interviews with our educators to understand more about their background and teaching style. We would also create well-defined buckets of users and personalize the online training to meet each group's needs.