May 2017 – June 2020

Classroom A/V Control

The BYU Office of Information Technology (OIT) asked us to evaluate the TEC (Technology Enabled Classroom) panels across BYU campus in order to determine pain points and opportunities for improvement.

TEC panels are touchscreens found in classrooms that are used to power on/off projectors or TVs, choose inputs, and control other technologies in the classroom.

We were hired to do an external evaluation of the current panels, knowing that OIT would be updating them to a different tech stack in the near future.

user research
competitive analysis
heuristics

The Team

My friend, Bryan (also a UX Designer), and I were hired on to do an external evaluation of the system. We worked closely with a project team of 5 people at BYU OIT led by Brandon.

My Role

Mine and Bryan's roles overlapped a lot during this project, but I was primarily responsible for surveys and other qualitative research activities.

Project Kickoff

Classtime is precious. It's a short amount of time where professors help students learn about a subject through lecture and audio/visuals.

Setting up the audio/visuals often takes too long though because it's unclear whether there's a user error or system error. Also, with so many different kinds of inputs (i.e. VGA, DVI, DVD player, overhead projector, etc.) it can be confusing to professors on how to best set up their classroom to teach each day.

Our task was to perform an external evaluation of BYU's systems to make recommendations to create consistency in all classrooms to enable professors to set up quickly, or be able to quickly resolve problems.

Photo by Miguel Henriques on Unsplash

Survey

We surveyed 69 BYU faculty and staff about their thoughts on the TEC A/V panels. We gleaned 2 insights which gave us perspective on which to build and directed us to other methods that would help us write our recommendations.

How do you refer to this panel/interface?

47% "Control"
20% "Not Sure / Nothing"
15% "Console" or "Panel"
6% "TEC"
5% "Display"
5% "Other"
2% "System"

On a scale of 1 to 7, how satisfied are you with the AV/projector control panel (and the experience surrounding it)?

standard deviation: 1.013

0%
0%
4%
13%
13%
56%
13%
1
2
3
4
5
6
7

What We Learned

We learned 2 things from this survey

Competitive Analysis

We compared BYU's A/V system to 2 other University's systems to see how other Universities are using A/V to improve the classroom experience.

Brigham Young University

Here's what we captured of the BYU experience for comparison:

The Podium
Touchscreen with inputs
Audio inputs
Multiple displays

University of Utah

University of Utah’s podium setup was pretty cool. The Large workspace with an incorporated document scanner seemed particularly useful. The TV seemed somewhat small for being able to see in the back of the room though. The control panel interface really crammed a lot of buttons into a single screen, but it seemed intuitive enough.

The Setup
Document scanner
Another setup view
Interface layout

Utah Valley University

University of Utah’s podium setup was pretty cool. The Large workspace with an incorporated document scanner seemed particularly useful. The TV seemed somewhat small for being able to see in the back of the room though. The control panel interface really crammed a lot of buttons into a single screen, but it seemed intuitive enough.

Multiple displays
Audio controls (admin)
Help & Tips
Help screen

Heuristical Analysis

We also took a minute to evaluate the BYU system based on Jakob Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics. This evaluation helped give us further backing to our recommendations. We did this evaluation by noting how well (on a scale from Low to High) the system achieved each heuristic.

Visibility of System Status

Medium

BYU's system indicates the system's status (on/off) very well using visual cues (whether the screen is on or off). It could be better by indicating any errors that could be relayed over the phone to technical support.

System & Real World Match

Medium

BYU's system uses pictures of the input types along with text to create easy correlation between the system and real world. Some of these images and copy could be updated to increase that affordance.

User Control & Freedom

Medium

Users do not get stuck in any interface loops and can change inputs or options easily.

Consistency & Standards

Low

The pictures drive a lot of the affordance between system and real world (as mentioned in heuristic #2 above), but the copy often leads to confusion. Many of the technical terms are unfamiliar to professors and their placement in relation to the control could cause confusion.

Error Prevention

Medium

The system has a fairly shallow information architecture, which lends itself to not having a lot of room for error.

Recognition rather than recall

High

The system does a good job on this, using pictures to create recognition instead of relying completely on users' ability to recall what an input is called.

Flexibility and efficiency of use

Low

The system operates on a "hub and spoke" information architecture, and doesn't really have any "advanced" features.

Aesthetic & Minimalist Design

Low

Design has somewhat to be desired. Some of the text is hard to read and placement/size of buttons is sometimes confusing. Color contrast should be reconsidered.

Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

Low

The system doesn't provide tips for the user to work through errors by themselves, beyond just starting over or calling support.

Help & Documentation

Low

There is some documentation on the OIT website, but would take time to find during precious class time. Help can be called fairly quickly, but it will take time for help to arrive, taking more class time.

Recommendations & Results

Our output for this project was a written report and presentation to the BYU OIT team. The report included recommendations for fixing problems we discovered through surveys, user tests, heuristical analysis, and observation. It also included recommendations for improving the system based on conversations with users and our competitive analysis.

Wireframes and information architecting were not part of this project, but we did create a couple concepts.

Recommendations

1

Inputs

Make it more clear which cable icon is for each cable. This could be done by making the color of the cable the same color as the icon or explicitly pointing out the connection.

2

Cable Organization

Make the cables easy to identify and see. Also remove cables that aren't used anymore. Ensure that each system has either the cords or adapters it needs to be inclusive to all types of devices.

3

Interface

• Give selectable items larger touch targets, especially the volume slider.
• Make colors minimalistic and obvious.
• Keep device controls prominently accessible.
• Provide interface feedback when a cable is plugged in.

4

Tone & Voice / Content

• Make the messaging more friendly. Make it as understandable as possible to people without a computer background.
• Either remove "TEC" branding, or make it more obvious what you're talking about.
• Include tooltips and error messaging to help users understand the system.Make icons unambiguous.

5

Delight & Help

• Teachers don't want to call support; they don't want to spend time fidgeting with controls.
• Include tips on launch to give help beginners become experts of the system.
• Include a "request help" option to request help from support or provide a phone number to call.
• Track which rooms have the most help requests and do further research

Results

Implemented

More than 700 classrooms across BYU campus are using a new A/V system that uses design principles that we proposed.

He was instrumental in helping us understand our user landscape and to consider options for improving the UX. We've been able to improve our product greatly because of his efforts.

Brandon Smith

Product Owner

Conclusion

This project was a lot of fun and a great way to dive into different various UX methods which are more analytical in nature instead of wireframing and interaction design. This project required careful thinking and perspective from professors, staff, students, and help desk to craft recommendations that would make a technology-enabled classroom a great experience.