Brightspace for Parents

Designed For: D2L Brightspace

My Role: Problem Definition, User Research, Interaction Design, Visual Design

D2L's mission is to help change the way the world learns. It's really difficult to reach that mission without engaging parents. Our goal for this project was to reach every learner by reaching ever parent.

We were up for a rfp to get our product in to all of the public schools in Onatrio (which we won). Our product was missing the parent view and I joined the project to help rectify that problem.

When I first joined the project, I advocated for making the parent a first class citizen our product. Early research and intuition strongly suggested that parent engagement has a strong influence on student success.

Phase 1: Understanding the why


Our strategy was to build the hearts and minds of teachers. We started by attending a teacher conference and booking a meeting room to speak with teachers.

I worked with the product manager to run an innovation game called "Speedboat". The goal of the game was the get the teachers to provide inputs on the problems (destination) and pain points (anchors) that they had with parent engagement. We leveraged this data to develop the "why" for the parent project.

Parents and Children

We spoke with 10 parents and 10 students aross North America to better understand the pain points of parent engagement in k-8. We included groups from high-tech to low-tech schools. Our user researcher worked concurrently to conduct broader research for a new parent persona.

Phase two: Establish a vision

We created a high level concept to communicate what we learned during the understanding phase. Our senior leadership had strong opinions for what we needed to focus on. We leveraged our concept prototype and conducted a kano analysis, which provided data that informed our discussions.

Competitive analysis

I worked with our competitive intelligence team member to augment the kano data with the features from our competition. This gave us strong opinions for how we'd prioritize our first slice of the product.

Phase three: Information Architecture

The parent persona was new to our system and there wasn't a model for how be represented. I created two design concepts and worked with our user researcher to test them against each other. Our final solution resulted in a simple selection screen with a student switcher.

Phase four: Work to do widget

The first real feature that we dug in to was: "Help parents get a view in to their childs assignments. We wanted to arm parents for the "How was your day at school today" conversation.

Phase five: Collaborate with the activity feed team

The activity feed team had developed a product that was already in market but worked at a course level. We collaborated with them to display an aggregate activity feed to parents.

Phase six: Collaborate with the portfolio team

The portfolio team was in the process of building a brand new product that would help students capture evidence of learning in the classroom. We worked with them to display portfolio items that teachers could share with parents.

Phase seven: Email and communication

I worked with our user researcher to better understand what forms of communications parents wanted from teachers. We found in previous research that the biggest pain point for parents and teachers was communications. This was a touchy subject for teachers because because they didn't want to be overwhelmed with communication from parents.

After speaking with parents and teachers, we decided to create a weekly digest email. The email provided parents was a weekly summary from all of the data that was available in parent portal: "assignments due next week", "portfolio items shared this week, and "new grades released this week".

Phase eight: Grades

I worked with another designer and provided mentorship and he took on the delivery of this feature. He was very skilled at visual design but didn't feel comfortable with user research and product discovery. This was an incredible experience because I was able to help him grow his confidence at a time of uncertainty. He delivered amazing results and was my highlight of the project.

Once this phase was completed, I handed the product over to the other designer and moved on to another segment.