The brief for this project was to design a 'Best of Breed' Learning Management System empowering teachers to enable students. With a number differentiators between this and other LMS platforms – such as a data driven student analysis, question banks for teachers to quickly create assignments and a library integrated into the experience – we were tasked to design a white label product that could be rolled out to schools in any country at any level from K12 to University.
I ran a design team spread across Europe in what was to become a uniquely challenging project – initially we had to overcome some procedural hurdles, while also challenging some major – potentially flawed – assumptions from senior stakeholders. Our approach was straightforward, pragmatic and product orientated, working with a 'good enough' principle to achieve an MVP. We were fully aware that perfection is unattainable in the first pass, so in order to create a vast set of features we had to simplify everything to it's essential elements.
Inevitably this approach lead to problems with the product in the early stages as one always feels 'we could do better', but by prioritising feature iterations each sprint we approached our goal. As the team became comfortable with the concept that our first pass would be broad brushstrokes and imperfect they built confidence. The carousel of images below show the MVP, initially created for funding and sales purposes.
It's an old cliché in product development that you must fail early in order to succeed sooner, but old clichés are the result of old truths. Although to our eyes the product was ugly and lacked refined design it was none the less viable.
So far a teacher could view their timetable, create a to-do list (which could be updated by the system to allow programatic reminders), build either lesson, test or homework content to give their students, manage these assets in a file manager, mark homework and tests they had set their students, see the grades their students had acquired, see a library of teaching assets to help with lesson planning and share their classroom experience with a room full of students, all of whom would have a tablet with which to follow the lesson.
Through the rapid development process we had needed to use to achieve our MVP we had accrued a good deal of design debt, and as the saying goes "Carry the bag now or pay the price at the end".
What followed was the genesis of a new design system.