The goal of this project was to make an inclusive online learning solution that helped users coming to interact with the onEQUITY learning platform better understand their embodied implicit bias around issues or race and privilege.
“America to Me” is a 10-part docuseries on Starz by Academy-Award winning filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams) which follows the lives of students at a school near Chicago as they confront issues of race and privilege.
Alongside the series, Participant Media is creating an onEQUITY learning platform, designed to build understanding and inspire action, and equip students, teachers, admins parents and community leaders to identify and address structural inequities within their own education systems and communities.
UX/ UI Design Lead, Visual Designer for Design System
For a user learning about race, the hardest hurdle to get over when learning about race and privilege is themselves.
So how might a learning platform allow a user to become self-aware about their own embodied implicit bias in order to take action around issues of race and privilege?
To answer this question and problem, I started with understanding who the users were and what their needs would be when using the platform and also when learning about race.
I began by seeking to gain clarity on the user needs and as well as understanding the current research that existed already around teaching about diversity, equity, belonging and inclusion.
I worked closely and across teams to bring together learnings from the research being done by our instructional designers and consultants from Disruptive Equity Education Project (DEEP) and Dr. Howard Stevenson's research on Racial Literacy in Schools.
Integrating the secondary literature and research available from Dr. Stevenson and DEEP, while also deeply inspired by inclusive design principles in Kat Holme's Mistmach Design: How Inclusion Shapes Design, I identified two potential users for the onEQUITY platform that we could begin to design for.
I worked with our other UX designer, our instructional designers, and researchers from DEEP and Dr. Stevenson's team to create User Story Maps for the lesson on self-awareness, an introductory lesson, dashboard, and landing page for the platform.
Before taking on the task of creating designs I wanted to check the assumptions being made in the User Story Map phase and drove, coordinated and facilitated open and hybrid card sorting tests with potential users to see how they processed their emotions in their body.
We were surprised to learn that 100% of users disagreed with the research we had from UPenn about learning about race and identifying emotions felt in the body.
Our original assumptions about the ways users processed emotions was by naming the emotion using the emotions wheel, then locating it in their body and then identifying the intensity of the emotion.
However, after the user testing we learned that users wanted to identify the location of the emotion in their body before naming it on the emotions wheel.
I did another iteration of the User Story Map to reflect this insight and then collaborated with the other UX Designer on the project to create User Flows for the Self-Awareness section of the lesson.
Now, that I understood how we were approaching users needs, it was time to begin taking the theoretical into the practical realm with prototyping.
I did some quick and dirty sketches of the UI and screens I thought might work with users based on the user research before creating the clickable, digital version in Figma.
I collaborated with our other UX/UI Designer to create a visual design sample with the goal of creating neutral, simple UI to allow for complex, meaningful conversations about race to flourish.
We wanted there to always be the sense that the user was progressing in their journey of equity and so we chose to focus on animations and micro-interactions to give the platform a sense of flow and movement.
I created an early version of a living Design System in anticipation of the need to develop and design the UI for the UX experience which would be used by a number of designers.
The world in which building this platform began started prior to COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests. As the our culture shifted from these events, we had to reconsider the ways were thinking about conversations about race and privilege in America.
With these new considerations, I imagine that the impact that the onEQUITY platform might have fall into these three areas:
Mindfulness and self-awareness practices for better engagement with the body and EQ around conversations related to racism and equity
A UX/UI experience that considers and implements values that work against the White Supremacy Culture challenges that are unmistakably apparent in post-COVID-19 learning space
Intuitive, flexible UX/UI that helps manage user energy expenditures, specifically focusing on zoom fatigue effect and the role of UX/UI in creating or alleviating the cognitive load in that area of the user experience