On-boarding students to Adaptive Software for Personalized Learning 

The on-boarding project welcomes 10,000 + Portland State University students in 4 programs and 9 courses to adaptive learning technology as part of the APLU Personalized Learning Consortium Grant, working with the Gates Foundation, and thirteen other universities, nation-wide. I lead the design and development of the on-boarding initiative working collaboratively with many multi-disciplinary voices including faculty, designers, the program manager, system administrators, and leadership stakeholders to address the student experience.


Questions & Challenges

Our primary goal for this project is to establish student buy-in, have students value the software, and build trust so students perceive their software as a tool that will help them accomplish their learning goals. One challenge we set out to solve is to help faculty build this student buy-in without creating undue time constraints on the faculty member teaching the class. Questions we set out to tackle included:

  • Where/who do students ask for help?

  • What are the rules for the software? (timelines, cost, access, etc.)

  • Why is this tool relevant for my (student) learning? (ie "Why should I care?")

  • Accessibility & usability of course

  • What does access look like across devices?

Design & Development

Collaborative discovery sessions, media creation, UX design within d2l (PSU's learning management system) and within the software


  • Supports Student Agency

  • Practices Human Centered Design

  • Is Accessible

  • Is Motivating

  • Is Integrated and Supportive of class materials/content/assessments


Design Principles:

  1. Our students are diverse and have diverse needs.

  2. In different times and on different devices I (student) need different things

  3. Inspire agency

  4. Make sure materials are accessible and usable

  5. Capture an efficient (on-boarding) process for students

  6. Materials and information are relevant for a diverse set of user needs

  7. The design of onboarding materials is a collaborative process with faculty & student partners & feedback

  8. Minimize my cognitive efforts looking for the information I need: I (student) may have dexterity, fatigue, cognitive, or memory challenges

  9. Provide information that is meaningful and to me (student) and my progress in this course

  10. Encourage questions (from students)




what we learned and how we iterated

I held collaborative sessions with team members, we created documents and materials for faculty to provide to students, we tested all experiences for accessibility and usability.