Chris L. Davis

Decrease Time Spent on Managing Student Messages for Teachers

Decorative only screenshot of a portfolio work sample


Connections Academy Schools are tuition-free K-12 virtual schools—offered in 29 states serving more than 100,000 students throughout the United States. A division of Pearson Education.

The objective of this project was to reduce the administrative burden of teachers attempting to search for and communicate with students. In return, teachers can spend more time on individualized instruction for students, which increases student and parent satisfaction.


I leveraged existing user research to inform design decisions. From there, I used low-fidelity sketches, high-fidelity mockups, functional prototypes to communicate the design with stakeholders.

Problem Statement

Teachers told us they want to spend less time on administrative tasks and focus on what they do best, teaching. A Connections Academy teacher can have a large cohort of students to contact and keep track of—over 200 in some cases. They were spending too much time managing student contact lists and searching for contact information.

Roles & Responsibilities

As the UX Design Lead, I was responsible for partnering with stakeholders, project managers, and architecture to design a solution.

Users & Audience

The two primary personas for this product are teachers and students. Online teachers want to focus on the academic needs of students and less on administrative tasks. For students, they want a flexible schedule to accommodate other interests.

Scope & Constraints

The design scope included a new messaging app between teachers and students, with the plan to add additional functionality in later phases.

The design and prototype needed to be ready for a team to pick up during the next PI Planning (Scaled Agile Framework) event. And would be developed for the next school year cycle.

Process & What I Did

  1. 1

    User Research: I reviewed existing qualitative user research, user scenarios, and business requirements we conducted.

  2. Teacher Communication Suite Wireframes
    We interviewed teachers to understand how they communicate with students. We learned it's difficult for teachers to manage and message a large cohort of students.
  3. 2

    Sketch and User Flow: Start ideating by sketching out wireframes, user flows and annotating with questions. Sketching allows me to generate ideas quickly and show a rough concept to the product manager and UX design peers for feedback.

  4. Teacher Communication Suite Wireframes
    A low-fidelity sketch of a teacher contact list, students enrolled in a course with this teacher would be displayed—next, filter and search options to allow the teacher to find groups of students. From there, teachers can contact via phone, email, chat, video, or text.
  5. Teacher Communication Suite Wireframes
    A high-fidelity mockup of the student contact list for teachers, clicking on a student's name, takes you to a student profile with academic and contact information. Teachers would manage their student contacts all from one page, saving them time.
  6. 3

    Hi-Fidelity Mockups: I produced a higher fidelity version from sketches to collect feedback from the product manager, engineering, and teachers, by applying visual design, branding elements, and click-through functionality within InVision App.

  7. Teacher Communication Suite Wireframes
    Hi-Fidelity Mockup of Messaging Application for Teachers and Students. Teachers told us that sending daily emails to students is a central part of their day. Therefore, they needed all the features of a modern email application to manage all their students.
  8. Teacher Communication Suite Wireframes
    Chat application for teachers and students. A Chat application has a lot of potentials to keep teachers and students connected. However, teachers need functionality to keep them from being bombarded with student chat messages. For example, chat office hours, student context, and status rules.
  9. 4

    Functional Prototype: I coded an HTML prototype using the Angular Material Framework with a custom theme for our branding to improve the designer's development handoff. In addition, the prototype reduced the discrepancies between the front end and mockups.

  10. Teacher Communication Suite Wireframes
    Design to development handoff, identify components to be used for development. We didn't have a design system at the time, so I coded up a POC for the development team to inspect. The POC provided the Product Owner and Engineers with guidelines on what styles and components to use and when.

Outcomes & Lessons

The product organization piloted the application with three schools with limited functionality. The feedback we received from the schools was that the application was missing some core functionality for teachers to do their jobs effectively.

The product leadership team decided to roll back to a previous version of messaging application and re-assess the product strategy and business value.

Let's Talk

If you have a role or opportunity that sounds like a good fit, I'd love to hear from you. — Chris