Chris L. Davis

Reduce Time Spent Accessing and Analyzing Academic Data for Connections Academy School Leaders

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.

A School leader is responsible for their school's academic and operational success. Therefore, they need real-time access to performance and operational data to operate successfully.


We used a design workshop (based on Design Sprints) to facilitate the process. The workshop included problem statement definition, qualitative user interviews, customer journey mapping, team sketching, high fidelity prototype, and testing.

Problem Statement

School leaders are responsible for the academic and operational success of their Connections Academy virtual school. They spend a lot of time looking for and accessing specific data points needed to track teacher and student performance. Our role was to ideate on solutions to give school leaders (and staff) a way to quickly and easily access the data needed throughout the school year cycle.

Users & Audience

Our primary persona was school leaders. They know how to implement technology to better teachers, students, and families—they have many responsibilities and little patience for bad integrations.

Roles & Responsibilities

As the UX Design Lead, my role was to help the product manager plan, facilitate, and deliver the design workshop (problem statement, qualitative user interviews, customer journey mapping, team sketching, high fidelity prototype, and testing). Then from our discovery sessions, design a solution.

Scope & Constraints

Our timeline was to complete our solution recommendations before the next PI Planning (SAFe - Scaled Agile Framework).

We were working within the constraints of an existing legacy learning management platform where all academic and performance data exists while adhering to architecture and performance guidelines.

Process & What I Did

  1. 1

    Design Workshop: I partnered with a product manager to run a discovery workshop (based on design sprint) with various stakeholders within the company. The workshop's goal was first to identify the problem by talking to school leaders and then ideate on possible solutions.

    We used various design thinking methods (qualitative interviews, HMW, user journey mapping) to help us identify how school leaders were using academic data to make informed decisions.

  2. School Leader Reporting Design Screenshot
    We created a quick proto-persona to add context for the design workshop participants. Our persona Scott is tech-savvy and ready to start the new school year. He knows how to implement technology and has little patience for bad experiences, and will quickly go outside the box to solve problems.
  3. School Leader Reporting Design Screenshot
    After interviewing school leaders, I converted the feedback into HMW cards to help the team focus on solving the correct problems.
  4. School Leader Reporting Design Screenshot
    I facilitated a journey map exercise with the group to map out the process school leaders go through when accessing data for their school. We selected a portion of the journey for our ideation session—step 4 manipulates data to fit needs.
  5. 2

    The participants in the design workshop consisted of stakeholders across the organization (UX, Architecture, Product Management, School Support Staff, Business Owner). Each team member created a low-fidelity sketch/wireframe of their solution based on school leader interviews and the customer journey map.

    We posted all our solution wireframes within a MURAL board and reviewed each one while asking clarifying questions. I sketched the following solution during our design workshop.

  6. School Leader Reporting Design Screenshot
    1: In this scenario, the school leader wants a snapshot of the most recent data, then takes any necessary action. The reporting platform would show an aggregate view of the most common academic and trends needs that day, which changes during the school year.
  7. School Leader Reporting Design Screenshot
    2: Teachers have policies and criteria they have to follow to meet state standards. School leaders need to know if teachers meet these needs and make adjustments.
  8. School Leader Reporting Design Screenshot
    3: School leaders will have to pull together a custom data report for state reporting in some cases. If one isn't already available, they will have to assemble it from scratch from different data sources. This sketch proposes functionality to enable the school leaders to search for the data they are looking for and build their own—self-service.
  9. School Leader Reporting Design Screenshot
    4: School leaders are responsible for the overall academic performance of the school. Thus, allowing them to see how students are doing and which students are at risk, so they can take the appropriate action before it's too late.
  10. School Leader Reporting Design Screenshot
    5: School leaders and admins told us they have to trust the accuracy of the data. Where is it coming from, how is it calculated? They are making important decisions and taking action on this information, and it has to be accurate. This screen can drill down to a piece of data and get information on where it came from and how it was calculated.
  11. 3

    After the team walked through each sketch solution, we voted on the interesting portions of each participants design. Then, I was responsible for taking the design to a higher fidelity (Sketch) and creating a prototype (InVision) for school leader feedback.

  12. School Leader Reporting Design Screenshot
    High-fidelity design we showed to school leaders for feedback. The academics section displays a graph of each subject area with overall scores per grade level. Then a list of the most common reports a school leader needs to assess how things are going. On the right column, enrollment trends of the school. Each section has filter and settings options for customization.
  13. 4

    Using the high fidelity prototype, we presented the solution to school leaders to get their feedback. During the feedback session, we were able to identify areas of the design that needed further refinement.

    School leaders wanted more filtering options, clear data visualizations, and re-prioritize the reports that matter to them.

  14. School Leader Reporting Design Screenshot
    During our review, some of the feedback school leaders had was they wanted specific reports to be front and center—graduation rate, welcome calls, and intent to return data. Also, to clarify some of the data visualizations and the ability to customize the page.

Outcomes & Lessons

Development teams picked up the work during PI Planning and started developing a data warehouse from the provided designs. Finally, product teams decided to use our internal Power BI group to display the reports.

Unfortunately, the organization underwent a significant product shift that prevented the project from being fully implemented for schools.

However, product leadership recognized the value in the design discovery process used for this project as a case study for future initiatives.

Let's Talk

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