Student contest winners to influence Coursework design

April 22, 2013, 1:14 a.m.

An upcoming redesign of Coursework, Stanford’s class management platform, will feature elements designed by Roger Chen’15 and Ashley Ngu ’16, the winners of a competition hosted by Academic Computer Services (ACS) and Coursework User Experience (UX) to solicit student proposals for an update of the platform.

Elements of both Chen and Ngu’s designs will be incorporated into a renovated version of Coursework, which will have enhanced operational features and an upgraded user interface. Coursework staff may also include components of the 10 other contest submissions in the new design.

Chen, who came in first place, won a MacBook Air. Ngu received an iPad Mini for her second-place design.

Sylvia Lowden, Coursework’s UX manager, explained that ACS and Coursework staff launched the contest to get student input on how to address the platform’s outdated visuals.

“One thing that we didn’t really have on our team was a skilled visual designer. We’re all pretty good at interaction design but the visual part can be tricky,” Lowden said. “We thought, ‘Oh, there’s a lot of really good talent on campus. Why don’t we try to tap into that?’”

According to Lowden, the first phase of the Coursework update will involve an upgrade to Version 2.9 of the Sakai software in June. The team expects to begin making visual design modifications in fall quarter, incorporating elements of Chen’s and Ngu’s winning entries.

“It’s up to [the Coursework UX team] to decide what elements [of my design] they want to incorporate or not,” Chen said. “There are parts of my concept that might have involved significant re-architecturing of their core system. We’ll see what happens, but I’m just throwing my ideas out there for them to use.”

Chen, who called himself a recreational designer, said that he decided to enter the Coursework contest one afternoon when he “didn’t feel like working.”

“I went on Coursework and saw that there was this contest, and I figured that I might as well try this,” Chen said. “The PWR [Program in Writing and Rhetoric class] that I had been taking that quarter was on infographic design so I was picking up design concepts, and I felt that this would be a cool way to try out some of the stuff that I had learned.”

Chen’s design focused on modernizing the visuals of Coursework’s core features.

“I was looking at trends in modern web design in recent years and seeing the way design is going, and structuring Coursework to reflect that shift in design thinking,” Chen said.

Ngu also entered the contest to experiment with design, attempting in her entry to bring Coursework in line with Stanford’s new wordmark. Ngu’s design also featured a new color palette that she believes would make the site more visually interesting.

“I wanted to make it a lot cleaner in terms of color choices and layout,” she said. “I think the current one looks kind of drab and makes you feel like you’re just doing homework. I wanted to bring some color to it.”

According to Lowden, the UX team hopes to incorporate at least half of the visual design changes into an updated version of Coursework by fall quarter, with the second half of updates to be implemented during fall quarter.

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