User Research and Testing : Broome Street Academy students

We had the wonderful opportunity to interview and playtest with some great high school students from the Broome Street Academy.  We had a series of questions designed to gauge their online tutorial behavior, what platforms they prefer, and how they might design or make use of text-based learning groups to augment their classroom learning.

For the students who were already users of WhatsApp, we gave them paper prototypes and also clear film overlays that could affix to their cellphone to playtest some ideas for the WhatsApp learning-thread interface. 

When asked what they do when they don't know how to do something, some say they just try to do it themselves without going online, and some said that when they go online they look first at Google, Pinterest, and YouTube.

They liked the idea, when prompted, that something like YouTube could be more participatory and interactive.  They agreed that the comments thread and simple thumbs up / thumbs down was a limited way to engage with learning sources.

For the students who didn't use WhatsApp, we asked them about what they did use for communicating with their peers about school and where they went for extra tutorials - both academic and extracurricular.  They reported being big users of YouTube, Pinterest, Google, and Viber.  

On YouTube, they follow certain teachers' accounts where they know they can find help with subjects like Chemistry, Algebra and general Math.  They also like YouTube for DIY tutorials, musical instrument tutorials (guitar), and social skill building ("how to get a girlfriend").  For design and beauty tutorials they like Pinterest, and for international communications with family they reported having a parent who commonly uses Viber.

When prompted, some students didn't feel confident about the idea of posting their own videos or skill share tutorials.  They didn't think they were qualified to post something like that, and they also feared teasing or social repurcussions from putting themselves online like that.  One student said she'd consider posting funny videos on YouTube, mostly to make her sister laugh.  One student mentioned that he had made his YouTube account anonymous so that his peers didn't know anything about his online behavior on that platform.

They did say they would join an online thread that was about school if it was started by a teacher.  They also like Google Doc's for academic work, and they think that keeps it from getting social.  They're used to communicating with each other via text, so they could see something less tied to that form of communication staying focused and academic.