Industry Project
Mathworks: Designing for college professors, where generating class problems becomes effortless.

Designing a assignment repository and collaboration product tailored for lab instructors using MATLAB

Research, Design, Product Strategy
August 2023 - December 2023
1 Project Manager, 2 Researchers, 2 Designers
Figma, Qualtrics, Optimal Workshop, Procreate, Notion, Miro

Here’s the 1 minute TL;DR version

What did I do?
I led the creation of a desktop repository product under Mathworks designed to help college instructors create MATLAB assignment problems efficiently. The platform facilitates collaboration and communication among professors and incorporates marketplace functions for inspiration exchange.
Interviewing professors at GaTech
Why was it done?
MathWorks aims to enhance users' experience in assignment creation and grading. Our user research revealed a recurring pain point expressed by users, primarily related to the assignment brainstorming process.
What did I learn?
The significance of communication with stakeholders and users when we get stuck. And how to effectively hand over our design to developers.

New semester begins, I need to prepare assignments...

“Let’s get some inspirations from online”
“What about reusing assignments from last semester?”
“Maybe talking with my colleagues can help”

Solution we designed

Efficiently Organize, Adapt, and Publish Old Assignments
Professors have the option to either upload their existing assignment PDFs to the platform or create entirely new assignments using the editor. Then, they can publish their assignments to the Marketplace, sharing them with others and earning Points.
Browsing Other’s Assignments in the Marketplace
This is a global library of MATLAB assignments. Instructors can browse through assignment problems from other educators to gain inspirations for assignment brainstorming.
Point System for Accessing Other’s Assignments to Encourage Contributions
Users use the earned points from uploading their assignments to access and download assignment problems from other educators.

The process to get here

  • Interview
  • Contextual Inquiry
  • Task Analysis
  • Comparitive Analysis
  • Crazy 8 brainstorming
  • Wireframes
  • User feedback
  • Hi-fi Prototype
  • Usability Testing
  • Design Iterations

Semi-structured Interviews

5 interviews with Professors at GaTech
Our initial approach involved conducting five semi-structured interviews with lab instructors at Georgia Tech. This allowed us to delve into the intricacies of creating assignments involving MATLAB, particularly considering the absence of a dedicated tool on the MATLAB platform for this purpose.
Holistic Approach
Besides, we also interviewed 4 teaching assistants, and 2 students to understand the problem comprehensively.
Two Brief Contextual Inquiries
Furthermore, we seamlessly integrated two brief contextual inquiries into our user interviews. This involved observing lab instructors in action as they navigated through the assignment creation process, providing additional layers of insight into their workflow and challenges.

Sketch ideas

Instructors reuse whole or parts of previous assignments.
Design Implications:
Allow users to import and modify existing assignments by editing it directly.
Instructors find it difficult to balance the difference in academic ability.
Design Implications:
Categorize assignments by difficulty level, providing detailed info and past statistics.
Instructors look at other resources to create assignment problems.
Design Implications:
Foster collaboration among instructors.

Task Analysis

Understanding the assignment creation process.
To gain a low-level understanding of the steps involved during assignment creation and grading so as to identify pain-points, inefficiencies, and patterns, with the aim to determine how we can optimize and streamline the process.

Competitive Analysis

Investigating our 4 competitors
To identify any gaps in the market and to evaluate existing systems to identify what works and what doesn’t, we did a comparative analysis of 4 secondary competitors - MATLAB Grader, Coassemble, Google Colab, zyBooks.

So! What’s wrong with the current assignment creation process?

Lack of an integrated platform for all functions
Constant cycling between multiple platforms, and repeated referral to various sources of information. Concerns about the time-consuming nature of the assignment creation process, as well as the technical challenges associated with it.
Brainstorming for problems is the hardest step
Significant portion of the assignment creation process devoted to preparation for the assignment. Most difficult part of the assignment creation pipeline, and hence there is need for intervention.

Who were we designing for


We used Crazy 8 technique of brainstorming and came up with 30+ ideas. Then we organized them into themes, and we voted for the top three ideas. These selected ideas were then turned into storyboards and sketches. Additionally, we created information architecture and user flows to enhance our understanding of the concepts.

Storyboards and Wireframes

Idea 1: Collaborative platform
Professors will have access to a forum and in-app messaging. The forum has different sub-topics for professors to post their questions in. In-app messaging feature is for professors to send direct messages to each other to help brainstorm new ideas and ask for help.
Idea 2: Assignment Repository
A digital repository assignment marketplace, where users can categorize their assignments, upload their assignments, receive in-app currency, and use this to purchase other user’s assignments

1st Round User Feedback

To gather feedback, we held heuristic evaluation in-person with a HCI expert and online with the product team at MathWorks.

HCI expert sessions
MathWorks Product Team

What we found

What’s the difficulty level of this assignment in the marketplace?
More details about an assignment should be provided to help users make the decision
Solution: Provide statistical information
Provide valuable statistical insights such as average student performance to help make informed decisions when purchasing assignments.
How to ensure fresh content?
Without a mechanism to encourage regular updates, the content may become stale and less engaging
Solution: Content Renewal Strategy
Implementing content expiration to encourage the creation of fresh content and ongoing discussions, ensuring a dynamic platform.

Final Solution

Final Evaluations

Our final evaluation plan consisted of 2 phases.

Phase 1
Cognitive Walkthrough
Heuristic Evaluation
Phase 2
Cognitive Walkthrough

What we found

Confusion on the similarity of "my assignment" page and "marketplace" page
Old design for the assignment blocks on both pages were the same to keep consistency, but it increased cognitive load of users to figure out which page they are on.
Solution: Design assignment blocks differently to prioritize different information
Users prefer to see names on the top of the assignment for "my assignment" page, while they prefer to see pictures first for "marketplace" page.
Users prefer to be reminded of requirements in advance
Instead of getting error message after clicking "publish", users prefer to be reminded in advance.
Solution: Add reminders before the action
While we kept the error message, we added points to each section to motivate filling out.

What’s our next steps?

Address usability concerns identified during testing
Moving forward, our focus revolves around addressing key usability concerns identified during testing. Our agenda includes refining the point system for better user comprehension, enhancing the landing page clarity, considering alternative terminology for the marketplace.
Efficiently deliver to MathWorks
We are working on efficiently communicating design and feedback results to MathWorks' research and design teams. These steps aim to optimize overall platform usability and user experience.

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