Our Evolving Approach to the Curriculum Database

When we first envisioned the Curriculum Database, we had a variety of different focuses. The biggest one, in my mind, was helping people sort through the many different types of learning materials offered by various teams and projects at Mozilla in order to find the right content for their needs. Secondarily, we wanted to improve the creation process—make it easier to publish, remix, and localize content.

Since then, the vision has changed a bit, or rather, our approach has changed. Several of our designers (Luke, Sabrina, and Ricardo) have been conducting a small research project to find out how educators currently find learning materials. We’ve also been learning from conversations with the cross-team Curriculum working group, led by Chad Sansing. Finally, we’ve been looking at existing offerings in the world.

Content Creation

Our approach has evolved so that now we’re focusing on content creation first. Luke and Chad have been working together to improve the web literacy curriculum template.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 3.28.59 PM

Luke also worked with the Science Lab team to design new templates for their learning handouts:

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 3.30.19 PM

Next up is working with the Mozilla Clubs team to create new templates for their onboarding and training materials. The goal with each of these projects is to provide scalable, reusable templates that, once created and refined, don’t require involvement from designers or developers to continue using as new content is created. Right now we’re using a combination of Thimble projects, markdown -> html conversion, and github pages. We’re in experimentation mode.

Editing, localization, quality control, and more

Some of the next hurdles to cross are around mechanisms for localization and allowing for community contribution. One thing I’ve heard from the Curriculum working group is that collaborative editing workflows are needed. One idea I really like came from Emma Irwin who suggested an “Ask for Help” workflow that triggers a ticket in a github repo. That repo is triaged and curated by community contributors, so this could be a useful way to solicit testing and edits on new content.

I’ve also heard a (resolvable) tension between wanting to encourage remixes, but also wanting to have clear quality control mechanisms. User ratings and comments can help with this. Emma has also suggested an Education Council that would review materials and mark those meeting certain criteria as “Mozilla Approved.”

And then what?

All of the above ideas fall under the “content creation” half of the puzzle. We’ve not forgotten about the “content discovery” half, but we’ve put creation first. Once we’ve developed and tested these new workflows for creation, collaborative editing, remixing, quality control, and localization, it will make sense to then switch our focus to content distribution and discovery.

Please do comment below if you have any questions or ideas about this approach.

2015 Year in Review, Part 3

Whew! After all that reflection, it’s time to turn towards 2016. Here are some goals I’d like to focus on in the next year, with regards to the MLN platform and related work.

Expand our reach. From Laura and Bobby’s research findings, it’s clear that to reach beyond our existing audience, we must use more inclusive language, talk less about ourselves and more about our community, and provide clearer pathways.

H1 Action Steps:

    • Conduct an audit of the site with this goal in mind.
    • Localize the site and continue to localize the curricular content.

Resolve our branding challenges. This includes the larger issue of reducing the number of brands, but within the Teach site specifically, we need to highlight our credentials in the education space.

“Mozilla is written everywhere. Why would mozilla be involved in teaching?” “What are they trying to sell through me?”

– Research study participant

H1 Action Steps:

  • Revise key pages on the site (About, Teach Like Mozilla, plus a new Leadership Opportunities page that’s in the works) to better reflect our role and history with this work.
  • Create templates to use across all MLN properties, providing some much needed visual coherence.

Provide better on-ramps. Our calls-to-action tend to be very heavy lifts (e.g. start a Club, join a Hive). Even our low-bar CTAs sound like a serious commitment (e.g. “Pledge to Teach”).

H1 Action Steps:

  • Conduct a homepage redesign
  • Replace the Pledge with a newsletter sign-up
  • Build a Leadership Opportunities page clarifying our offerings
  • Better integrate Hive into the website

“Productize” the experience.  We need to transform Teach.mozilla.org into something people use, rather than simply a destination for finding information.

H1 Action Steps:

  • Build the curriculum database and virtual classrooms (See the project brief)
  • Launch new Web Literacy and 21st Century Skills badges
  • Complete Web Literacy Map redesign

Support our programs. We need to keep pace with the expansion and development plans of Clubs.

H1 Action Steps:

Continue to support tools. Our community depends on these tools, so we need to maintain them and find ways to innovate and better meet our community’s needs.

H1 Action Steps:

  • Release the new Goggles (early in 2016) – Goggles will then go into maintenance mode for awhile
  • Localize Thimble
  • Enable the discovery of content made with tools
  • Research possible directions for the next phase of Thimble development. We have a few ideas in mind already (stay tuned for an upcoming post).

Sounds like a lot, right? It is! Can’t wait to get started.

2015 Year in Review, Part 2

2015 was a great year for the MLN Platform team. I recently shared a timeline of the work that was accomplished this year, but now I’d like to focus a bit on how the year went from a process perspective.

The team formed early in the year and quickly launched the first version of Teach.mozilla.org. We used agile methodologies to quickly iterate based on user feedback and testing. The team went through some changes mid-way through the year, but at any given point during the year, it felt like a strong, cross-functional team showcasing great teamwork, communication, and enthusiasm for the projects.

We made use of the heartbeat model all year long. We started each heartbeat with a planning meeting, did a daily stand-up, and ended every heartbeat by joining the full product team for a demo. We also used Github all year long, and it became an active place where we benefited from frequent feedback from members of our community, as well as a useful way to collaborate with other team members from across the organization.

Meanwhile, the CDOT team, led by Dave Humphrey, kicked into high gear in the Spring to finish the Brackets integration project. Luke joined soon after and was able to take the Thimble UI and UX to the next level. We launched the new Thimble on August 31, and received great reviews from users. This team worked together closely, with regular stand-up meetings, and semi-regular backlog grooming sessions (aka triage).

In the last quarter of the year, we continued to build and maintain the Teach site and add new features to Thimble, but we also started to look toward 2016 plans. We did a lot of ideation and research work on upcoming projects including an MLN Directory, a Curriculum Database, and the next iteration of Badges. We also found the time to revamp X-Ray Goggles, as part of the year-long process to retire some tools and upgrade others.

Though overall I think 2015 was fantastic, while reflecting on the year, I’ve come up with a list of things I think we can improve in 2016:

  • More retrospectives. I think we only did two or three all year! I’d like to think this is largely because things felt good most of the time, but I also know that there’s always room for improvement, and having a regularly scheduled retrospective can surface small process tweaks that make a world of difference. (I’m showing my Scrum Master roots here. :))
  • Work on shared ownership. Though the team is cross-functional, we managed to silo ourselves within the team. The main symptom of this problem is when stand-ups become each person updating the PM, rather than team members coordinating with one another. I’d say our stand-ups, on average, were about 75% updates, and only 25% coordinating. Definitely room for improvement.
  • Clarify the shape of the work and the team. It’s never been completely clear what the mandate for this team includes—certainly teach.mozilla.org, and things that are driven by the MLN team—badges, the web lit curriculum, Clubs, the Gigabit and Hive sites. But what about the MozFest website and app, which members of our team contributed to? What about Thimble? Goggles? In theory, it’s not a big need to define borders between things. But in practice, it can be confusing. When do we need to schedule a new stand-up? When do we need a separate repo? How do we prioritize when we’re comparing figurative apples and oranges? How can we easily visualize and account for people’s capacity when they’re working on multiple projects?
  • Better articulate our goals and how we will measure them. The first version of the Teach site was intentionally brochure-ware, without many specific conversion targets or KPIs. After two-thirds of a year, I think we can now clarify specific goals and set up the instrumentation to measure them. The research Laura and Bobby did in Q4 has really helped with this (stay tuned for the third post in this series).

And some of the biggest process wins from 2015 (IMO!):

  • Working on multiple projects allowed us to make certain things more efficient and unified. A great example of this is how the X-Ray Goggles team borrowed from the Thimble landing page during the redesign.
  • We were responsive to evolving programs. For example, the Clubs program, in its inaugural year, went through several shifts that required changes to the site content and to user workflows. While we weren’t always able to keep pace with the needs, I do think we were able to accommodate many of the changes.
  • Having a consistent team for months at a time was luxurious and I believe beneficial to the end product.
  • Having high standards. I’ll speak specifically to design, though this extends to engineering work as well. I credit Cassie and the design team for leveling up our design work this year. The design team crits, crowd-sourcing of Redpen feedback, audits, and intense attention to detail led to some of the most consistent, strong design work I’ve seen.
  • Is having awesome team members a process win? Because, man, I like the people on this team. Mavis, Sabrina, Atul, Jess, Dave, Gideon, Kieran, Jordan, Luke, Kristina, and Pomax—thanks for being so smart, talented, easy going, enthusiastic, and delightful to work with!

2015 Year in Review, Part 1

This year a team-like object (I say that because the team members changed throughout the year, not because any particular configuration wasn’t team-like :)) supported what was called for most of the year the “Mozilla Learning Network.”

Much of the work was in building and iterating on a new website, teach.mozilla.org; and supporting the new version of Thimble. We also did quite a bit of work supporting X-Ray Goggles, badges, the web literacy map, and MozFest.

Please click here to view a timeline featuring highlights from the year. I’ve tried to keep this relatively brief, so it’s largely focused on front-end work, and isn’t comprehensive of all the work that was completed this year. It also doesn’t include the several research and planning projects that happened throughout the year, and especially near the end.

Before we settle into our long winter’s nap, I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who contributed to these projects this year, including: Mavis Ou, Sabrina Ng, Atul Varma, Jess Klein, Luke Pacholski, Pomax, Kristina Shu, Dave Humphrey, Gideon Thomas, Kieran Sedgewick, Jordan Theriault, Cassie McDaniel, Simon Wex, Jon Buckley, Chris DeCairos, Lainie DeCoursy, Kevin Zawacki, Matthew Willse, Chris Lawrence, Amira Dhalla, Chad Sansing, Laura de Reynal, Bobby Richter, Errietta Kostala, and Greg McVerry. I’m sure I’m forgetting some people, so apologies in advance.

In a follow-up post, I’ll be sharing some lessons learned from our work this year, as well as plans for 2016.

A much needed update

It’s been a minute. Here’s some of what we’ve been working on (with anagrams, since I haven’t done those in awhile!)

Thimble Dashboard {Anagram: Oh, medal birdbaths!}

Luke has been working on an awesome dashboard that will allow us to see what people are up to, discover trends, get inspiration for new curriculum modules, and do some of the necessary work for eventually displaying metrics to users (e.g. # of Remixes of my project).

thimble-dash1thimble-dash2thimble-dash3 thimble-dash4 thimble-dash5Curriculum Template {Anagram: Met crucial plum. True!}

Luke also worked on comps for a new curriculum template—we focused on making the content more digestible by adding a sidebar nav to chunk the content better.

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MozFest Schedule App {Anagram: A zestful pop schemed}

Mavis has been working with Ryan from Open News to adapt the SRCCON schedule app for MozFest purposes. It’s looking great, and offers several different views for browsing MozFest sessions. Users can also “favorite” sessions to create their own personal agenda.

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Goggles FTU Experience {Anagram: Super Fox: Telegenic Egg}

Pomax and Kristina have been working together to create a much-improved first time use experience for Goggles users. Check out this fun animal mash-up activity! This is a great way to introduce new users to the magic of Goggles.

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Web Literacy Map Feedback {Anagram: Play back if a wet December}

Sabrina has been working with An-Me to design an interactive session at MozFest to solicit input on the skills, design, and applications of the Web Literacy Map. Imagine this wall full of input from our community:

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 4.36.43 PM

It’s been amazing watching this team work over the past month. They are on fire.

Our team is growing! + News and Updates

It’s been a really exciting couple of weeks!

First of all, we welcomed two new members to the MLN Product team. Long time Mofo Pomax has taken the lead on transitioning X-Ray Goggles to a new home and Kristina, our newest designer, has had a productive first couple of weeks, focusing on creating wireframes for our badging platform. Welcome to the MLN product team!

Vidyo weirdness with the new team! Why is Kristina covered by Sabrina?

Vidyo weirdness with the new team! Why is Kristina covered by Sabrina?

Second, we released the new Thimble! It’s been really well-received (my favorite example is this Polish article – I ran it through a translator), and feels like a major step up from the last version. Be sure to watch Humph’s demo from last Friday. This release represents months of work. Read about it here.

"New Thimble is Fantastic" Poland loves Thimble!

“New Thimble is Fantastic” Poland loves Thimble!

We also added the care and feeding of the MozFest site and schedule app to our list of projects. Mavis wrote a script to export the 400+ session proposals into a github repo, where event staff and Space Wranglers are now working their magic to create an amazing program. Also in MozFestLand, Ryan Pitts spun up a version of the SRCCON schedule app for MozFest, and it works beautifully. We have some UI and UX changes to make (to make it more MozFest-y), but this will be a great resource for attendees.

Sneak Peek of the MozFest schedule app

Sneak Peek of the MozFest schedule app

On the teach.mozilla.org front, Sabrina has made major headway on the design for the MLN Directory. We’ve now got streamlined, mobile wireframes for the member profile and the Clubs page.

For editing your Club page on the go!

For editing your Club page on the go!

Mavis installed Optimize.ly which allows us to run A/B tests on teach.mozilla.org. Our first test compared the control homepage, which has three CTAs, to a variation which has a single CTA (Pledge to Teach the Web). So far, the single CTA does not seem to create a dramatic difference in the number of people taking the pledge. We’re plotting two more variations for the next heartbeat, to see if we can increase our conversion rate.

Here's the control version with three CTAs

Here’s the control version with three CTAs

And here's the single CTA variation, which so far, has not increased conversions.

And here’s the single CTA variation, which so far, has not increased conversions.

Finally, I just wanted to provide an updated list of documentation and links to things we’re working on:

Vancouver Trip Summary

I spent Thursday and Friday of last week with my lovely colleagues in Vancouver. Some things to note:

  • The Vancouver office is awesome, especially the art (h/t David Ascher’s wife)
  • Thanks to Jennie and the rest of the YVR team for making me feel welcome around the lunch table!
  • Luke promised to play guitar but he never did :(

Here’s how the two days went down:

  • Sabrina and I started off by having a morning meeting with Michelle via Vidyo. This produced several clarifying insights including the use of “portfolio” as the key metaphor for Clubs pages in the MLN Directory. This helped shaped our conversations during the rest of my visit.
  • Sabrina and I then reviewed what we already know about our audience, our programs and offerings, and value adds for the user.
  • We then sketched out a model for an engagement funnel


    • Then we got to work on the MLN Directory model. We came up with streamlined sketches for the various content types, thinking in terms of mobile-first.
      • Member profile:
        • See field listing
        • Implied functionality: certain Leadership roles might be auto-applied (e.g. if the user owns an approved Club page, the system can apply the “Club Captain” role), while others might require an admin interface (e.g. Regional Coordinator, Hive Member). We’d like to allow for flexible Role names, to accommodate local flavor (i.e. Hive Chicago has specific role names they give to members).
      • Club and Hive pages:
        • Club page field listing
        • Hive page field listing
        • A key insight was that we should treat each distinct entity differently. That is, Club pages and Hive pages might be quite different, and we don’t need to try to force them into the same treatment. We also recognized that our MVP can simply address these two specific types of groups, since this is where our programs are focused.
        • We decided that focusing on Reporting for Clubs would be the highest value functionality, so we spec’ed out what that would look like (wireframes coming soon)
        • For Hive pages, we want to re-create the org listings and contact cards that the current Hive Directories have
  • We also met with Laura de Reynal and David Ascher to hash out plans for the audience research project. More on that soon, but you can see our “most important questions” at the top of this pad.
  • The issue of badges came up a few times. First, because we found that the plan for “Club Captain” and “Regional Coordinator” badges felt a little redundant given the concept of “roles.” Second, because we saw an opportunity to incentivize and reward participation by providing levels of badges (more like an “achievements” model). Seems like our colleagues were thinking along the same lines.

All in all, it was a really productive couple of days. We’ll be getting wireframes and then mockups out to various stakeholders over the next heartbeat, along with hashing out the technical issues with our engineering team.

Feel free to share any comments and questions.