Jared Crane

Macmillan Learning’s Design Challenge Sparks Innovation at Indiana University

Blog Post created by Jared Crane on Jan 30, 2018

At Macmillan Learning we highly value the opportunities we get to spend with both instructors and students. It is integral to our design process to partner with those groups to refine our products and make sure they are meeting user needs. Working directly with students also gives us the opportunity to step back and get a fresh perspective on the work we do.


In November, the Macmillan Learning design team was presented with the opportunity to directly work with the second year master’s students in the Indiana University Human Computer Interaction Design program. Macmillan Learning provided these students with a design prompt and the students had 5 days to meet with us, ask questions, and create their final deliverable. We provided each team feedback and ultimately picked two of the projects as standouts -- exemplars of innovation in educational technology.


The Opportunity Space: A Vision for Learning in 5 Years

The Macmillan design team gave the students the following prompt to work with:


Education is rapidly changing all of the time, and we are constantly trying to understand how technology can facilitate better learning experiences. We want you to look 5 years into the future and create a vision of an ecosystem that leverages technology to support learning. AR, VR, AI, and other emerging technologies are on the table, so think big and create a vision for education in the future. Your team decides which mediums best support your ecosystem.


We had six teams participate, and each team had three or four members. The project was set up so that the students got the prompt on a Monday, had one meeting with us to ask questions, and had completed the challenge by the following Friday.


The Winners

The amount of work each team produced in four and a half days was extraordinary. While every submission we received was very well done, there were two teams in particular that excelled in all aspects of their deliverable -- from problem framing, research, design rationale, to final design -- and really stood out.


The SmARt Space Team

Emily Fath, Cecilia Gutknecht, Ryan Griggs

The smARt Space team was chosen as a top team due to their articulation of the interesting problem of how do we integrate technology into the classroom so that it is used and doesn’t get in the way. Additionally they delivered a detailed walkthrough of the their conceptual ecosystem. The team’s ecosystem consisted of a smart pen, table, and AI mentor. These 3 items worked together to create an atmosphere where students learned through the benefits of actually writing, their instructors could assist when needed, and the AI could interject to help students at any point.



The OmniLearn Team

Anchal Aggarwal, Brian O’Connor, Xiao Liang



The OmniLearn team did a very good job with their research to understand the opportunity space. They spent time looking into competitors and also did some co-design work with a Professor of Education who had expertise in pedagogy and instructional design. OmniLearn is a system that aims to use data to learn how to help a student learn most effectively. It can utilize a user’s interests to help them find the classes they need to fulfill requirements that will be the most interesting to them as a person. It can also provide tailored resources for the user’s classes based on their interests and learning style. All of this is meant to help a student be more engaged throughout all of their classes and perform better.   



As the Learning Insights company, we are passionate and scientific about helping students, instructors, and institutions to achieve their full potential. We use a unique combination of user-centered design, research from the learning sciences, and empirical insights from extensive data mining and impact research. We are always looking for opportunities to work with more instructors and students. If you are interested in participating in a co-design session or other research with us please contact us at mlcommunications@macmillan.com