Designing a digital library experience for different learning styles
The Office of Head Start is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Head Start provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. It employs over 240,000 people with an annual budget of $9.5 billion.
Head Start needed to take its vast resource library online to better support its staff. Story+Structure was tasked with designing a digital library experience that would engage staff across the country.
Create an experience for all learning styles
Understand the needs of staff for all locations from remote regions to busy urban center
Create a scalable, self-sustaining solution that was supportable by non-technical staff
Designed a user experience that personalizes different learning styles
Developed a custom multimedia digital library experience that is usable on all devices
Developed custom content management system that is supportable by staff
Challenge: Designing a digital library experience that engages staff at every level
The Early Head Start National Resource Center—one of the agencies that creates evidence-based training and support materials for Head Start—partnered with Story+Structure to help design a new digital library.
The goal: Create an experience where staff can easily access and engage with the specific content on demand—no matter where they work, no matter what their training or learning style, no matter what the home situation demands.
The new library needed to support: (1) different learning styles; and (2) varying years of experience, education, and training.
Staff were spread out across the country from very rural locations to urban centers.
Lastly, government issued technology was limited or outdated, e.g., flip phones.
Solution: Lead with empathy for end users
During the discovery phase, Story+Structure interviewed dozens of staff onsite to understand their everyday duties and challenges. This allowed us to better assess their needs in a demanding environment.
- Staff said they were "doing it all." Many felt overwhelmed with case loads, managing complex family relationships and cultural challenges. Some also felt isolated and alone.
- Staff was comprised of different levels of experience. Long time staff wanted to know the latest research and not be bogged down with basic information. Less experienced staff needed more training and information.
- While resources were available to support staff, they were offered mostly in print. Staff indicated that they didn't have time to manually sort through all the information for what they needed.
- Each staff person had their preferred learning style. Some liked to read; others preferred video or audio.
- Most staff used their own personal smart devices to support their job. Their government issued phones and laptops were antiquated and slow.
Key takeaways from discovery informed us that:
- staff people were incredibly busy and pressed for time, so it was important that content be delivered in a timely and efficient manner; and
- most staff used their own personal smart device(s) to support their job, so we designed early prototypes for use on smart phones and tablets.
Prototypes were tested onsite with staff. Observations and feedback from staff helped shape the development of the digital library we dubbed: "Open Doors."
Solution: "Open Doors" Digital Library
Open Doors is an interactive, cloud-based digital library. Users can experience: books, webinars, videos, publications, best practices, training materials and recent regulations and policies. We designed it to be intuitive, flexible, and adaptable. It can be used on all devices from laptops to smart phones and tablets.
- Content can be filtered by (a) the amount of time it takes to read; and/or (b) level of experience and expertise.
- Users can take notes and highlight content.
- Users can create their own individual online resource library.
- Content can be reviewed by users to measure its effectiveness.
- Staff can maintain and update content, review and analyze metrics on usage and content engagement, and upload new resources.