Next Gen Education: Making education accessible for students in marginalized communities.
On the theme of ‘Giving Back’ of General Assembly's Winter Hackathon, a team of three developers and two other designers UX designers came together to create a community-based tutoring app, aimed at connecting marginalized students with tutors within their own communities. The purpose of our app ‘Schola’ is to make education accessible to marginalized and low-income students by connecting them to a network of nearby tutors; tutors that are a part of the community and understand the students' backgrounds. Together with COVID-19’s impact on education and the general lack of accessibility to marginalized districts, our nation’s students need help more than ever.
General Assembly Winter 2022 Hackathon
David Lind, Alex Hernandez
Alex Barbosa, Ian McBee, Sean Buchas
Dec 5 - Dec 9, 2022
COVID-19's impact on American Education
The shortcomings of the American education system have never been a secret to anyone, but the recent COVID-19 pandemic has posed difficulties like never before. Let’s take a quick look into how it’s somehow gotten even worse through the pandemic:
Disengagement with distance learning has lowered high school graduation rates and equities in college access and success. 
The opportunity gaps in low-income districts have also widened as student assessment scores have declined throughout the pandemic, the greatest association being the school’s poverty level 
Why tutoring is important
According to a study conducted on disadvantaged students in Italy, their entirely remote and volunteer-based tutoring program yielded
3 standout improvements in the students' :
Engagement & Learning
Psychological Well-being (happier and less depressive)
However, despite the amazing things that tutoring can do for our students, it is not entirely feasible for all households as:
“Tutoring is prevalent – over 25% of 11-16-year-olds have a private tutor at some point – but it is expensive and as such is simply not an option for disadvantaged pupils.” 
- Education of Endowment Foundation
Getting to know the industry: Competitor Analysis
In order to meet industry standards and do what I could to go beyond the standards to bring something unique, I conducted a feature analysis on 3 big competitors to examine their onboarding process and the structure of their tutor profiles:
Getting straight to the point, the biggest takeaways and points for Schola to shine are as follows:
2 out of 3 have geolocation features but do not appear to match the tutor and student by proximity
- Giving Schola a chance to stand out in our community-based student and tutor matching
All 3 have paywalls regardless of if tutors are pay or volunteer-based
- Easily viewed and downloadable, yet still inaccessible to low-income families
Meet Our User: The Persona
At this point, the team had solidified an idea for a tutoring app with geolocation technology that would match tutors and students based on their areas. Geolocation with minors, however, can get dicey for obvious reasons.
In order to demonstrate the limitations on the tutors, and for the scope of the 4-day sprint, we opted to narrow our focus to the tutors' perspective, and I developed our persona, Janet.
The Core Problem
Our volunteer tutors need a way to connect with students in their community because most cannot afford paid education services.
With a clearer understanding of the user’s needs, we moved on to ask the real questions:
How might we make networking with marginalized students safe and accessible for both students and instructors?
How might we help introduce tutors to youths in their area to make a difference in their own community?
Ideating the Solution
We started off with UI sketches and low-fidelity wireframes on Figma to establish the foundations of our solution.
We opted for minimalistic branding to keep up with contemporary trends and incorporated pops of orange to associate the app with a similar color found in many educational color scheming and positive emotions of youthfulness, determination, and energy.
Calendar / Scheduling
Tutor Profile (Inward Facing)
This was my first time working with a team of both front-end and back-end developers, and although conceptualizing, ideating, prototyping, and bringing a product vision to life within the 4-day timeline was an intense challenge, it was one of the most rewarding and informative experiences I have gone through as a Designer. My most important lesson from this project is that as much love as I have for my users, I do not design for them alone. The needs of the developers and compliance with the law are equally crucial in consideration. Although we faced some points of contention between the UX team's design decisions and the developers' thoughts regarding functionality, we were able to overcome it with effective communication and came out in the end with a better product because of it.
Given the opportunity to expand further on this project, I would like to conduct some usability tests to iterate on the tutor's experience and gain direction on what we could do to further build the calendar function and networking features. In order to complete the full vision of the app, I would also love to build out the student experience in another sprint.