Reimagining How Students Learn Personal Finance

A Challenge to Redesign for Engagement and Effectiveness

American Student Assistance (ASA) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate college students and recent alumni about financial literacy to enable their successful repayment of student loans. Their online financial education membership program, SALT, provides “simple, smart, personalized ways for college students and recent graduates to take control of their student debt and manage their finances.” ASA engaged Six Red Marbles to redesign twelve lessons to improve student engagement and effectiveness.

Six Red Marbles’ Learning Experience Design Process

Learning Experience Design

Learning Experience Design (LX) quickly creates concepts for learning products that from the outset of projects are known to be of high value and effectiveness for the target learners and stakeholders. Six Red Marbles’ (SRM) LX model has been created and refined to be evidence based, extremely learner-centric, and rigorous. Above all else, the process is intentional and flexible. Every project is different, and it is our practice to carefully match what we do to the specific needs of each project.

The Six Core Principles

As a starting point for any project, teams consider Six Core Principles—the foundation for Six Red Marbles’ Natural Learning Approach™:

  • 1 Neuroscience knows best
  • 2 Tribal pedagogy works
  • 3 Play is productive
  • 4 Curriculum must adapt
  • 5 Technology is today
  • 6 Easy see, easy do

An Iterative Approach

SRM’s Learning Experience Designers know that in order to get the best results, iteration is key. With ASA, we:

  • Considered the challenge and solution from every angle
  • Immersed ourselves in research and data
  • Empathized with the intended learners
  • Worked closely with the client to understand both needs and aspirations
  • Analyzed relevant educational theory and pedagogy
  • Created a rubric to guide design
  • Built a series of prototypes that helped us successively approximate a solution that met ASA’s needs
  • Dug into development to make it a known quantity; planning and testing early means less time in development later on
  • Recommended that appraisal and design changes happen on an ongoing basis

ASA’s Goals

ASA challenged Six Red Marbles to reimagine twelve of its SALT lessons. The existing versions were flat, linear, text-heavy, and lacking in reflection, interaction, goals, narrative, and characters. ASA wanted to make these lessons more engaging, more interactive, and more effective at helping students meet their learning goals. ASA also had a number of specific feedback points from learner surveys that they wanted addressed in the design, including:

  • Increasing relevance to students
  • Adopting a more personal, friendly tone
  • Making lesson goals clear from the outset
  • Improving interactivity and feedback
  • Improving the reporting system
  • Making the lessons mobile-compatible

Project Execution

Team

Six Red Marbles put together a team that maximized project value to ASA:
Learning Experience Designers—Conducted design research, produced ideations of concepts to address project goals and learner needs, integrated current ideas from pedagogical theory and the learning sciences.
Subject Matter Expert—Created content that addressed ASA’s educational objectives.
Graphic Designer—Crafted visual design that was appealing to learners and aligned to the SALT style and feel.
Project Manager—Ensured efficiency and timely delivery of project milestones.

Process

SRM began by drafting a design vision document for the project that outlined basic ideas around structure, assessment, visuals, and tone. With feedback from ASA, this document established a coherent, shared vision between ASA and SRM. Next, SRM’s team utilized a three-round iterative prototyping process, with each round followed by feedback from ASA.

Round 1 produced wireframes of a sample lesson and explored different flows, interactions, character types, and basic design elements. ASA tested these alternatives with learners to determine the best combination of choices.

Round 2 made more purposeful choices based on ASA’s feedback and also began to add real content, illustrations, and photos.

Round 3 solidified the visual design style and ensured consistency with the SALT brand.

Production followed the design phase. SRM’s team produced twelve Articulate Storyline-based lessons that met ASA’s objectives and provided learners with a more effective and engaging learning experience.

Results

The lessons were designed to fulfill all of the goals set out for the project:

  • Increasing relevance to students
    • Introduction content related to a student’s daily life and financial future.
    • Scenario-based activities allowed students to choose from different real-life situations and respond based on chapter content.
    • Schools could add campus-specific content.
    • A silhouette character theme was developed to make the lessons more personal but without relying on specific ethnic identities.
    • Scripts were written and audio talent chosen to create a tone that would resonate with students and sound more like a peer than an authority figure.
  • Making lesson goals clear from the outset
    • Students were primed by responding to pre-lesson questions that also established baseline knowledge. These questions were then woven back into the lesson content.
  • Improving interactivity and feedback
    • Animations and interactive elements like quizzes and matching activities were included to increase engagement.
    • Checkpoints throughout measure student comprehension and offer feedback.
  • Improving the reporting system
    • An add-on automates and schedules on-demand customer reporting.
    • Reporting can be enabled at the individual, campus, and system level.
  • Making the lessons mobile-compatible
    • Lessons are Moodle based and include a mobile-friendly delivery platform.

Value to ASA

ASA expressed a high level of satisfaction at the conclusion of the project. By engaging Six Red Marbles’ Learning Experience Design Services, they received a final product that they were not equipped to accomplish themselves. The redesign effort included ASA in the design process, increasing their visibility into the project and sustaining their confidence that the final output would be successful. The LX Design team’s expertise ensured that the project met ASA’s objectives and left them with a set of engaging, rigorous, and effective lessons that elevated the quality of their SALT brand.