Haiku Learning: iOS apps

Haiku Learning: iOS apps


Haiku Learning is a “David among Goliaths” – they are a small but thriving elearning platform (also known as a learning management system) competing with much larger platforms. Haiku Learning’s strengths lie in a easy-to-setup and get started interface, an extremely high customer retention rate (devoted customers) and an award-winning customer service department. Most customers access the web-based application, with a much smaller percentage of customers actively using the iPad application. As more and more school districts have begun to distribute iPads to students, demand for features and improvements to the Haiku Learning iPad app jumped, and usage of their existing iPad app remained relatively low. In 2014, I was asked to help change this.

We gathered data from customers in the form of surveys and user interviews, helping us to isolate both our user’s biggest pain points and their most pressing unmet needs. A project vision emerged, and we then divided it up into three sequential projects:

  • Add a Grades feature
  • Improve the iPad app’s accessibility, usability, and overall design
  • Create a companion iPhone app that would build off of the improvements made to the iPad app, but only after iterating, analytics and user feedback on the iPad app showed that we were moving in the right direction (more overall usage, longer user sessions, the top features that customers were requesting)

Process, Phase 1

While a feature that simply displays grades might initially seem like a straightforward project, the flexibility and detail that Haiku Learning’s web platform provides for Grades required a much deeper dive into the specifics of bringing Grades to the iPad app. Haiku Learning’s user roles offer differing sets of permissions and functionality for teachers, parents and students. Any given user might hold more than one role at the same time, as well. For example, a user could be a parent who is also the teacher of a class in which their child is a student. Additionally Haiku Learning offers a feature called Sections, a way of grouping students within a class. Section A might receive Exam A, and Section B might receive Exam B, for example.

Results, Phase 1

For phase 1, we create a dynamic show/hide interface that allowed users to drill down into Grades by user role > class > section > individual grades. Customers reported overall satisfaction with being able to access their grades on the iPad, just in time for the new school year.

Process, Phase 2

The following goals were established for Phase 2:

  • An interface that everyone from a first grader to a 65 year old teacher can intuitively navigate
  • Reduce the number of taps needed to drill down into information (and back up)
  • Incorporate Haiku Learning’s latest branding guidelines into the design
  • Fully utilize the latest iOS features
  • Meet recognized accessibility standards (WCAG, Section 508, etc.) for color, contrast, text, links and interactions
  • Increase findability by adding advanced search functionality
  • Decrease the amount of actions necessary – by half or more – to import media and documents into assignments and messages
  • Improve user delight by adding micro-animations to interactive elements and screen transitions

Of the many ambitious goals established, all goals, but for improved accessibility and micro-animations were completed, and the remaining goals are in active and planned development, as of 2016.

Results, Phase 2

Since the release of Grades and the usability and design overhaul of the iPad app, Haiku Learning effectively doubled the number of users utilizing the iPad application, and doubled the average length of sessions that users spend interacting with it. The home screen, which contains all new assignments, announcements and grades, has experienced a nearly tenfold increase in the average length of time that users spend on it.

Process, Phase 3

As customers indicated that their primary need for an iPhone app was on-the-go communications, we prioritized the Calendar, Inbox and To-Dos features, as well as the Class list feature, which allows users to filter the updates they receive by class.

Results, Phase 3

As of 2016, the iPhone app is in the initial stages of development and interactive prototypes are undergoing user testing and design iterations.