Maryland Learning Links

Johns Hopkins University, Center for Technology in Education

Overview:

Created in a joint partnership between the Maryland State Department of Education and Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Technology in Education (JHU CTE), Learning Links is a prime destination for teachers and families across the state. JHU CTE asked Fifteen Four to redesign the site and create new content that would delight and inform new and existing users of the site.

Practices:

  • CMS Integration
  • Information Architecture
  • Web & User Experience
  • Web Development
  • Wireframing & Prototyping

The Challenge

Learning Links was initially created for special education teachers and policy makers. Recognizing the need for families, caregivers, and general educators to have access to their own resources, JHU CTE asked us to create a new web experience that would broaden their audience without alienating long-time users.

The Solution

Create an innovative new content filtering system so long-time users can quickly find the resources they need, while new users can explore the site without having to navigate lengthy dropdown menus listing content that isn’t relevant to them. To further attract new audiences, create fun, engaging content to supplement longer form content.

The Results

A website that’s a user friendly and inviting resource for families, caregivers, educators, and policy makers. The navigation allows users to easily locate favorite resources, while a sliding hero image and homepage tiles feature new and exciting content. Currently, the number of users visiting Maryland Learning Links is 138% higher than in the first month after re-launch.

User Experience

Accommodating multiple user types is no easy task. In order to meet the various and sometimes overlapping needs of different personas, we created multiple ways to access information.

A filtered navigation system and dynamic homepage tiles makes it easy for new and long-time users to explore the latest content.

Search is globally available to support users who are finding familiar content and users who are exploring the site in search of new content.

Finally, a revised navigational approach will support new and existing users by offering a structured approach to content. This navigational system is based on the different age groups of students and reflects their unique journeys through the educational system.

Content Strategy

Maryland Learning Links was stocked with long-form text-based informational content on a variety of subjects relevant to educators. Our plan was to create faster content that would hook new visitors while encouraging more engagement with with the site from existing users.

With that in mind, we worked with JHU CTE to identify key topics of interest to desired audiences and developed a content strategy focused on engaging, shareable content about those topics.

In each case, long-form explorations of subjects – like Universal Design for Learning – already existed. But a quick burst of engagement for users less familiar with those topics was needed. That’s where video comes in.

 

Video

Employing live action and animation, we produced 15 new videos to be featured on the Learning Links site. All were fast and engaging, drawing on a variety of topics of interest to educators and families.

That included a musical production featuring puppets, a series exploring tech trends filmed in the style of ‘The Daily Show,’ and an inspirational documentary-style series of videos celebrating educational success stories across the state of Maryland.

As we continue to partner with JHU CTE on the development of new content, we are producing a new series of documentary-style education videos and are in the planning stages for more video content to be produced in 2017.

Outcome

As the Maryland Learning Links site continues to evolve, we are finding new and different ways to engage their audiences. From user experience enhancements to an expanded content strategy that includes a range of short- and long-form content, we’re working with JHU CTE to find ways to grow their audience and serve their state.

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