Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
WWT approached us to help them develop their school field trip offer and use digital tools to enhance the sessions they offer for school children.
They wanted to bring together the field trip experience that children have when visiting one of their reserves with online learning that could be carried out in the classroom to re-enforce the learning objectives.
The original Conservation Explorers learning session involved the school children exploring the reserve in teams, collecting data by using various bits of kit (a camera, a click counter, etc). They also carried a GPS tracker in their kit bag, which recorded their movements. The children gathered their data on a paper worksheet, which they then took back to the classroom to upload to our site.
We carried out analysis of the processes and user journeys. We looked at how we could make it easier for the children to record accurate data on the day and how we could make it simple and efficient for WWT staff to upload the GPS tracks and photos for each of the teams. We also worked with teachers to look at how they would use the site in the classroom to meet the learning objectives.
We built prototypes of the admin screens that WWT staff may use, the admin screens that school teachers may use and the learning screens that children may use in the classroom.
Once we had a working model, we needed to try it out...
Forget everything you know - User testing with kids
When we came to run our first user testing sessions at Southbank School in London, it really highlighted the difference that the context in which the site is used makes to the usability - and how important user testing in situ is. Watching teams of 5 school children, each with a finger on the iPad screen, trying to navigate the site at the same time was quite different from most website use!
After two user testing sessions we decided to redesign our prototype, to hugely simplify the navigation and data entry. We changed it so that there was only one task per page and large buttons to navigate to the previous or next screen. We tested again and this worked perfectly. We also adjusted, or added explanations for, some of the conservation terms that the children were unfamiliar with.
We tested the admin sections with teachers and found that our main objectives we to make it straight-forward for teachers to see the data that all the teams had collected, highlighting teams that hadn't submitted results yet. It was also important to match the content with the National Curriculum learning objectives.
Simplifying the process for WWT staff
One of the biggest challenges of the project was making the handling of all the different files that the teams collected as simple as possible for WWT staff. Otherwise this could become a very time-consuming task.
We worked with the field teaching teams to understand what would be the ideal process, we then prototyped a drag-and-drop upload area, where the field teacher could log in and simply drop all of the photos and GPS files after a session, with good visual feedback that uploads had worked.
This would then email the school teacher with their login details and all the teams would be automatically matched to their photos and maps of their routes around the reserve.
Where we are now
The Conservation Explorers project was a great innovation in the conservation field teaching that WWT offer.
After developing this session, we went on to build another interactive learning session based around bird migration. This ties in with the WWT Flight of the Swans campaign.
We also built and manage the Learning Zone formal learning section of the WWT website, which we developed to match the look and feel of their main website.
The Conservation Explorers learning sessions have since been rolled out to seven of WWT's largest nature reserves and are used to teach hundreds of school children every year, about wildlife conservation.