class check

Design Case Study / Product Design / 2018

digital tool that helps teachers remember new students

At the beginning of each new semester or school year, teachers are faced with the challenge of remembering names for a large number of new students.
Designing an experience to help an educator match faces to names quickly, while also getting to know who the students truly are.    




I usually start projects by asking questions. I write down all the questions that come up in my head. At this point of the process, any question is valid and there is no specific order to them. Through this process I try to find out what assumptions I can make and what I need to research about. 

  • Who are the users? Different types of users?
  • Should this be a product/service just for teachers?
  • What kind of device should this be for? Format? Platform?
  • What kind of methods do people use for memorization?
  • When should I assume this is going to be launched? Are there any new technology that could help?
  • What is the overall goal(purpose) of this product? What kind of small tasks should it be able to do?
  • What kind of existing products/services are there? Competitors?
  • Should this experience be purely digital? Is there a way to combine Digital + Real Life?
  • Should this experience start once school starts? Is there anything we can do before the start date?
  • Would people actually use this product? Would I use it?


As I try answering the questions above, I start thinking about what assumptions I can make. Many of the questions above will not be answered until I finish my research and start making decisions. 

  • The potential users of this product are
    • Teachers (Preschool)
    • Teachers (Elementary School, Middle School, High School)
    • Professors & Teaching Assistants (College, Grad School, etc. )
  • The users will have easy access to devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers
  • The teacher(or school) has access to photos and information about students. If not, the teacher(or school) will have an easy method to collect them.



target audience interviews

With the assumption that my main user group will be educators, I interviewed teachers, professors, teaching assistants, etc. Below are some of my interviews with the key points listed out. 


christine / 33 years old / new york & seoul

  • Currently a private preschool teacher in Manhattan
  • Experience as an English teacher at a Korean university
  • For preschool, I prepare materials and cubbies for the kids before school starts. This helps tremendously and I usually am able to memorize all the names in about a week. It took me 3-4 weeks at the university as I had no preparation and there were more people. 
  • Collecting assignments and quizzes helped.
  • I had difficulty learning foreign names. They were hard to memorize and to pronunciate. 
  • I always think of names and the kids in alphabetical order. It's the only method that works for me. 
  • Having the kids write their own names, draw or make artwork also helps. It's good when the personalities show through their artwork. 
  • Both preschool and the university had no assigned seats. 

Amanda / 29 years old / seoul

  • Experience as an English teacher at a Public Middle School in Seoul, South Korea
  • I had about 1,000 students each year. To be perfectly honest, I never really memorized all the names. I learned a lot of names, but was never able to master them all. 
  • Learning Korean names was especially difficult because I was always self-conscious of pronouncing them incorrectly or calling the wrong student the wrong name. 
  • I had my students make nameplates and put them on their desks every day. I also made them always sit in the same place to start class. 
  • The students, I really got to know by heart were the ones who participated in English club, newspaper club and summer/winter camps. 

Esther / 31 years old / New York & pittsburgh

  • Experience as a Sunday School Teacher in New York and Teaching Assistant at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Working on activities together such as coloring Easter eggs or crafting Christmas gifts were the best time and way to memorize faces and names
  • As a TA, I didn't have much interactions with the students. So I had a difficult time remembering the names. I usually remembered only the ones who came to my office hours. 

michelle / early 50s / los angeles

  • Currently a music professor in college.
  • Quiet students who don't participate in activities much are difficult to remember.
  • Some students just don't have very memorable characteristics or special features to remember. 
  • It often takes me about a month to memorize all the names. 
  • It's always easier to remember the students who come to me for a 1:1 conversation. 
  • My attendance book has photos with names in it, so I try to memorize the faces using it. But sometimes the photos are quite different from the student and gives me confusion. 


gary / mid 40s / New York

  • Currently a professor at the School of Visual Arts and also the founder of Orbital NYC
  • I usually struggle in the first few weeks and then start learning names and faces with a steep learning curve. It usually takes about 4 weeks to learn them all. 
  • I think I might struggle less if I include some interactive activities in our first few classes. 
  • I like to call international students by their real name, and not by their English name specifically created for school. However this does give me more trouble as I often butcher their name. 
  • I have a big google spreadsheet, which everyone uses for their assignments. This usually helps me with the names. 
  • The SVA IXD website has photos of each student and I often go to the website to learn names. 
  • During the intros on the first day, I ask students to share something about themselves besides their name
  • 1:1 sessions help me remember those students
  • It would be cool and fun if there were something like a Tinder app, but with the student photos. I could use them as flash cards. 

Memorization methods

I also researched about memorization methods that were currently being used by many people for names and also for studying information in general.  

  • Remembering Names
    • Name Tags 
    • Same Seating
    • Adding a word that rhymes with the name
    • Adding an adjective that starts with the same alphabet letter as the name
  • General Memorization
    • Creating a wrong answer notebook
    • Step-by-step erasing notes
    • Creating a mind map

existing products

Screenshots of the apps that I was testing for research

  • Name that student - It helps user memorize names and faces through simple quizzes. The UIUX is below average and makes it difficult to actually use the app. 
  • Name Shark - Almost the same with "Name that student." It helps user memorize names and faces through simple quizzes. The UIUX is below average as well, and it contains full screen Ads, which are very annoying. 
  • FaceCards - Not much differences from "Name that student" and "Name Shark." The UIUX is at a similar poor level. 
  • Remember App - It helps user remember people, he or she met by displaying basic info and specific location info of where they met. It is interesting to see how the app searches for information on the web by using the email or phone number registered. The UIUX is average but I feel like it should have a few more features in order for it to be actually useful. 
  • Name Keeper - Almost exactly the same app as "Remember App."
  • Brainscape - App that helps user study in general using a flashcard format. It seems to work better for subjects that require vocabulary memorization such as foreign languages. The user experience was about so-so, but I didn't feel like I would actually use this for my studies. 
  • Teacher Kit - This is a classroom management app rather than a name and face memorization app. It has some good features a teacher could use while teaching a class. The UIUX is about average. 
  • Class Dojo - Another classroom management app. I feel like this app has a better UIUX compared to all previous apps mentioned. There are many features that are useful and easy to use. I like the fact that it generates characters for each student added. It might have been even better if the user could customize or choose the characters for each student.  
  • Google Classroom - A classroom management app from Google. The UIUX was not difficult to floow as I was already used to using Material Design interfaces. The app itself is very straight forward and easy to learn as well. 


Summary - The products that had the purpose of helping a user remember new names and faces generally offered a poor user experience. It was interesting to see how other memorization apps worked, but did not fit the purpose that I had. The classroom management apps usually had the best UIUX and got me curious of the reason. One hypothesis is the apps that had the sole purpose of remembering names and faces were not appealing enough to the users. On the other hand more users downloaded the classroom management apps as they felt it would be useful. This lead more companies and startup groups to work on the classroom management apps, while individual amateurs worked on the names and faces apps. This doesn't mean the names and faces apps aren't worth anything. I think there is still value in it, but maybe just not on its own. This is where I first started thinking about how the names and faces memorization could be better as a feature or a tool inside a bigger product, such as a classroom management app. 



At the end of the research phase, I come to conclusions using the information that I have learned from the research. 

  • If there is anything that can be done before the school even starts, that is always going to be a plus.
  • Ultimately this product will use photos of students to allow teachers to memorize the names and faces, even when the students are not present. 
  • This product could be more effective and realistic if it is a part of a bigger product, such as a classroom management app. A product that would only be used for 2-4 weeks per year could be less appealing to users. Also the other actions of managing the class would naturally help the teacher remember students as well. For example, if the students hand in their assignments and quizzes through this platform and the teacher grades them, the teacher is subconsciously learning the names. In this case, students and parents could also be potential users of the product. 
  • A nondigital experience outside of the product would be helpful. 
  • May be not necessarily on this product or platform, but interactive activities or 1on1 conversations should always be encouraged. 
  • There must be something to help the teachers learn pronunciations. (Especially for foreign names)
  • Just by organizing the current methods that are being used already, into an always available app that is easy to use, it could be very helpful to the teachers.   


Before I move onto the actual Design phase, I need to make some decisions, which will help me focus on what kind of experience I want to design.  

  • Obviously I will be keeping in mind that this should be for all possible user groups (K-12, college, grad school, etc. ), but in order to help myself focus while designing the experience, I will be using the example of high school students for this exercise. 
  • I will explore the option of this name and face memorization tool being a part of a classroom management app. I will touch upon some aspects of the classroom management app as a whole, but my main focus is still on the name and face memorization process. 
  • I believe this product should be an app that works on smartphones, tablets and computers all in sync. The mobile experience is convenient as the teacher will have access to it wherever he or she goes. The teacher might want to use a desktop, when working on complex tasks such as grading assignments. However in this exercise I will be focusing on the mobile experience.
  • Initially I wanted to explore new technologies that could be used, such as 3D face scanning. However because this is currently a feature only on certain phones, I decided not to move forward with this idea. 



Overall information architecture

As I have mentioned, I am visioning this experience to be a part of a classroom management app. So I first explore the overall application from various directions. I take a look at the user flow from a teacher's point of view as well as a student's point of view. Then I take a look at it from different scenarios based on time. I expect the user experience of the application to be different before and on the first day of class compared to the rest of the school year. After exploring the overall, I start to narrow the scope and concentrate on the experience of learning and remembering the students' names and faces. 


focused user flow

Once I have my experience set, I create a more detailed user flow from start to end. This includes all the actions that are taken such as filling out the Student Information Cards and using the Names and Faces quizzes. 



This is the stage where I create wireframes and place them into the user flow displayed above. I also add annotation to explain about how specific functions work and how I have come to certain design decisions. 


user interface DESIGN




The InVision Prototype above displays best in Chrome on a Mac. 
If it is not displaying properly for any reason, please use the link below to experience the prototype. 

Experience the InVision Prototype


Reflection & Next Steps


Reflection as a designer

As I progressed in this project, I've become more and more ambitious and started scaling up the project from what I initially envisioned. With a limited time to complete, I feel like I wasn't able to give as much care as I wanted to for certain details such as icons. However, when it comes to design, I know that it is difficult to be completely satisfied with your work no matter what project you are working on. Also I still believe that my decision to make this into a part of a bigger experience/product, instead of an app that solely helps one memorize faces, is the right decision. So I am generally pleased with the outcome of the project and have no regrets. 


Reflection as a user

In general, it seems like this application fulfills its purpose and completes its tasks well. The prototype is displaying an example of its use in a high school setting, and I think the features are designed so that they would work well in different settings (Elementary school, College, etc. ) as well. Still, there must be some specific needs for different settings, and it would be exciting to see how this application solves those challenges as well. Also I am curious to see the sections on the menu that aren't portrayed in the prototype such as The First Day Guide, Assignments & Grades, Class Blog, etc. 


Next Steps

The product I have designed is a classroom management application. Because I focused mainly on the experience of a teacher learning and remembering the students, there are still many areas that are not complete. Completing the rest of the application would be the first next step. The second next step would be showing how this product could be even more powerful by communicating with the school (educational institution)  system itself. For example, information from this app syncing with the school data base would allow information to be inherited to a new teacher the following year. With data continuously accumulating, I believe the potential of this product continues to grow without limits.