About this project
Learn with Cathy is a smartphone learning app designed for high school ESL learners in the US, whose native language is not English. With the help of our smartphone app, they can conveniently practice to learn and speak English, ultimately thrive in America. We combined the advantage of student's friends and the translator software as the basis for this interaction design.
ESL: English as a Second Language

Our design features:
• A "virtual friend": a AI-powered chatbot allowing users to chat with her in English 24/7 through text and voice call
• A "Ukulele tuning app": tune the pronunciation to match a native English speaker
• A spoken "Grammarly": help learners use a better diction and unfamiliar vocabulary words correctly
Project background
The population of English learners in US high school (out of total high school students) are small but significant. They are the minority and face language barriers. We wish to design a solution that address some of their difficulties while learning English.
Relevant data from US Public High Schools
Lack of qualified teachers
            32 States face teacher shortage for ELL Students (2016)
            Academically “inadequate”—confirmation bias from teacher
Academically challenging for ELL
            63% graduates from high schools, compare to 82% overall
            2% enroll in advanced classes, compare to 7.3% overall
            1.4% take college entrance exam (SAT, ACT…)
Source: NPR

Percentage of English Language Learners in US Public High School (Fall 2016). Source: ed.gov

My contribution:
Framing the app prototype's appearance are my main contribution in its design, and I noticeably help this project group to design and distribute surveys during User Research stage. Collaborated with the project group of 4 classmates (in a Introduction to product design class).
Survey and interview ESL learner
Goal: we want to learn the information problem of ESL students, solutions that effectively help them to learn English, and ineffective solutions
Audience: This survey was sent to 6 high school's ESL students' social media group and ESL program administrators. 
Data: We received 15 responses and interviewed 4 ESL students for in-depth understandings.
Major findings
• 8 of 15 (53%) students voice that talking to friends helps them to learn English, while 4 students prefer to watch TV shows and movies to improve their English skills.
• About half of the respondents are willing to socialize with everyone, including English-speakers; the other half tend to socialize with their native speakers. 
• 40% of students respond that they want to avoid boring memorization of vocabulary words when learning English.
• Some students want patience from friends, as they find it difficult to understand spoken sentences and respond properly.
• Native-English teachers are not readily available in home country.
The Persona from user research
Competitive Analysis
ESL, Bilingual instruction, and Transitional bilingual instruction
            Advantage: specialized courses
            Drawback: decreased funding, lack of qualification teacher 
Smartphone learning applications
            Advantage: can study “on-the-go”
            Drawback: inefficient to retain knowledge
            Advantage: a personal support for students
            Drawback: not always available to converse (with ESL students)
Translator software
            Advantage: Instant support
            Drawback: Frequent mistakes in translated texts, hardly learn English skills
So, why not combine
Friend & Translator

to make formal English lessons more personal
Every project group collaborated on Low-Fidelity prototypes to propose how our Learn with Cathy mobile app should look like, along with refining features that will be included in our UI/UX interaction design.
Product design with feature description
Interactive prototype is located on the top of this page.
We envision that, through our interaction design, high school ESL students can often use our smartphone app to efficiently and effectively learn English, minimizing their language barrier.
Let's chat
• Learn English Language and Culture.
• Understand your strength and weakness.
• Generate your unique profile by continue talking to Cathy.
Tune your pronunciation
• Pinpoint any inaccuracy in pronunciation.
• Practice to speak accurately.
• No embarrassment nor burden; you're not talking to a person.
Vocabulary in context
• Suggest proper word choice.
Learn new vocabulary words efficiently.
• A Spoken "Grammarly" to fine-tune your diction.
Useful utilities
• Generate personalized report of English-learning journey.
• Adjust privacy setting, make data-processing local.
• See your achievements from your continued learning progress.
Reflection & Limitation
The Learn with Cathy is my very first interaction design. Afterwards, I realized the potential to use information technologies to solve social issues and improve social welfare.

Through this design process, I've learned
• Literature review and user research
• Divergent solution brainstorm
• Ideation sketch
• Prototype software
• Team collaboration & its software
• Design presentation and presenting a product showcase flyer
• Advocate for the user group and our interaction design
Although the Learn with Cathy looks primitive, this valuable experience paved the road for me to make better interaction designs later, such as Canvas Student Group Module and Dog's Log.
Future improvements
• Make the design more realistic and practical, so ESL learners can find this software useful and willing to try it.
• Conduct more in-depth interview on Spanish ESL learners and ESL students from US Public high schools, as almost all users who agree to interview (for this project) are Chinese speakers in US Private high schools.
            Primarily from project's member connection limitation, we're unable to contact a sufficient amount of high schools (with ESL program) to help us distribute our survey and gather insight from ESL learners.

While participating more interaction designs at a later time, I realized the difficulty to make our Learn with Cathy stand out among other students' projects due to homogenization. There are plenty of existing product designs that also focus on improving ESL students' learning experience, and it would be challenging for our project team to devise something unique in our interaction design.
Product promotional flyer

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