Exponential Pathways
Administrative Portal

Flexible Management for a Youth Career Pathways Advising Platform

Summary
The administrative portal for Exponential Pathways (XP) helps admins create career readiness assignments, support advising, and track analytics by class/cohort, school/site, and district/organization, in addition to allowing site admins to create and manage all organizations through a hierarchal system.
Duration
8 months
Role
Product Designer
Tools
Figma, Adobe Creative Suite, Atlassian Jira, Miro
TL;DR
Problem: Different organizations have different needs, processes, and systems.
Opportunity: How might we build a management system accommodating organizations’ pre-existing approaches while making integration seamless?
Solution: A management platform that can create custom hierarchies with cascading access to reflect organizations’ pre-existing practices without putting a strain on educators.

A user management platform that meets organizations where they are with the most essential information.

Managing users and an organization can be complicated, considering that different organizations may already have other procedures, systems, and hierarchies. I developed the management platform to mold and shift to fit various organizations’ needs and existing practices.

Flexible Structure

For Site Admins - Create organizational structures that reflect organizations’ current configurations for easy integration and adaptation by educators.

Cascading Access

Cascading access to organizations - users from the top have full access to the organizations underneath. Giving flexibility to different roles for assignment and student management.

Student Dashboard

Ability to track individual progress on assignments, aptitude tests, and interests to help guide students toward a future that fits their specialized needs and wants.

Assignments

Create and view assignments for a central hub for all admins, educators, and students to track where they are and their goals. Making it a team effort to get to the finish line.

Background
Exponential Pathways (XP) is a digital career readiness advisement platform, co-developed with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), for teachers or advisors at high school districts and workforce boards to support career readiness lesson plans for 8th-12th grade students, young adults, and opportunity youth including interest and skill assessments, matching to local career paths and exposure to short-term and long-term skill-building activities they can pursue.

Check it out: https://www.vantagepoint-inc.com/products/xp.

I needed to build a management platform for which admins and educators alike, that would be able to help students find their unique path.

Problem
Initially, my task was to create four levels - with each one having control of the one under it, with the top being a site admin that had complete control over the application and then a class admin at the bottom with only the ability to look at their own assigned cohort and functions within that.

However, we encountered a problem as we talked to more school workers. Different organizations have different needs. One school district might have another hierarchical system from another one. Or a single after-school organization might be using the application, and the middle layers would be null. (examples that we encountered).
Goal

Make integration seamless for all parties.

I aimed to develop a platform that simplifies managing organizations and students. After the initial conversation with stakeholders, teachers, and the designer who made the student portal, I gathered a few goal points I built the product around while keeping the focus on business, technology, and users.
Audit of Student Platform
My first step was to audit XP for students and see how I could develop a management platform that hit all of the critical points of the application. I summarized my findings for the main features below.
User Research
I interviewed friends and acquaintances in education to understand how they were involved in career exploration with their students. In these interviews, I took note of recurring trends and challenges they had encountered as an educator.
User Interviews
Concerns

Users couldn’t agree on the “right” way.

Each representative from the different stakeholders and pilot participants had different needs. For one school district, they were planning on allowing homeroom teachers to run it. Another school district had designated counselors as the primary point of contact, with teachers also having access.

Success Metrics
The success metrics below were built on my previous user interviews while keeping business, technology, and user concerns at the forefront. The success of this admin portal is tied directly with the student portal.
Development
After identifying the main concerns of educators and a whiteboard session with the designer of the student portal and the PM, I focused on developing my insights into wireframes. Unfortunately, I did not correctly document the wireframes for the initial version, and they became misplaced between conception and when I wrote the case study.

As the idea evolved, organization creation separated into a new flow that shifted the responsibility to site administrators.
Wireframes
Information Architecture
The information architecture is complex and shifting based on different organizations and which role the user is assigned. This information architecture shown here is a generalized overview with the default format of a school district, school, and class.
User Testing
By presenting the product’s first version to leaders in the pilot programs, I could determine educators’ frustration with that version. I gathered valuable feedback to rework how we split up each level of access and their responsibilities.

As part of testing, we staged the product and were able to test it out internally. Through that process, we were able to work out the flaws before launching fully with the pilot partners at the beginning of 2023.
Final Solution

Flexible Management for a Youth Career Pathways Advising Platform.

Exponential Pathways - Administrative Portal is a platform that can meet different organizations’ needs and existing practices. With seamless integration and ease of adaptation, it helps educators facilitate career exploration for youth.

Setup Process Relies on Site Admins

Educators have a list of growing responsibilities, with many already feeling overwhelmed. We shift the burden to site administrators, i.e., CAEL, to help lessen stressors for better adoption.

Customizable Management System

A flexible management system means we can meet the needs of school districts, workforces, regional initiatives, after-school programs, and so much more. We kept our pilot partners at the forefront of the problem but thought beyond them for possibilities.

Dashboard as a Tool to Facilitate Conversation

The dashboard functions as a tool for educators to learn about their students. From where their strengths lie, but also where their interests are, careers that they have found exciting and formulate a plan that involves both parties.

Design System
The goal for Exponential Pathway - Administrative Portal’s identity was to take inspiration from the student platform but create a unique feeling that’s separate from it.
Reflection

Documentation is Key

Through my first official product role, I did not prioritize documenting much of my processes, past iterations, and work. When I lost access to my company email, I lost some of my work and had to fill in the gaps for this case study. Moving forward, I learned that to present my designs properly, I need better documentation that I will consistently have access to.

Working with Engineers

Creating a product is a collaboration between designers, engineers, and PMs. This role taught me how to properly communicate and show ideas to our team of engineers instead of assuming that they would understand. And that sometimes, we would need to reapproach the problem and come to a compromise that met both sides' requirements.

✉ If you want more information, please reach out.

Updates

Currently in its pilot phase in several contexts including with a regional workforce board, a national not-for-profit that is embedded in middle schools and high schools, and within a set of high schools as part of the current grant’s data-driven product development requirements.

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Francis Phan

francistphan@gmail.com