RM Authoring

Seamless creation of high-stakes exams

Challenge

Exploring new markets

Every year more than a million people globally receive their exam results thanks to RM Results. Their multi-award winning e-marking platform RM Assessor, designed in partnership with White October, is the most widely used and highly-rated marking software in the world.

The success of the Assessor project led to RM Results returning to White October again when looking to establish themselves in a new market. We were commissioned as a strategic UX partner, uniquely positioned to help shape a program of work that involved developing products and services for exam authoring, delivery, and analytics.

Our initial brief was to gather insights and validate needs for exam authoring, so we started with an extended discovery phase, using the double diamond model as a framework to communicate our thinking and progress.

Approach

Evidenced decisions

For a project of this scale, an evidence-based approach was required to ensure we built the right thing and optimised development resources. We began by reframing long-established assumptions into a set of hypotheses before conducting extensive qualitative user research to validate them.

After 20 plus user interviews with exam boards from around the world, we identified 3 key personas and were able to comprehensively document the exam authoring process in a user journey map. We discovered an archaic process where workflows were messy, manual, and their software was letting them down.

Common pain-points

We conducted several observational studies to map the practical authoring process in more detail, using it to identify opportunities that could be prioritised into a roadmap. Upon conducting a competitor analysis, we identified existing tools on the market were failing to cater to foundational workflow issues, instead favouring new kinds of question or response types.

1. Insecure

The current process is insecure. Word docs were emailed and stored locally, with exam leaks likely to make the front-pages and ruin reputations.

2. Ambiguous

Exam authoring is a collaborative process between authors and the exam board but both parties lack a shared view of the exam and its progress.

3. Error prone

Multiple software packages don’t integrate with one another, allowing errors to creep in and requiring multiple manual checks.

Experience

Don't reinvent the wheel

Many of the problems our users were struggling with in their enterprise context had already been solved by existing consumer products, like Google Slides or Medium. When trying to articulate the need for a familiar and intuitive experience utilising these concepts to RM, we identified a breakdown in communication between product teams within the business. Teams were siloed, with limited visibility of each other, which made building consensus around a conceptual direction spanning the whole product difficult.

Narrative arc workshop, 2019
Sketching workshop, 2019
Initial internal concept communication video, 2019
End-to-end experience workshop and retrospective, 2019

To help build a shared vision, I planned and facilitated a series of workshops to align the product teams around user-needs and exploring solutions collaboratively, including tracking exam progress, sharing feedback, and seeing revisions. It was important this vision could be easily communicated and shared, so alongside rapidly wireframing and prototyping we produced several concept videos with voice over to establish a holistic product narrative up and down the organisation.

This level of communication extended to the 120 strong development team in India. We ran daily show-and-tells and co-located with 2 lead developers for 3 weeks before development began to ensure effective knowledge transfer. We continue to collaborate with them on a consultative basis to review development progress.

Impact

Transformation from the inside out

Success isn’t accidental, it’s the product of researched planning and forward-thinking strategy. By gaining extensive insight into the lives of our users, we helped identify a market that was crying out for foundational workflow change, rather than yet more incremental question and response types.

We designed a solution that allows examiners and exam boards to seamlessly and securely collaborate together on the same exam. Because everyone sees the same thing, from the author to the candidate, exams are delivered as expected, hitting deadlines not front page news.

A solid foundation of research enabled us to quickly make decisions based on evidence, which built confidence, reduced risk, and created a holistic mindset across once disparate teams.

RM Authoring is currently in development and is due to be released in 2020.