It started with the data. We at JSTOR had ample evidence – from emails, tweets, and untold conversations – that our content was being used by teachers as part of their classes. But of the 10 million documents contained within JSTOR, which content? We decided to find out. Our Data Scientist looked at the usage profiles of all our articles over the past few years, and discovered a pattern that looked right: at a single institution, relatively flat usage of a document on both sides of a two-week spike of usage. That profile led to a collection of over 9,000 articles that we believed had been used in a course. It was an impressive set of content, ranging from the evolution of the bicycle to The Death of Ivan Ilych. It led us to wondering how teachers find and select this content, and whether there was something JSTOR could do to make it easier for them.
The approach we took to find out sounds a bit like the set up to a reality TV show: we gave ourselves one week and only one week. Inspired by those 9,000 articles, the Labs team decided to spend one intensive week in our Ann Arbor offices finding out how teachers identify this content and how JSTOR could make it easier. We worked with JSTOR’s User Experience Researchers to find a variety of teachers willing to work with us. Each day during one week in late June, two teachers came in and spoke with us. By the end of the week, we’d spoken with ten high school, community college, undergraduate and graduate-level teachers, in a variety of disciplines, including English and Language Arts, History, and Psychology. These conversations were our daily check-in to see if we were on the track towards what would be most helpful for teachers. [Classroom-Readings-LandingSM]
At the start of the week, we were in information-gathering mode, trying to learn as much as possible about what teachers looked for when selecting articles, what their process for discovery was, and whether and how it differed from the processes they might use for their own research (for those that did it). By Tuesday, we had some theories about what might be helpful and tested these by showing teachers hand-drawn “paper prototypes” like the one to the right, which the teachers interacted with by “clicking” with their finger.
By the end of the week, we had migrated from paper prototypes to a fully-functioning and designed website, the site that we’re pleased and eager to share with you today: JSTOR Classroom Readings. We hope you like it, and cannot wait to hear from you.