A learning platform designed for IBM Communications and Citizenship
C.School is a digital learning platform designed to help improve the core competencies and support the professional career development of IBM Communication and Citizenship professionals. Through the platform, C.School provides a range of learning modules that teach relevant skills, processes, and tools associated with their roles.
Mark Bryant, Jean-François Chenier, Matt Hemsing, Michael Lo, Madeline Peterson
In 2018 IBM Initiated C.School, a learning program designed for two teams—IBM Communications & Corporate Citizenship—who share similar goals, roles, and responsibilities.
To help support the program, our design team was tasked to develop a digital platform that would provide a range of learning modules. These learning modules would support C.School’s curriculum by teaching new and emerging skills, processes, and tools that are relevant to their roles.
In developing the digital platform, the UX design team’s primary responsibilities were comprised of two challenges:
01 | Adapting IBM Design Language
Adapting the user interface and visual design of C.School alongside IBM’s evolving design language.
02 | Developing Flexible UX Patterns
Developing flexible UX patterns that can be applied to different forms of content and learning objectives.
Designing in parallel with an evolving design language and system.
When our team began C.School, IBM was undergoing a significant change within its design culture. Despite IBM’s extensive design legacy, its design philosophy, values, and principles had never been unified. Until 2019, when the IBM Design team introduced their new design language, signifying a formal shift in their philosophy and aesthetic.
The introduction of IBM’s design language coincided with the beginning of our involvement with C.School in January 2019. As a result, this presented our team a unique opportunity to experiment with their evolving design system by allowing us to apply existing components while also creating new ones to address specific design challenges.
Creating flexible design patterns to accommodate various forms of learning content
Over the course of a year, our team was tasked to design learning modules which taught a range of topics such as managing crisis communication, understanding the principles of storytelling, and learning about IBM’s role in education reform.
In order to accommodate the breadth of material and learning objectives, our design team set out to create flexible patterns that could be reused and adapted to different forms of preliminary content established by the content team.
Designed for scenario-based learning that helps learners practice their skills by simulating situations relevant to their roles.
Designed to support audio-driven learning by providing supplementary visuals to the content.
Designed for long-form reading intended to help learners gain more context about a given topic.
This module teaches communication professionals on how to respond and manage crisis situations in order to maintain IBM’s brand.
The learning strategy for this pattern is based on an instructional framework known as CCAF, which encourages context-driven learning through practical application. In the CCAF framework, learners are placed in a scenario where they are encouraged to respond intuitively to a challenge as opposed to analyzing an overwhelming amount of content. Therefore, the underlying goal of CCAF is to make learning more comprehensible and contextual by making the content relevant to situations associated with their careers.
Translating the Framework into an Experience
For this pattern, the design team was responsible for translating the CCAF model into the overall user experience of an exercise.
Context: A scenario that simulates a workplace situation
Challenge: A prompt that encourages a decision to be made
Activity: An opportunity to respond to the challenge
Feedback: An opportunity to reflect on the decision and receive feedback
To reflect the CCAF framework, we constructed a modular system that was composed of four adaptable components. To make the pattern scalable, the four components can be customized to fit different forms of content while still maintaining its cohesive structure.
A scenario from the Managing crisis & issues communications learning module using the CCAF framework.
Through a podcast series, communication professionals learn how to write compelling narratives by applying key storytelling principles.
For this pattern, the design team was responsible for investigating an approach to making audio-driven learning more engaging. While user-testing the preliminary audio content, learners expressed that they lacked the necessary context needed to fully understand each principle. Therefore, our challenge was to explore different ways to provide supplementary context alongside the podcast in order to increase clarity and engagement.
While examining the content for this module, the design team recognized that the audio content made references that could be visualized with existing assets. Therefore, we proposed a new section called podcast highlights — which provides visual context alongside key quotes from the podcast. By creating this new section, we were able to:
By visualizing examples in the podcast series, we were able to increase clarity by providing supplementary visual context to the audio-driven content.
By connecting key moments into a comprehensive narrative, it allowed us to create an extension to the podcast that could also act as an independent experience.
C.School Principles of storytelling learning module
*Watch with sound on
Through a series of case studies, communication professionals learn about IBM’s impact through Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.
When we first began the project, we were tasked to re-evaluate the existing case study pattern. In the initial iteration, the long-form case study was divided into separate sections in order to make the content more digestible. Despite this effort, we discovered that learners were frustrated at this format because it disrupted the flow of the content.
The redesign of case studies improves the flow of the content and strips away clutter by presenting the article in a single continuous layout which encourages a long-form reading experience. Through conducting further user testing sessions, we also discovered that Communication professionals were unfamiliar with the jargon frequently used by Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives. Therefore, we included a non-disruptive interaction where learners can hover over highlighted words to surface more information specific to each case study.
Inherited design of case study pattern
Current design of case study pattern