Inquiry Space

Jennifer Otten UX design


ConnectED is a content delivery platform serving personalized learning and applications for 7.1 million teachers and students in schools across grades K-12.

Reading Wonders (RW) is McGraw-Hill Education’s (MHE) flagship Reading/Language Arts product line, and is their highest revenue generating program. It offers full print and digital experiences for grades K through 6, and aligns to Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

The new CCSS state requires students to research content online and write a response to online sources and also to identify if the source is reliable. To meet these standards a supplemental program for Reading Wonders was created.


Focus group testing and surveys were conducted with teachers to support those needs and to help shape how we would approach the new product. Internal review of the product revealed opportunities to increase instructional support and stronger instruction for student writing. The testing and internal product testing surfaced the following requirements for the updated RW release a:

  • Safe MHE created environment
  • Note-taking tool available while reviewing sources
  • Self-evaluation for cognitive understanding
  • 100+ videos, slideshows material for standard mastery
  • Creative gamified environment with reward system
  • Self-guided experience

There are three Inquiry Space Quests activities for the English and Spanish courses included in the grades 3 - 6 program. The Quests are based on the following themes: Information, Opinion and Narrative.  Each quest has 6 levels for the students to complete before the final task of creating a presentation. The students are given 4 sources of online content to read and review. One of the sources is not reliable. The students need to first identify each reliable source and capture notes for their outline. After each level the student gets a museum artifact for their curated exhibition at the end of the quest.


To understand the levels and flow- I created a map of how the student would be served content when the student was having trouble and keeping the teacher informed.

I created a wireframe/prototype broken into 6 levels. The student would need to answer the self evaluation to pass through to the next section. If the student could not move forward, content that is giving the student trouble would be presented to the student to help them understand the concept and give them another opportunity to answer the questions and move to the next level.

One of the challenges was the need for students to review content while creating notes. I utilized a 2 columns layout that could be expanded and collapsed. 


My team and I, broke down the content with 3 characters, each representing one of the 3 themes. We collaborated with an outside vendor to tell a story- the user (student) is a receiver of the Museum Of Odd Oddities (MOOO). The player approaches the whimsical building that houses the museum and receives a letter that explains the story context and establishes the player’s role: MOOO has been closed for years because the owner has gone missing. It’s up to, the player, to restore the exhibits and re-¬≠open the galleries to the public. To do this, you will have access to MOOO’s research archives, located in the basement of the museum, along with the help of the menagerie of odd creatures that work as the museum’s docents and assistants.


I created a bright color palette for the program and large icons, fonts and text fields for the younger viewer. We worked closely with the vendor creating the artwork to match the color palette and flat style. I wanted to make sure every action the student had, would have a response to that action. The text fields check in with the student to ensure they are ready to move on to the next question.



The application is a major piece of the Reading Wonders product that was adopted as part of the California submission and now available nationwide. Little competition exists in the market for a product that focuses on research based writing and self-paced mastery based blended learning.

Some of the challenges that were overcome in the project was creating an environment that was playful and entertaining with a compelling story for the user. The product also needed to give the user access to their notes while reviewing their sources, and maintain those notes to later create an outline and ultimately a draft for a final presentation. I kept inmind that the teacher would want to be able to see the progress of the students through the levels as well as the student knowing where they were in the quest at all times.

I loved working on this project for the pure playfulness and creativity for the students journey through the Museum of Odd Oddities and the reward system. Students responded well to the illustration style and humor during our testing.