WebORA

Reducing barriers and helping students learn organic chemistry through interactive animations 

Duration: October 2022 - present 

Primary Role: UX Researcher

Other Roles: Product Manager, Accessibility Specialist, Web Developer  


Team: Allyson Yu, Dr. Steven A. Fleming, Dr. Shusen Chen, Dr. Daniel Ess

Scope: University research grant  

Background

Problem Definition and Market Research 
Usability Test & Accessibility Audit
Product Feature Reevaluation 

Demo of features of molecular animation. Click the music note icon in the lower right corner for sound.

WebORA is a web-based study tool that allows organic chemistry students to interact with 3D molecular reactions 

In my role as UX researcher, I submitted a research proposal focused on investigating challenges and opportunities in creating an accessible Web Application for learning organic chemistry. I was awarded the Creative Arts Research And Scholarship (CARAS) grant by Temple University Office of the Provost and Fox School of Business. I collaborated with the Management Information Systems and Chemistry Department at Temple University along with researchers at external universities. ​

Project Steps: 

 

Product Demo:

 

 

Problem:

Students with disabilities are underrepresented in STEM fields in higher education.

After tirelessly searching the web for an organic chemistry educational site that utilized 3D visuals, no websites passed the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

Key Research Questions:

  1. What are college students with disabilities' experiences while studying in the STEM field?

  2. What accessibility features specifically help students understand organic chemistry course material?

Approach

  1. Administer questionnaire in Organic Chemistry Classrooms at a large public university to understand student’s awareness of accessibility features and % usage of external organic chemistry resources

  2. Recruit 12 students for a usability test involving tasks using webORA prototype 

  3. Use Web Accessibility Evaluation Tool (Wave by Webaim) to run an audit of the webORA's accessibility over time

Questionnaire QR code posted on the screen of classroom

19.8 %

of undergraduate students reported having a disability (2017)

2,500+
federal lawsuits 

filed claiming websites were not designed to be accessible to people with disabilities

Organic chemistry  

is a uniquely useful case study to explore accessibility in STEM due to heavy reliance on 2D and 3D structures 

User Research Findings 

Finding 1

The questionnaire found many students voiced the benefits of subtitles. Students during the usability test suggested we rewrite the instructions for checking the box to be more clear. 

 "would aid learning and be great to take down notes with."

Impact 1

Changed "Check here to turn on the pop-up subtitles for the reaction" to "Walk me through the reaction"

Before

After

2022-03-28_14-03-21.png

Finding 2

Zooming in/out and rotating the molecules using a trackpad caused frustrations for most participants. However, most students felt positively towards this feature aiding their learning.

“[The website] helps with 3D spatial awareness”

Demo of zooming in/out and rotating the molecule, using a trackpad

Impact 2

Researched accessibility of the trackpad feature via the accessibility report.  Found device-dependent handlers were one of the most common accessibility issues not only on WebORA but on competing Organic Chemistry sites. Further research must be done to better understand this accessibility issue.

device dependent chart from paper.png
tractpad.png

Next Steps 

  • Publish paper in the ACM SIGACESS Journal

  • Present accepted research project at the 2022 ACM SIG ASSETS Conference

  • Plans to further research the use of Device-Dependent Event Handlers in educational STEM resources