chat with video for education

Apr 25, 2016 · 4 min read

Background: The product is a service allowing students to chat with a study expert within a timed session on certain topics. The chat experience is the core service for the mobile student side of the business. There are ideas around how to improve the overall chat experience for all kinds of learning environments from learning a concept to solving a homework problem.

The current mobile product uses a chat experience to help guide a student through a homework problem by connecting them with a study expert. A feature we are exploring is how students learn a new concept in a chat format.

Goal: design a product feature for student to learn a concept with a study expert, while the study expert can insert a video for the student to watch.

Task: show what the experience is like when a study expert inserts a video to supplement the concept the student trying to learn during the chat.

Problems to solve: How can video facilitates the student learning in the short and long term.

My first impression is that a simple video attachment to a message-based mobile chat experience is not very engaging. For example, from the perspective of a student learning from Khan academy or Coursera, the educational videos could be quite information-rich. When I was a student watching educational videos, I still needed to pause and search relevant terms to clarify my questions. I could also be missing some important points from the video.

A video is usually a supplemental multi-media material for students to learn but not the fundamental material. From my own experience by studying videos without anyone helps me on followup questions, I feel the single-sided video-based learning environments quite dull for the audience.

In this case, I think the capability of asking questions in real time with a study expert during video watch is more fun and easier to learn. But how could chat integrate with video watching? After looking around I found some following design inspirations.

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Luka, Youtube, SoundCloud (left to right)

The SoundCloud soundtrack commenting timeline really intrigued me, and I start to think about how video could utilize such functionality in an instant interactive environment.


  • students control play, pause and stop primarily, study experts can observe and control as well
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Initial sketches

To compare alternatives, I came up with 3 options.

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option 1: basic chat with video attachment
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option 2: chat during video playing
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option3: video timeline with embedded chat content to response directly or retrieve later

It is obvious that different options require different engineering time. From a MVP perspective, option 2 could be a more feasible starting point for the business. The bookmarking and sharing feature is useful but also more “nice-to-have” for validation of an engaging video chat experience.

Possible metrics to measure(engagement, retention & user happiness):frequency of chat messages during video playing; frequency of reviewing/bookmarking/shared video per user; average length of chat with videos; average chat rating with videos from students per session

Overall, it is an interesting design feature to explore, the design also received positive feedback from PM. Due to the product direction focus and roadmap, this design stays a fun exercise internally within the product team.


Since the recent popularity of AI bots, a lot of apps have been challenging how a chat experience could be like with all kinds of bots, add-ons and plug-ins. Luka has been inspiring me a lot about what tools a smart system could provide to make the conversation experience more fun and useful. It also comes down to constantly reminding myself as a designer that, design is always serving a purpose — even for a feature as simple as a chat.

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