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Anchor: An Interactive Educational Program

Project Name: Anchor
Course: Service Design
Team: Suvina Wahane, Sue Cho, Rain Fu, Hannah Kim (Class of 2025)

Mockup of ANCHOR app on blue background. Text: ANCHOR An interactive educational platform that bridges digitial learning with real-life experiences, creating a fun and dynamic journey towards knowledge for all students

During our first semester, we enrolled in a Service Design course. This class provided us with a comprehensive understanding of service design theories and the opportunity to apply these concepts through a team project. Our task was to engage directly with an existing service in need of improvement and navigate the journey from problem identification to solution proposal through co-design. As a team comprised of Suvina, Sue, Rain, and Hannah, we shared our experiences and discussed potential services to enhance. Being international students from different countries, we were naturally drawn to addressing language barriers in the United States.

Our research revealed that public libraries are not only spaces for a diverse range of books but also vital centers for community connection and support, offering various classes to help immigrants settle in successfully. These classes, particularly those for English language learning, are essential for immigrants and non-native English speakers to integrate into society. Consequently, we decided to focus on improving the overall experience of the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program under the mentorship of Eric Trader, the Learning Center Director at the Jersey City Free Public Library (JCFPL).

The collaboration with the Jersey City Free Public Library(JCFPL) aimed to redesign existing systems and introduce innovative solutions to enhance the English as a Second Language (ESL) learning experience.

  • 41.6% of the population in NJ are immigrants; out of these, 42.5% are not proficient in English.
  • Not knowing English affects a person’s ability to get a job, and even day-to-day conversations become difficult.
  • Other factors limiting a person’s learning journey are lack of time, finances, and personal constraints.
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Identifying the problem

We visited libraries in New York and New Jersey. From careful observations, in-depth interviews, and gathering input from surveys and stakeholder interviews, here are the key insights that we discovered:

  • “I try to complete my assignments, but I can’t because it’s too long, and I don’t have enough time to do that.” – Student 1
  • “It’s essential to improve my English skills to communicate and also make new friends.” – Student 2
  • “There are lots of opportunities to study with fun content such as watching movies and activities…” – Student 3


It was interesting to note several commonalities among the students. Students showed higher engagement levels in classes when using interactive content for learning. Their primary goal was to enhance their English skills. Interestingly enough, most students needed help finding personal time outside classes for English study and wished for ways to track their attendance. Our crucial stakeholder, Trader, also indicated they needed a learning management system to help students and instructors manage the learning materials.

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From left to right: Hannah, Sue, Learning Center Director Eric Trader, Suvina, Rain. 

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Observing and interviewing students at the New York Public Library ESL program. 

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Observing and interviewing students participating in the Jersey City Free Public Library online ESL class.

Synthesis

The project identified two main challenges: more engagement and practical constraints. These issues discouraged potential learners from enrolling in ESL programs offered by the library.

Additionally, our research highlighted a desire among learners for flexible, real-world language application opportunities and a supportive community network.

Lack of engagement

  • Libraries have accessible and reliable resources. However, only a few people utilize these.
  • Lecture-based classes can lead to passive students with low engagement and understanding.
  • People want to be more connected and engaged with others.

Practical Constraints

  • Personal duties such as work and family duties often hinder regular class attendance.
  • Many students prefer the flexibility of studying both online and in-person.
  • Students want to improve their English through frequent practice but need more time to review or do assignments.
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Solution

Through the above synthesis, we designed Anchor. Anchor provides a personalized learning journey for adult learners, which means it helps many immigrants adapt and settle into their new environment. This application not only aids in improving language abilities but also promotes cultural integration and connects users with vital services, ultimately improving their overall living standards. The key features are as follows:

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Home Tab: Serves as the central hub for users, offering quick access to class schedules, learning materials, and progress tracking, all personalized to fit the learner’s pace and preferences.

E-learning Tab: This section brings language learning to life with real-world scenarios. It includes features like AI-powered conversation practice, making the learning experience interactive and tailored to practical use.

AI Genie: An innovative tool within Anchor that facilitates language practice through simulated conversations, helping users improve their speaking and comprehension skills in a responsive environment.

Community and Resources Tabs: These areas foster a sense of belonging among learners. The Community tab connects users, creating a support network, while the Resources tab provides effortless access to the library’s extensive resources.

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Retrospectives

The collaboration with the Jersey City Free Public Library to redesign the ESL learning experience through this Service Design project has demonstrated significant potential in bridging the language divide for immigrant adults in Jersey City. By leveraging digital technology, the platform offers a comprehensive, engaging, and accessible learning experience that addresses the unique challenges faced by the immigrant demographic. Through Anchor, the project has enhanced language learning effectiveness and contributed to the broader goal of integrating non-native English speakers into their communities more fully and confidently. This digital solution exemplifies how technology can transform educational opportunities and empower individuals with the tools they need to succeed in a new language and culture learning. 

Through this project, we explored the impact of service design on overcoming language barriers for immigrants, using a collaboration with the Jersey City Free Public Library. The Anchor project highlighted how digital solutions could provide immersive and accessible language learning experiences. It underscored the role of empathy and user-centered design in addressing the real-world challenges faced by immigrants, reinforcing the importance of community integration. This experience has been invaluable in understanding the potential of service design to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.

We are grateful to JCFPL and Eric Trader for their invaluable support. He remarked, “I was truly blown away by their final product. They spent weeks getting to know the students we serve, and their project absolutely reflected this.” (link)

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