MIT IAP2018- LifeLearn

Team Members:

Emil Koshy Kuruvilla, Raya Rogov, and German Alberto Hernandez

The Redesign:


LifeLearn is an app that enables individuals who are 55 and older to teach skills and share their knowledge with people across the world. These individuals can share anything, ranging from cooking Italian cuisine to teaching the violin.

Users can navigate through LifeLearn to search for specific skills/knowledge, see which individuals are teaching, and then connect with them through a video chat session.

Why it Matters

According to a UCSF study, 18% of seniors live alone, while 43 percent report feeling lonely on a regular basis. These and other older individuals have something special to share with the world. LifeLearn is a platform that will enable these individuals to not only share their skills/knowledge, but to connect to other people, and to feel good about their special talent.

Another critical reason on why this app is important is ensuring that the elderly maintain their mental acuity. While many retire, they still have a lot to contribute to society; our platform can enable them to do that.

Where it Comes From

Through our research, we could not find an app or service that does what LifeLearn does. Instead, there are apps that provide instruction on areas of interest (e.g. MasterClass) or on specific academic areas (e.g. Coursera). These platforms do not allow the elderly to teach, but rather to be taught to by “experts.” From a design perspective, a site such as Coursera (see figure below) can feel overwhelming for an elderly individual given that there is a plethora of information. Additionally, the people featured on the web page are younger, thus the elderly may not identify with the product as much nor feel it is for them.

When designing an interface for the elderly, it’s important for them to feel connected to the webpage.


How human-centered and human-factors concepts guided your team:

Human-Centered Design and Human Factors Concepts on our App

Our app, LifeLearn, was conceived and designed thinking of our target population (post-retirement adults above 55 years old). In particular, we focused on the challenges older adults face when making new social connections on the internet. Based on our experience with older adults and a conversation with one of the class experts, we identified two significant barriers. First, using social media apps and websites can be an overwhelming experience given the myriad of options available, diversity of audience, and the fact that the majority of content is built for younger audiences. Second, there are few incentives for older adults to reach out to unknown people and build social connections. With an older adult perspective in mind, we created an app that aims to eliminate these barriers and enable users to connect with others of similar age.

Incentives to connect to others

LifeLearn makes it explicit that the goal is for users to connect based on their hobbies and skills. This is reflected in the app’s name and the user interface. We focused on hobbies and skills because older adults after retirement will have spare time and many skills and hobbies developed throughout their lives. Then, we created an interface that make it easy for older adults to find new people who share similar interests, to talk with them, and to be able to teach and learn from them. While this idea has been well received by a few test users, we still need more iterations and feedback to improve our concept.

Social app experience

We made deliberate design decisions to make a clean, simple and easy to use app. These choices were both on the task sequence (steps necessary to use the app) and the graphical interface. Regarding tasks, LifeLearn was designed to be as linear as possible as shown in the composite figure. Users will need to create a profile (photos and a set of questions about themselves), log in, find people that know of a topic they are interested about, read more about this interest, and connect directly via text or video message. We make both text and video available as we know some older adults may not favor texting (repetitive, precise motions and small letters). At any point, users will be able review their profile and chats using the icons at the bottom (same layout in all screens in the app).

In terms of the graphical design of the app interface, we focused on clean and uncluttered layouts. This is because older adults favor simple designs to avoid confusion on what to click on. We avoid complicated features and options that would require multiple clicks. Since readability is also a crucial factor, we used large font sizes, white and light gray backgrounds, and a simple color scheme (single-color text and four colors for expertise levels). In addition, we incorporated both icons and titles when describing the skills and hobbies. This large buttons will make it easier for users to click and advance to the next screen.