The EdTech Story: Designing Products for Impacting Student Outcomes and Student Engagement
The education landscape around us is disrupting rapidly. This was happening even before COVID hit us, and the pandemic just accelerated it. What is even more interesting is, that these changes are not happening at a focal point, but cutting across age groups – K-12, Higher Ed, and adult learning. With more and more teaching related activities moving remotely on devices through digital apps, impacting student outcomes and student engagement is coming across as a key challenge for various stakeholders.
The need of the hour is to blend instructional pedagogies with innovative use of technology. There are various aspects that are critical while designing an EdTech product. We have broadly categorized them into four key areas listed below from our experience.
Impacting Student Outcomes
An article published by Forbe’s magazine says that the only metric that matters in EdTech is student outcomes. The role of technology is to act as an enabler to impact these outcomes. At times, it may sound as a controversial stance, and debate it and say there is more to it. But eventually it all leads up to student outcomes. Broadly, if I had to list all such key outcomes, they would be:
- Driving social mobility and prosperity in economically weaker sections of societies
- Bridging the gap between formal education and jobs of the future
- Making education inclusive and equitable for specially abled students
- Closing the achievement gap for students
We should also consider making the product design process a more collaborative one, by involving educators. Educators would be able to put together a totally fresh perspective in front of EdTech investors and providers about how they perceive real world challenges, which then could be used to into a line of code or an algorithm for a feature.
Harbinger has been providing various engineering services for its EdTech customers. As part of our UI/UX services, we do interview teachers and professors, in the target market, to understand their needs, usage patterns, and pain points. And based on the inputs, our team works with product managers to design product features, improve current product and its design. This helps in not only designing relevant features, but also increase product usage, which in turn helps the business with their objectives.
Designing it Right for Enhanced User Engagement
When it comes to designing products for EdTech industry, design is an extremely important aspect. In fact, a bad design is a death knell for your product. There are numerous cases of debacles in the EdTech industry due to bad design. Once such remarkable case is when New York city’s education department created a data system to replace Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, or ARIS. The investment that went into this was in tunes of USD 95 million over a period of 8 years. When an audit was done to determine the user adoption, it revealed that only a meagre 3% of parent population had logged in into the system. Further investigation revealed that the main reason for this was bad design.
Why designing for EdTech becomes different as compared to some of the other industries is that varied persona types that you have to cater to. The same application or platform could be used by students, teachers, administrators, and parents. And each user type will be using it for a different purpose. This adds a layer of complexity and makes it fun and challenging to design an EdTech product.
Accelerating Digital Transformation through Integrations
In the current context of things, your products are key to help educational institutes make the leap of digital transformation. And integration is a key enabler for digital transformation. You no longer have the option to leave out integration for next time; you need it and you need it now.
Adoption and eventually success of your product heavily relies on integration readiness of your product. In the beginning, the stop gap arrangement for educational institutes was to deliver instructions on web applications like Zoom or Webex. But these were not designed to meet the focal needs of impacting student outcomes and engagement.
There are a variety of products that an educational institute might start using, but if they do not talk to each other, then the entire purpose is defeated. And imagine how the entire experience would be from a student or faculty perspective.
A majority of their time would be spent in navigating from one application to another. And of course, there is the entire angle of data. How do we manage this navigation problem and make sense of the data and provide meaningful insights to stakeholders – if the applications and products are working in silos? The need of the hour is to leverage integrations to accelerate your digital transformation strategy.
Let me bring up a case here to further support the case of integrations. Lately, educational institutes have turned to digital credentialing to validate and recognize skills. Credly, a leading player in this field integrated with Canvas. And a result of this integrated ecosystem – universities are now able to seamlessly and efficiently provide digital credentials to their students on completion of learning programs within the LMS.
Preparing for an Economy of Scale and Disruption
Preparing for an economy of scale and disruptions, both at the same time. Looks contradictory. Allow me to elaborate it a little further.
When the pandemic curveball hit us, and educational institutes closed their physical campuses overnight, replacing it with remote learning and instruction models. It was an act necessitated by the circumstances at hand. The curve to stabilize operations was steep for some and for some others it was relatively easier.
One key reason behind this was that EdTech products which were optimized for cloud could quickly scale up, but the others struggled, some crashed. This entire experience has helped convince stakeholders that preparing for an economy of scale is must and getting on the cloud is the key.
There is one thing that the recent disruptions have taught us is that this is not the last disruption. There could be more, something else, in different sizes and shapes. And while you prepare for an economy of scale, by migrating your products to the cloud, it will also provide you the much-needed elasticity for the next disruption. You can downsize the technology infrastructure and save on costs while you wait for enrolments to pick up.
These are the most interesting times in the EdTech space. This is an opportunity to contribute towards shaping up teaching and learning in the future. In the subsequent blogs, we will peel down the layers of each of the four key aspects we touched upon. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to drop us a line at email@example.com.