ARTICLE: Jesse Bruce

How to guarantee your EdTech product delivers the best data experience for instructors

Educators are among a rising group of individuals turning to data to inform their every day decisions. The most successful instructors often turn to data available from EdTech products for insights and recommendations to guide their students’ learning. 

When it comes to data, though, a natural tendency for product developers is to share everything available. But that can be overwhelming for teachers and in turn render the data useless. Data is no longer reserved for only analysts or “tech-savvy” individuals. And instructors shouldn’t have to struggle to use data that is available to them. Instead, data should help educators understand trends and make decisions about when students are achieving their goals and when instructors should intervene. 

To provide the best data — information that will guide informed decisions by instructors — data collection and presentation should be viewed as an essential feature in your EdTech product. That means it receives the same considerations in the planning and development phases as any other product feature. And that starts with UX research.

Leverage UX Research To Guide the Creation of Dashboards

The first step in presenting data is not thinking about what to show. It’s thinking about who will be looking at the data you show and how they will interact with it. 

Educators are a diverse group of professionals. They’re connected by their teaching vocation. Beyond that, however, instructors possess a wide range of experience and education levels, comfort with technology, and understanding of data. 

With UX research, you can learn more about instructors before they start using your product. You’ll develop an understanding of their background and experiences with both technology and data. You can also uncover their pain points and how the data your product provides can best help them. Armed with this knowledge, you can build dashboards that include not just data but usable data.

Let your audience tell you what data will work best 

Before determining what dashboards to share on your insights pages, ask instructors questions about the following topics:

  • Their background/experience and comfort level with data. A statistics professor at a university will engage with data much differently than a kindergarten teacher. Ultimately, you want to answer questions like “who is looking at this information?” and “why are they looking at this information?” These answers will shape the design of your dashboards by considering criteria like chart complexity and the level of “self-service” options available.
  • The student demographic they are teaching. The data points that are relevant to an educator teaching elementary-age students are likely different from those teaching higher ed. And those are different from the needs of instructors teaching professional learners. The data types that instructors will need access to will vary based on their students. By understanding the student demographic your team is equipped to build dashboards with the most relevant data. 
  • The standards they are evaluated on. Teachers can use reports for self-assessment and goal setting if data is tied to evaluation criteria. Doing so makes the data — and your product — more relevant and beneficial to your instructors. Examples might include a product used by college professors applying for tenure who need to show specific learning results or one designed for  lower education teachers who need to show how their results compare to state standards.
  • Other products with dashboards that they use. Benchmarking products outside the EdTech space reveals designs for data visualizations that educators are already familiar with. For example, fitness apps track goals, progress, etc. And social media sites provide visualizations of activity over time. Modeling dashboards based on what instructors already know increases the usability of the data in your EdTech product.

Create Customized Views With Progressive Disclosure

Your EdTech product doesn’t need to show all the data on its first insights screen. In fact, providing a primary view that is broadly applicable and then making it easy for instructors to drill down or manipulate the data on their own makes the information more useful for a broader group. Those with less familiarity working with data can focus on the primary views. But those educators who want additional information can easily access it.

With progressive disclosure, an instructor can build additional data points into a report when they need them. So a primary chart could show which students scored below 60% on a recent assignment. With the ability to add additional data, the instructor could overlay data that shows students who didn’t open the assignment. Now they have additional insight as to why that group’s performance was what it was. 

Or an instructor could look at the original chart of students who scored below 60% and overlay those who did open the assignment. From there, they could add additional layers of data — scores from a previous assignment or attendance records — to help them better understand student performance and make the appropriate decisions.

Close the Gap Between Data Visualizations and Specific Actions 

Data dashboards should be associated with specific actions. And it should be easy for instructors to complete each action right from the dashboard. Think about the decision points that correspond to each data visualization while planning your EdTech product’s dashboards. 

For example, teachers that want to email students after an exam should see a “send” option on the data screen. This closes the gap between the data and the action (since both the review of exam data and the action of emailing are completed on the same screen) and improves efficiency for the instructor. 

Bulk actions are another way to close the gap between data and action to save time for instructors. Rather than completing an action several times, data is leveraged in a way that the educator can complete the same action multiple times, at the same time. 

Let’s assume a teacher assigns a quiz for the 30th of the month. Later, they realize that within the class is a group of athletes who have an event on the same day. A bulk action enables the instructor to reassign the quiz with one click instead of reassigning it to each student individually. For educators working with multiple class sections or large numbers of students, these small productivity gains add up. Look for opportunities to present your data in ways that enable these kinds of efficient actions.

Use Collective and Predictive Data to Suggest Action Steps 

There may be times when instructors don’t want — or need — to know every individual data point. Instead, they need an overall insight and a suggestion for their next step.

Google Analytics is a good example of this. Their dashboards include trends and charts, but they also include insights based on all the data collected. These insights are available without needing to drill down further or look at any additional data.

In your EdTech product, data could summarize test scores for all students. Backend analysis could then quickly inform an instructor that students appear to be struggling with a particular learning objective. Now your product can generate and suggest an additional quiz that the teacher can assign in one click. The instructor doesn’t need to parse through the data on their own to reach this conclusion. Your product has done it for them already with collective data. 

Similarly, you can build predictive data analysis capabilities so educators can take action for upcoming events. The backend of your EdTech product could build a data model based on past test scores for each student. By viewing this report, an instructor can identify students with a pattern of low scores. Now they have the input to make informed decisions — giving additional homework, holding study groups, etc. — before the next assessment. 

Give Instructors More Than Just the Data

Most educators using your EdTech product are busy. They don’t have a lot of time to invest in understanding a multitude of charts and graphs. But instructors also rely on the data your product collects and shares to make decisions for their students.

Build your insights pages to include more than just data. In addition to the data, provide  answers to the most common questions teachers might ask when using your product. A solid understanding of your users and their specific data needs will help you design better data visualizations that give instructors the information they need and empower them to make the best decisions.

  • Photo of Jesse Bruce
    Jesse Bruce

    When you consider the sum of Jesse’s educational and professional experiences, it’s obvious why he’s a perfect fit for Openfield’s EdTech focus. His perspective on UX design is uniquely grounded by his firsthand experiences as a former educator and curriculum designer. Prior to pivoting to a career in product design, Jesse earned bachelor’s degrees in History and Psychology as well as a masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Denver. He brings eight years of real-world teaching experience, a passion for student engagement, and a track record of using data to improve instruction and curriculum development. In short, he got into UX to build better tools for teachers so they can make a bigger difference for their students. Outside of work, Jesse is obsessed with surfing and becoming a pro-level home cook. He loves exploring new places and cultures. He has visited 11 different countries, lived outside of the U.S. five separate times, speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and plans to add French soon.

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