ARTICLE: Trevor Minton

How better data-driven storytelling in your EdTech product can drive more meaningful engagement

The users of your EdTech product share a desire for your product to make them better than they were before they started using it.

While that may feel like a daunting task, it is possible for your product to deliver a more useful and meaningful experience for your users — one that makes them the hero of their own learning story. It starts by creating a product that demonstrates an innate understanding of your users.

But before we dive into how to drive better learning outcomes, let’s look at the narratives that guide EdTech product use from three key audiences: students, instructors and administrators. 

What Users Want — and Expect — from EdTech Products

Each user group has a story that illustrates their motivations for engaging with your product and their desired results.

Students want to know that the work they’re putting into the product is moving them closer to mastery of the subject. But they want more than just results. Students want actionable steps based on their individual performance that lead them closer to expert-level status. 

Instructors want to know that their teaching methods are enabling students to achieve their mastery goals. Instructors also want to understand the progression of their students and why some students perform better than others. They want an EdTech product that shows them insights and explanations earlier than they would have seen without the product.

Administrators want many of the same things as students and instructors. But their unique angle lies in the overall health of their institution. They want EdTech products that help them address global issues of retention. Administrators need to understand trends that impact a student’s propensity to leave or an instructor’s efficacy in the classroom. Like instructors, they want to know about issues before they even become issues.

Your EdTech product should consider these mindsets with every iteration. By combining the desires of your users with the right data, each audience will see a more personalized story within your product. And that drives better learning outcomes and a more fulfilling experience overall.

UX Research Sets the Stage for Better Learning Outcomes

You developed your EdTech product to achieve a specific set of objectives. These may be driven by specific business goals or market demands. But ultimately it’s your users who will drive the most impactful outcomes from your product.

Ongoing UX research increases the confidence of your product team. When a deep understanding of your users informs the design and development of your product, you can be more certain that what you deliver will result in successful learning outcomes for your users.

As you prepare to launch your EdTech product, you’re likely testing the functionality of certain features with users. But observational research — simply watching how your users interact with your product to complete basic tasks — can be even more revealing when you’re looking for ways to enhance or improve your product. 


During observational research, UX experts can spot when someone’s having trouble with a feature or task, even if the user doesn’t articulate the problem. That’s because UX researchers are looking beyond just usability testing and employing “think aloud” protocol to uncover underlying issues. As users talk through the steps of a task, UX researchers are listening for verbal cues. 

When people utter phrases like “I hate doing this” or “this is too difficult,” you’ve exposed an area for refinement. It either develops into new features and/or functionality or leads to optimizing features and functionality that already exist. And when your product can turn a pain point into a desirable feature, you’ve put yourself on the road to being an industry disruptor. 

Use Data to Elevate Your EdTech Product Beyond What’s Expected

Your EdTech product will likely share some functionality with similar products in the market. The competitive advantage comes when you move beyond table stakes — the minimum expectations people have for digital solutions. 

Encourage your team to look past “how we’ve always done things” and into “what else we can do to make our product compelling and meaningful for users.” Then you will be in a position to uncover true innovation. 

By leveraging user data gathered while completing basic functions, you can uncover ways to tell a more compelling story. Consider how you can extrapolate and present data in a way that creates an experience that wasn’t previously possible. Or look for opportunities where the data can reveal insights that satisfy the unknown desires of your users. These stories enable your users to uncover a narrative about their learning journey that they might not have otherwise known.

Tell users their story through personalized information and context

When hundreds of students all use your EdTech product to perform the same tasks — complete the same homework, quizzes and tests — the difference is how your product helps them understand themselves. Students are looking for more than just averages. They want the ability to improve their progress. 

For example, adaptive learning is part of the WileyPLUS suite. In addition to basic features (assessments, quizzes, grading and attendance tracking), this product leverages AI to coach students through the learning process. Instead of only reporting that a particular answer is wrong, the AI interface guides students with hints. This experience is customized to each student — the prompts are unique to each interaction with the product, not an amalgamation of all user activity. 

Your EdTech product should deliver the core educational experience because, of course, you have to. But then go the extra mile to offer unique insights that recommend the next best action to the user. By encouraging decision-making and different behaviors, you drive better learning outcomes and empower each student’s individual learning journey. Instructors are also able to teach more effectively. And, with those results, administrators will likely continue to endorse the use of your technology. 

The Next Level of EdTech Product Maturity

Most EdTech products are grounded in long-standing processes in the education industry. Product owners typically try to duplicate or replicate something done in a particular way in a traditional classroom setting — simply moving a manual task to a digital interface. 

But this mindset forgets that the digital version of what has been done “on paper” can, at times, be a lot harder. That creates a level of frustration for users. Especially when the “new way” isn’t any better than what they’ve always been doing. Your technology solution should offer a student, instructor or administrator more than they can get from an analog, offline experience. 

The next level of EdTech product maturity comes when the products that students and instructors are required to use become the products that they want to use. The result is a story that ends with the outcome being worth their effort.

  • Photo of Trevor Minton
    Trevor Minton

    As CXO at Openfield, Trevor collaborates closely with our clients and ensures that our team delivers world-class design thinking and execution that results in strong emotional connections between users and digital products. He is passionately enthusiastic about music, local and international soccer, automotive design and racing, and getting under the hood of his old but new-to-him BMW to keep it on the road for another couple of decades.

Spread the word – help avoid the traps of digital product development!