ARTICLE: Annie Hensley

Turn instructors into EdTech product champions with exceptional onboarding

EdTech users expect more of your product than ever before. Not only does your product need to be easy for users to navigate, but it also must facilitate a superior learning experience. UX (user experience) and LX (learning experience) add up to a truly valuable EdTech product in today’s classrooms — and not just for students. 

It’s important for your team to remember that instructors are learners, too. 

Instructors need to feel comfortable and confident with your product. And ideally, they will be convinced of your product’s role in the achievement of learning outcomes. Your team needs to prioritize instructors’ engagement with your product — and prove it with exceptional instructor onboarding. 

Quickly winning over instructors in onboarding can make for a more successful semester for them and their students. It can also build loyalty to an EdTech product they know, understand, and love using. 

Consider Instructor Motivations For Using Your EdTech Product

Just like their students, instructors may be required to learn how to use your EdTech product as part of the educational environment. And just like their students, instructors may have some ambivalence about using it. 

Your EdTech product can make it “easier” for instructors to adapt to a variety of new classroom realities. With in-person, virtual, and hybrid classroom models, instructors have the opportunity to reach students located just about anywhere. And should the situation call for it, instructors can shift from model to model in one class over a single semester. 

While EdTech products and classroom options can be a benefit to students, they add layers of complexity to an instructor’s job. Managing relationships with the students themselves, meeting class objectives, and mastering an EdTech product simultaneously can be a perfect recipe for amplified stress

UX designers may be naturally more mindful of students’ anxiety than that of their instructors. It isn’t safe to assume instructors automatically enjoy and are adept at using your product. In fact, it may be wiser to assume (and design for) the opposite. Your product team should be asking the following questions:

  1. What negative emotions (irritation, overwhelm, confusion) might instructors feel who are new to your product? 
  2. What elements of your product have the tendency to elicit these emotions?
  3. Given a choice, would an instructor happily use your product to facilitate learning — or avoid it altogether?
  4. If instructors use your product, either as a choice or a requirement, to what extent do they use it? 
  5. When a semester ends, do instructors feel convinced of your product’s value? How so?

In order to get answers to these questions, qualitative research is necessary. Interviews, surveys, and focus groups all provide ways to gain specific, honest feedback from instructors themselves. 

Good Instructor Onboarding = Smart UX Scaffolding

When your instructors begin the “get to know you” onboarding stage with your product, making a good first impression is vital. The onboarding process has the power to flip instructors’ expectations and motivations, one way or another. Simply put, nothing short of excellent onboarding will do. 

Scaffolding — progressive disclosure of features and functionalities — can make all the difference in onboarding. Whether product novices or experts, instructors will find these scaffolding techniques tremendously helpful.

Reduce complexity

Overloading instructors with product bells and whistles can easily lead to overwhelm. Chances are, simpler is better.

If an instructor never becomes a power user, what do they most need? It can be helpful to focus on your product’s MVP (minimum viable product) via these steps:

  • Hypothesize about instructors’ greatest needs in the current classroom environment. Do you have a thorough sense of an instructor’s user journey? What do they need to know on day one? What elements will be indispensable for the rest of the semester?
  • Research early and often to prove or disprove your hypothesis. Nothing beats talking directly to instructors themselves. Generally instructors are willing to share their impressions, especially when they know their feedback will positively impact a product they use.
  • Discern must-have features from nice-to-have features. Nice-to-have features should be introduced later — and as options.

Use walkthroughs

Once you’re dialed in on must-have features, you can begin making decisions about how and when to introduce them to instructors. Walkthroughs serve as necessary product tour guides. 

  • Overlays highlight key functionality and simple next steps.
  • Carousel overviews can help set up instructor expectations. 

Provide support

Onboarding tends to reflect an assumption that when instructors interact with the product, they won’t need help in the same place again. Students completing one homework assignment are not instantly masters of the material. Neither are instructors instant product experts. Practice and repeated information are key to product confidence and satisfaction.

While the help or FAQ section may be easy enough to find, instructors may not know what terms to search when they hit a roadblock. Embedded support can be invaluable. Easily-accessed references, like definitions or help documentation, provide just-in-time support.

Teach Instructors About the Student Experience of Your Product

The instructor user experience is unique. They need an understanding of both their product experience and their students’ product experience. When students run into issues navigating your product, they’ll turn to their instructor for help first. 

There are several ways to empower instructors to assist their students:

  • Enable a button to flip from the instructor view to the student view. 
  • Run a simulation. Consider a video for instructors to view a click through of the student experience.
  • Allow access to a student account and instructor account simultaneously. 

Your product team should aim to mitigate the amount of effort it takes for an instructor to see what the students are seeing.

Great Onboarding Pays Off 

When instructors are successfully onboarded and are motivated to use your product, they may become product advocates — and some of your best salespeople. They’ll experiment with your product, calculate it into their semester plans, and recommend it to colleagues. And instructors can even turn into a valuable resource for future product iterations. 

Most importantly, great onboarding equips instructors to support your shared, overarching goal: to facilitate student learning.

  • Photo of Annie Hensley
    Annie Hensley

    As Director of UX Design, Annie is responsible for ensuring our team continues to deliver superior client and user experiences that result in tangible business outcomes. That includes fostering collaboration and crossover between our design and research teams, mentorship and career guidance, stewardship of Openfield’s culture and values, as well as, contributing to strategic decisions that ensure our company continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of EdTech clients and users. Annie is a lifelong runner whose recent Indianapolis and Chicago Marathon times qualified her to compete in the Boston Marathon in 2022. Her goal is to tackle the rest of the 6 world majors by adding New York, London, Berlin and Tokyo to her list of running accomplishments. Additionally, Annie loves visiting parks of all sorts – theme parks, ballparks, National Parks (even rewatching Parks and Recreation too many times to count).

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