ARTICLE: Trevor Minton

Designing tech-focused educational grants? The best applicants have these 5 qualities.

Whoever receives a grant from your organization should assure you that those grant dollars will be put to good use. Especially if they’re an EdTech company designing products for better student outcomes, their ability to effect those outcomes is contingent on the quality of their UX research and design processes. Those elements are critical to their success as an EdTech — and yours as a grant foundation funding them. 

That means your grant program design must specify that applicants demonstrate a firm grasp of UX research and design best practices within the education industry.

EdTech companies often partner with UX agencies that bring an outside perspective and a deep understanding of how students and educators use technology to achieve better learning results. An agency like Openfield can also help organizations like yours ensure that grant applicants have a solid plan to optimize the funding they receive from you with best practices for EdTech UX research and design. 

Here are the top five qualities in an EdTech organization that indicate your grant dollars will be put to good use.

These 5 Qualities in EdTech Grant Applicants Ensure Maximum Impact on Communities

1. They have a robust UX research program that includes more than just user testing

Every EdTech company should have a dynamic UX research program that paves the path to valuable user experiences. The best UX research practices encompass a wide range of activities, such as auditing existing products, studying competitors, conducting benchmark exercises, and gaining insights from analogous experiences in other industries. 

If a significant portion of an EdTech company’s budget (including grant funds) isn’t allocated toward creating and running a rigorous UX research program, you’re less likely to see their solutions thriving in the education marketplace.

2. They know UX research best practices (and pitfalls)

EdTech grant applicants are also cognizant of common mistakes UX researchers make that impede them from creating valuable experiences. For instance, sacrificing early user research in favor of getting to market faster may look good on paper — but it can lead to glaring assumptions about what a user needs from a product’s current UX. Experiences should be backed by user data, which can be gleaned from user interviews, tests, surveys, and co-creation sessions.

The approach to user testing also matters. EdTech companies should have a nuanced understanding of how to conduct quantitative and qualitative user research. Asking the right questions, maintaining neutral research methods, and knowing how to speak to users without alienating them are all important tactics for yielding authentic feedback. 

3.  They serve diverse audiences and underrepresented groups with inclusive UX research and design

Digital products, EdTech or otherwise, should be designed for all users with a wide range of needs and abilities. Addressing accessibility needs is a starting point, but the goal should be to design for diverse audiences as well.

EdTech companies with inclusive research practices and design techniques have the ability to expand their user base and, therefore, create a greater impact on their communities. Not only is inclusive research and design the right thing to do, but it’s also prudent from a business standpoint. 

If an EdTech company has an edge in their products’ usability and efficacy for all demographics, they’re more likely to become profitable. And that profitability means they can continue their mission long-term. 

With funding from your grant, EdTech companies can build inclusive research programs and resource their design team to adequately address inclusivity needs. Whether it’s scheduling user interviews outside of a working-class parent’s 9-5 schedule or bridging the digital divide, a UX agency with a background in EdTech can provide a major assist to building out these inclusive research and design programs.

4. They structure their UX budget for maximum ROI

Once an EdTech company invests in UX research and design, it can be a challenge to know how to structure their budget. The most efficient UX budgets are built around a particular event or time frame (e.g., a product release, quarter, or fiscal year) rather than an individual UX project, such as a round of user testing. This indicates they understand that UX work isn’t a singular event as much as it is a cycle of user research, testing, prototyping, and design. Using your grant money as part of a “nest egg” to build out a flexible UX program is a prudent way to increase both parties’ return on investment.

5. They are partnered with an experienced EdTech UX research and design agency 

It’s hard for EdTech companies to staff for all of the specialized capabilities needed to build and run a successful UX research program, test and validate products, or create valuable user experiences. Because of this, many decide (wisely) to partner with a UX research and design agency that brings an outside perspective and deep institutional knowledge and expertise in the education sector. These agencies provide deeper understandings of buyer personas, users, and stakeholders, from curriculum directors to caregivers. They also have vast experience conducting UX research programs. These programs are foundational to inclusive and essential EdTech products. 

Organizations with great UX partners know how to maximize the value of your grant funds by ensuring solutions are validated through proper UX research and design practices. An agency like Openfield that is focused solely on educational technology can even partner with your grant organization to help design grant programs, vet applicants and support recipients to allocate the right funding and resources to their UX efforts. This gives your foundation the assurance it needs, knowing that your investment is more likely to build experiences that serve the needs of your users and better our world. 

Curious how we can help you design your grant program, vet applicants, or assist your grant recipients? Let’s talk.

  • 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.

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