ARTICLE: Jacob Hansen

Keep your EdTech product team on the cutting edge by creating an informed, forward-thinking culture

As an EdTech executive, it’s your job to think big picture. That means keeping your broader business objectives top of mind. And it also means staying in the know about industry trends. To that end, you may follow a curated news feed or participate in industry-specific LinkedIn groups. Doing so helps you stay on top of current events, trending technologies, and industry forecasts. 

But what about the rest of your team? 

Are they so focused on the heads-down task of building and maintaining your EdTech product that they don’t stop to consider the broader context? If the answer is yes — or if you don’t know one way or the other — your product is at risk. You see, it’s incredibly easy for your team’s perspective to get “pigeon-holed” into your own product.

If your entire team doesn’t keep up to date on the EdTech industry, you may start making product decisions that lack perspective or feel out-of-date. Staying informed not only keeps your team’s perspective fresh, but it also gives you better insight into what your users actually want as their needs evolve over time. 

The best way to ensure that your team stays informed is to put structure around it. Here’s how. 

How to Make Sure Your Team is on Top of EdTech Current Events and Trends

Use the following tips to foster an informed, forward-thinking culture at your EdTech company. 

Re-tune your team’s news feeds 

Your first order of business? Encourage your staff to refine their digital news feeds so that they don’t miss pertinent information as it comes out. To that end, your team can take a few simple steps to stay in the know: 

  • Subscribe to EdTech-related newsletters, such as EdTech Digest, EdSurge, Navitas Ventures, and the Christensen Institute.
  • Follow topic keywords like “education” and “EdTech” in news aggregators and apps such as Apple News and Google News. This ensures that you don’t miss EdTech-related news items across broader news media, such as The New York Times.  
  • Follow EdTech-related hashtags on LinkedIn
  • Consume EdTech industry news as part of their regular reading routine, much like politics, business, or weather.
  • Set up a communication hub (such as a Slack channel) for sharing industry news. Encourage team members to share interesting news items as they encounter them. If the topic is long or complex, ask that they include a short synthesis to give their coworkers a high-level view of the article before clicking the link.

Establish a weekly moderated discussion of EdTech news and trends

Encouraging your team to individually read and share EdTech news is a good start. But the real benefits come when you intentionally bring your whole team together to regularly discuss EdTech news and trends. At Openfield, we’ve found that the best way to do that is by establishing a weekly moderated “EdTech in the News” discussion.  

Use the following framework to organize a productive conversation each week.   

1. Identify a regularly recurring meeting time

With the right structure and preparation, your news roundup discussions can be brief — 15-20 minutes is fine — and still reveal new insights and opportunities. The easiest way to handle it may be to incorporate your news discussion into one of your regularly scheduled weekly standup meetings. 

2. Designate a moderator to identify one or two news items and lead the discussion

You may opt to pick a new moderator each week or identify a small group of committed moderators and rotate among them moving forward.  

3. Create a shared document for sharing news items in advance of your meeting

Rather than just sharing links, ask your moderators to provide context. For example, your shared document may include the following prompts: 

  • The five-second read: A one-to-two sentence summary of the article orients your team to the week’s topic. 
  • What’s the deal?: A paragraph-length synthesis of the article that offers a more detailed overview of what’s happening.   
  • Where is it happening?: Where is the news item geographically relevant? In which educational settings? 
  • Why should someone in the UX or EdTech field care?: This is the moderator’s opportunity to think critically about what the news item means for EdTech professionals — and possibly for your product, in particular. To get everyone thinking creatively, these observations may take the form of “How might we?” statements. 
  • Notable quotes: A few select quotes that are especially relevant or thought-provoking. 

4. Update the shared document several days prior to the meeting

Ask your moderators to share their chosen topics or articles several days in advance of the meeting. Make sure your staff understands that they should check the document prior to weekly discussion and read the moderator’s notes as well as the article itself. Encourage your team to add observations and questions in comments on the moderator’s notes in your shared document. 

5. Hold your weekly meeting

Your moderator can review your team’s notes and come up with a few talking points to give shape to your real-time discussion. Use this time to think critically about how your weekly news items might impact the EdTech industry. And, of course, consider how they might apply to your organization in particular. 

6. Embrace blue-sky thinking

Make space in your discussions for free-ranging brainstorming of hypothetical solutions. How might you address the problems outlined in an article or piece of news? A “blue sky” mentality can pave the way for outside-the-box thinking that adds a fresh perspective (and possibly new features) to your product.

The Benefits of Staying Up to Speed on EdTech Industry Trends 

Everyone in your organization, from designers and developers to product owners and executives, benefits individually from staying current on industry trends and happenings. But the combined benefits to your full team are much greater than that. By adopting a weekly moderated discussion of EdTech industry news and trends, your team can: 

  • Prevent myopic, product-specific thinking. When everyone is attuned to bigger-picture trends and issues, you’re less likely to develop tunnel vision. 
  • Sharpen your collective strategic thinking. With an eye toward the EdTech industry’s future trajectories, you can make forward-thinking decisions. 
  • Encourage professional development. Keeping current on industry news and trends is a great way of educating new staff and keeping seasoned staff sharp. 
  • Foster collaboration. Everyone on your team will have a different perspective on the news items you review depending on their areas of expertise. An executive may have one takeaway, while a designer sees another. Sharing your distinct viewpoints encourages collaboration and greater learnings for everyone.
  • Pursue innovation. By keeping your eyes on the horizon, you can pursue leading-edge product features and avoid becoming outdated
  • Identify new opportunities to meet users’ needs. The news offers glimpses into your users’ lives that provide clues about what they need from you next. 

By adopting a weekly moderated news discussion, you and your team can stay informed about the EdTech industry. In doing so, you get smarter about the world outside your product — so that you can make better, more informed decisions within it.

  • Photo of Jacob Hansen
    Jacob Hansen

    In the role of UX Design Lead at Openfield, Jacob’s collaborative approach to helping our clients plan and execute upon key product roadmap priorities is an asset to all those around him. His responsibilities include mentorship and guidance to ensure Openfield staff grow and uphold our standards for excellence. Jacob is a prolific character illustrator, a passion that blends his love of design, fine art, gaming and cartooning in both traditional and digital media. He is a storyteller who is inspired by both film and its history. He’s also a huge fan of Disney theme parks for the visitor experiences they deliver. Additionally, Jacob enjoys running road races, kayaking, gaming and learning on guitar and banjo.

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