During the coronavirus pandemic, educators turned to EdTech to bridge the gap between traditional and remote learning environments. Demand for EdTech products spiked as companies like yours worked overtime to accommodate wave after wave of new users — and adjust to radically different user needs, too.
It was a wildly turbulent year, one that required your team to work at a breakneck pace while managing the stress of living through a global pandemic. And it was equally wild from a business standpoint. With so much new demand, the past year was, for many EdTech companies, an unprecedented success.
Now that the pandemic’s grip is finally easing, you might be hoping for a well-deserved breather. Unfortunately, though, this isn’t the time to rest on your laurels.
As a new post-pandemic era dawns, your users are no longer quite so captive. Instructors and students alike are looking forward to returning to in-person learning this fall. And they may also be looking forward to dropping some of the digital products they were required to use in the “bad old days.”
One thing’s certain: With things transitioning back to “normal,” your users will be reassessing the tools they use. As they do, they’ll keep only those that really serve them. Which means they’ll only hang on to your product to the extent that it continues to make their lives easier.
The past year proved that the Edtech space can be light on its feet and quick to pivot in a time of crisis. Now it must once again prove its agility as we transition back to “normal.”
Is Your EdTech Product at Risk of Being Tossed Aside in a Post-Pandemic World?
By every standard measure, your EdTech company may look incredibly healthy. Sales are up and demand is higher than ever. But in such extraordinary times, last year’s successes won’t necessarily pave the way for tomorrow’s wins.
Now is the time to consider whether your EdTech product will remain in demand in the post-pandemic learning environment — or whether it’s at risk of being shelved.
As a first step, evaluate your product’s future relevance by answering these questions about how your product fit within the educational ecosystem over the course of the pandemic.
Did your product meet needs that were only temporary?
Is your product geared toward remote learning? Or is its main purpose to emulate a particular element of an in-person experience that users may want to re-adopt? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, it’s reasonable to expect that demand for your product will decline as students and teachers venture back into classrooms.
Consider, for example, the way instructors administer exams. In the classroom setting, instructors scan the room to monitor for cheating. During the pandemic, that wasn’t possible. So many schools used virtual proctoring tools as a substitute — to mixed reception among students and teachers alike. These tools were the best solution at a time when in-person test taking wasn’t an option. But will instructors and students still use them once that temporary problem fades away?
Did your user base grow because you had a captive audience?
Last year may have delivered record growth in terms of the number of users who adopted your product. However, the new users who adopted your product didn’t do so under normal circumstances. In the mad rush to create a wholesale reorganization of the world’s education models, many people were forced to adopt EdTech products they didn’t otherwise need. In addition, necessity coupled with time pressure may have acted together to limit your users’ options.
Now that your users have more time and less pressure, will they still choose your product?
Did your product make users’ lives easier during the pandemic?
Your users grappled with unprecedented challenges during the pandemic. From the difficulty of working and schooling from home to the mental health and economic setbacks many experienced, students and teachers grappled with much more than the usual school-related stress.
It’s important to recognize that, for many of your new users, this difficult period formed the backdrop of their first experiences with your product. Within the world of EdTech, some fear that this negative context may lead to equally negative emotional associations with EdTech products themselves. But the better question to ask is how your product impacted your users’ lives during this harrowing time.
Over the last year, did your product meet your users’ needs in a way that made their lives easier? Or did it add to the general difficulty and frustration? In the end, that’s the impression that will matter most.
Ensure Your EdTech Product’s Ongoing Relevance With User Research
Whether or not the answers to the previous questions gave you reason to worry, you can’t afford to make assumptions. Your next step? Touch base with your users.
Rather than simply testing new features or releases, your goal at this point is to check in with your users to get a big-picture sense of where your product stands. You need to understand what they like and dislike about your product — as well as how it’s meeting their rapidly shifting needs.
As usual, you’ll get the best results by leveraging a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods.
Use qualitative research methods to gain empathy
Qualitative research allows you to have revealing conversations with your users and observe them using your product in real time.
To get the most bang for your buck, aim to shed light on users’ lives and understand how your product meets their current needs. Encouraging specific answers will keep you from making assumptions and yield more useful insights.
Staying in tune with your users’ lives and emotions through qualitative research builds a strong base of empathy, which should continue to inform your EdTech product’s UX design.
Quantitative research methods help you make data-backed decisions
Qualitative research provides genuine, unbiased feedback given in real time. That’s extremely valuable, but it’s not the full story. Raw data gleaned from quantitative research is the necessary second half.
Using the following benchmarking metrics, your product team can quickly take stock of user perceptions of your product and make efficient decisions for next fall:
- The System Usability Scale (SUS), which measures effectiveness, efficiency, and user satisfaction. In this survey, users rank ten statements that can help you understand your product’s usability — and its flexibility. For example, users are asked to rate the statements, “I think that I would like to use this system frequently,” and, “I felt very confident using this system.” The SUS can validate your observational findings. It can also help you zero in on obstacles and pain points.
- The Affect Grid may be particularly pertinent post-pandemic. It measures your users’ mood (or affect) as they use your tool. The grid’s two dimensions (depressed versus excited and stressed versus relaxed) provide data you need to ascertain whether or not your users actually like using your product.
Metrics such as these will help you see clearly where your EdTech product stands — and uncover critical opportunities to improve while you still have your users’ attention.
The pandemic brought unexpected difficulties for both instructors and students. It also accelerated EdTech agility and innovation. This fall, your product will need to retain that forward momentum in order to remain relevant.
Your long-term success rests in your ability to meet your users’ needs, whatever their situations may be. With rigorous, thoughtful research, you can ensure your product is flexible enough to bend in the winds of an uncertain near future — and emerge on the other side stronger than before.