Clearing learning experience blind spots to bolster UX is key to differentiation in EdTech
As an EdTech product leader, you know how challenging it can be to set your product apart from the competition. And the bar for EdTech products is only being set higher. The most successful EdTech products will need to prove more than their efficacy. They’ll need to improve learning outcomes by leaning into learning science (LS) — the study of how learners learn. Getting a product to market that provides an excellent user experience (UX) is just not enough anymore. The core value of a successful EdTech tool should also be a great learning experience (LX). Simply put, UX + LX = good EdTech.
Kicking off a UX project: how to align stakeholders and hit the ground running
For EdTech companies the beginning of a new UX project is critical. Unless your entire team gets on the same page about your discovery process and big-picture project goals, you risk inadvertently duplicating work and missing deadlines. Team members’ opinions about processes can come into conflict. The success of the project depends on the entire team coming into agreement — and that starts with a kickoff meeting. An effective kickoff sets the tone for what will be a collaborative effort — one that ensures all stakeholders are heard. The goal is to work toward consensus of discrete problems from disparate points of view. Here’s how to take full advantage of your kickoff meeting.
To innovate in EdTech, balance long-term initiatives with short-term wins
Every EdTech product leader wants to innovate in their space and make room for bold UX solutions that meet users’ unarticulated needs. But innovative solutions take time and resources to develop. The benefits are delayed — and they don’t always come with a guarantee of success. At the same time, your team likely feels pressure to stay on track with fast-moving development cycles and the perennial demand for measurable improvements. The result? Long-term design concepts are first on the chopping block as “quick wins” and inevitable fires jump to the front of the line every time.
Leveraging learning sciences & UX to put learning outcomes at the forefront of your EdTech product
The best EdTech products aim to meet the evolving needs of their users. What’s also true is that the best EdTech products are working diligently to uncover new opportunities for teaching and learning. In the world of education, meeting your users’ needs means more than simply crafting a seamless user experience. It means facilitating improved learning outcomes. The future of EdTech will be one in which products are evaluated for their usability and the efficacy of their educational content. In other words, does your EdTech product provide a better education for its users?
Is your EdTech product poised to stay relevant in the post-pandemic world?
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.
How to build a self-paced or adaptive EdTech product that keeps users coming back
As instructors, students, and casual learners alike embrace a personalized, learn-at-your-own-pace ethos, self-paced and adaptive learning products are growing in popularity. This approach represents a key opportunity for EdTech products like yours — but it comes with an added layer of responsibility. All EdTech products must be user-friendly to succeed. However, when it comes to self-paced products and adaptive products, the pressure to deliver a seamless and intuitive user experience (UX) is much higher.
Your user base includes 1M+ non-native English students. Is your EdTech product ready to serve ESL learners well?
Your EdTech product serves an international, multilingual, and multicultural audience. That’s true even if your product is only ever used in schools and colleges within the United States. You see, whether your product is geared toward K-12 or higher education, the demographic trends are the same: American schools are increasingly composed of non-native English speakers.
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When (and how) to use beta features in your EdTech product
User research is a cornerstone of digital product design and development. And conventional wisdom dictates that you should thoroughly test new features and functionalities before you release them to users. But there’s one notable exception to this golden rule: beta features. Presenting a feature as “beta” can be a great way to increase your team’s agility, go to market faster, respond more quickly to your users’ most pressing requests, and test out concepts on a wider audience.
EdTech users are more stressed than ever. Here’s how to be part of the solution.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend life as we knew it — including the usual in-person educational models — students, teachers, and administrators are more stressed than ever before. You’ve seen it with your own eyes. Your EdTech product users are struggling with unprecedented challenges. And they have the elevated anxiety to match. To design the right solutions within your product — and effectively reduce user stress — you must first look at your users’ lives outside your product.
Use these tips to beat the EdTech competition to market (without sacrificing quality)
The EdTech market is ripe for disruption. Between pandemic-driven changes to educational models and an influx of investors, the industry is now in a state of rapid flux. Which means the pressure is on for your EdTech company to bring useful new features to market as quickly as possible. Of course, that’s easier said than done. EdTech has long marched to the beat of its own industry-specific drum, often moving at more of a leisurely canter than a breakneck gallop.
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2020 was a whirlwind for the EdTech industry. Our team shares what to expect in 2021.
2020 was most clearly defined by one thing: COVID-19. That was true for the world at large, and it was also decidedly true for the smaller world of EdTech. The pandemic forced a handful of industries into the spotlight. Chief among them? Health, finance — and education. As schools everywhere rushed to assemble remote learning protocols, EdTech products and other tech companies (hello Zoom!) stepped up in a major way to fill the gaps. But that doesn’t mean it was seamless. Far from it.
How EdTech can deliver rich, collaborative learning experiences — in a remote context
The primary trend in 2020 was the sudden shift to remote learning. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to go remote, educators scrambled to find fast, effective digital solutions to facilitate their new reality. While we’re all relieved to be in 2021, many challenges remain. We’ve already established that when it comes to EdTech tools, digital doesn’t equal remote. And EdTech companies are still working to develop or optimize tools to support online classes.
Defend your EdTech product’s marketshare by thinking like a startup
Are you adapting to meet your users’ changing needs in the pandemic as quickly as your competitors? As an established EdTech company, you’ve already carved out a unique spot for your product (or suite of products) in the market. Now that you’ve solidified your place within the EdTech space, your focus has shifted from staking a claim to defending and growing your marketshare. But if you’re not listening carefully to them and adapting your product quickly enough, someone else may beat you to it.
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.
Digital doesn’t equal remote: EdTech insight in the era of COVID-19
In the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, schools across America are embarking on a totally unexpected — and wholly unprecedented — remote-learning experiment. As the fall 2020 semester kicks off, K-12 schools and higher education institutions everywhere are tentatively rolling out a variety of remote instruction plans. As they scramble to make this arrangement work, educators are looking to EdTech to help close the loop.
Why your UX research plans must align with your EdTech company’s business goals
UX research is a critical component of product development. It’s the key to unlocking your users’ needs and preferences. And it’s what enables you to build the best, most user-centric EdTech product possible. Of course, you already know to include key workflows and features in your user testing plan. But what about your broader business objectives — the quarterly and annual goals by which you measure your product’s progress?
Fuel smarter EdTech product development plans with discovery phase prototypes
The discovery phase of any EdTech project — whether a new product launch or a feature update — is all about gathering information. Of course, this usually includes a variety of activities. You might simultaneously be hammering out business objectives, performing a competitive analysis, and interviewing your users, among other activities. The goal? To emerge with a full understanding of your big-picture problem, as well as a keen sense of how best to solve it.
How EdTech product executives can make sense of mounting UX research data as products scale
If your EdTech company is committed to your product’s UX, then you already know UX research isn’t a one-and-done activity. It’s an ongoing, holistic part of your product life cycle. Which means that your UX team may generate dozens of research reports over the course of a single year. Each individual report tells a story and provides actionable insights. But as your research scales, so does your data. Before you know it, you can amass an avalanche of information — with no simple way to make sense of the bigger picture story it tells.
How to develop a corporate online learning platform that drives engagement and gets results
Today’s corporations are strategically investing in continuing education. Whether they are seeking to upskill or reskill their workforce, learning and development (L&D) initiatives are a cost-effective way for organizations to strengthen their workforce, keep current with emerging technologies, and stay ahead of the competition. As a result, many industries (and the advocacy groups that serve them) are pouring more resources into learning and development (L&D) initiatives. And a significant percentage of those funds are now being funneled toward online learning platforms.
Make your EdTech product indispensable with data visualization
As an experienced EdTech professional, you already know that technology is transforming the way educators share knowledge and interact with students. But the technology boom is changing more than just the way education is delivered. It is also generating an unprecedented quantity of data — data with the potential to revolutionize the way administrators, instructors, and students manage schools, teach, and learn. EdTech companies are in a unique position in that they are the ones generating and collecting this sort of data.
COVID-19 is stress-testing EdTech Products. Will you meet the demand?
The coronavirus pandemic continues to rapidly change (and challenge) the world in myriad ways. With social distancing a must for the foreseeable future, educators around the globe are scrambling to migrate to online learning. As a product leader at an EdTech company, you are in a unique position to help educators and students in this tumultuous situation. Chances are you’re already doing just that by offering your product free of charge for the duration of the pandemic.
2020 Trends in EdTech UX – What product leaders should expect in the coming year
Being a great product leader requires a constant balancing act between meeting the need to release immediate improvements while simultaneously planning for what’s coming in the next year and beyond. Dealing with today’s concerns, such as Accessibility compliance and onboarding issues, has a way of getting in the way of planning for bigger trends that will have an impact on the success of your product.
Managing your UX investment to protect and nurture your product
As your product needs evolve over time, the ability to scale your UX resources up or down is crucial to maximizing your product’s growth — and your UX budget’s impact. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we encourage EdTech companies to think of their UX spend as an investment rather than a strict, project-by-project budget. When you invest in UX as an ongoing project (on a quarterly basis, for example), you free up your product and UX teams to work more efficiently and productively as they identify solutions and resolve problems.
How product leaders can unite EdTech stakeholders and teams around a common vision
As a product leader, one of your primary responsibilities is to connect the leadership team’s vision of their EdTech product with the actual needs of the product’s users. To do this well, you must execute leadership’s vision responsively. This means modulating the product roadmap as your product team surfaces new information about user needs or identifies risks associated with leadership’s vision. Leadership teams are naturally more future-focused.
The purpose of UX discovery sessions – and how to make the most of them
When we begin a UX engagement with a new EdTech client, our first priority is to quickly learn as much as possible about our client’s product and users. Our collaborative process begins with a phase of research and user understanding that includes an in-person discovery session. The discovery session allows a products’s stakeholders to identify problems, clarify goals and priorities, and align around a shared vision for their product – before identifying solutions. Here’s what you need to know about this critical planning session — and how you and your UX team can make the most of it.
Innovation in the EdTech space: Why it lags behind – and what you can do about it
Innovation within the EdTech space can sometimes feel painfully slow. That’s especially true when compared with digital products in other spaces, such as social media, finance, and health apps. This innovation drag is felt not only by EdTech companies themselves, but by users, too. Student users, in particular, are quick to notice when EdTech products aren’t on par with the many other apps they use on a daily basis.
Investing in UX: How to structure your UX budget for maximum ROI
When product teams put together budgets for new products or product releases, they often struggle to determine how much money to allocate for UX research and testing. This confusion flows from uncertainty about how to view UX’s role in the product development process. Is UX a one-time project with precise parameters and a predictable scope, like designing a logo? Or is it an ongoing program of activities that ought to be woven through the entire development process?
Data visualization design: How EdTech products can tell better stories to meet growing demands for actionable insights
As EdTech products grow more complex in terms of the data they manage and the analytics they produce, data visualization is poised to become an indispensable tool. To date, many of these products have yet to fully embrace data visualization design in their product interfaces. As the expectations of students, instructors and administrators grow, it will almost certainly be considered a baseline requirement soon.
5 tips for integrating third-party applications without sacrificing the user experience
Over the past few years, the UX of EdTech products has improved by leaps and bounds. That’s true at the individual application level, anyway. But it’s a whole different story when you look at the user experience of product integrations that bridge two or more applications. It’s hard enough to integrate platforms in situations where you have complete control, but it can be incredibly difficult to integrate third-party platforms in a meaningful, seamless fashion.
All hands on the ball: a collaborative approach to building new product features
The launch of a new product represents a huge leap, but it’s really just the first big step in a series of many. Over the course of a healthy product’s lifespan, your team will continue to work inside the product for years to come, fixing bugs, pushing out updates, making UX improvements, and adding new features. New features require efforts from UX, engineering, and product teams with each leading at different times.
UX research methods (part III): When to use quantitative data to justify product improvement decisions
Qualitative research may be the bread and butter of UX testing, but quantitative UX research methods have an important role to play in the iterative product design process. There are many reasons product teams should consider using quantitative research, from the identification of existing problems to justifying expenditures in order to get buy-in from stakeholders.
‘Good enough’ usually isn’t: Avoiding traps that sabotage MVP success
Minimum Viable Product. Minimum Awesome Product. Minimum Loved Product. No matter what you call it, your product needs to delight users on the first release and every iteration beyond that, or it will fail.
Inclusive design: why EdTech companies should go beyond compliance
Truly inclusive product design aims to create products that work seamlessly for all people, in all situations. This may seem like a tall order, but it really should be your company’s goal. Not only is it an ethical imperative, but it’s good for business, too.
Nontraditional learning: How EdTech tools are different for corporate and personal users
When most people think EdTech, they naturally imagine students and instructors in K through 12 or higher education settings. But learners and teachers can be found everywhere from boardrooms to living rooms. And while the reasons for learning vary, companies that make learning products for corporate and personal use can benefit greatly from the knowledge of their counterparts who target K-12 and higher ed sectors.
Borrow cues from search, retail, gaming to improve UX in EdTech products
From administrative tasks like taking attendance and grading quizzes to features that enable students to learn and succeed, EdTech products have become more and more powerful. But that power can make these tools more complicated for users. Learn how to align tools with common mental models from search, retail, and gaming.
How to condense the 5-Day Design Sprint without giving up key outcomes
All product leaders have a list of desired improvements and fixes that often feels impossible to get on top of. And while Google’s 5-Day Design Sprint is the gold standard for ideation, design, prototyping, and testing ideas, it’s just not always practical or even possible to secure that much time from your participants.
In EdTech products, friction can be good or bad. A balance of both is the answer.
User journeys through apps, software and websites must follow optimized paths with no confusion or distractions.
UX is not a one-time event. What EdTech product leaders need to know about the cost of inaction.
Keep it active … or face the consequences. While many organizations make the commitment to implement UX practices, we’ve found that many adopt best practices of UX only to a point.
Running the numbers – calculating the ROI of your UX investment
Do you really know what’s at stake? Check out these calculators to help you combat the risks of UX inaction and envision your ROI.