Photo of UX researcher facing internal pressures

How an external UX research partner can help you avoid biased results and internal pressures

As an EdTech product leader, you understand how important user research is to your product’s success in the market. You know you need to invest in UX research. But how? You may be weighing the pros and cons of hiring your own internal UX researcher versus partnering with an external UX team. Hiring an external UX research team like Openfield comes with many benefits.

Photo of student using video chat for remote learning during pandemic.

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.

Photo of upward arrows symbolizing UX research aligning to EdTech business goals

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?

Image of EdTech product development team planning prototypes for a discovery phase

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.

A young female student uses educational software in the classroom.

How to use loss aversion bias to evoke more meaningful user feedback on your product

As a product owner, you know that your users’ feedback is the most valuable asset in your arsenal. After all, your EdTech product can only succeed to the extent that it actually meets your users’ needs. And the more deeply you understand your users — their desires, mental models, requirements, and preferences — the more perfectly you can tailor your product to suit their taste. So it’s imperative that you draw out frank, unbiased, and uncensored feedback in every round of user testing.

Background graphic showing research dashboard for EdTech product executives.

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. 

UX designers making plans based on research

The formula for clear & effective UX research reports

EdTech companies like yours rely on UX research to make important decisions about your product. Each of your key stakeholders — including your product and executive leadership teams — must clearly understand your research findings and the recommendations that flow from them.  So it’s critical that your research reports are clear and effective. Like the EdTech products you build, research reports are only effective to the extent that they serve their end users. Unfortunately, they are too frequently only formulated with a researcher’s mindset. That is, they are so focused on documenting the individual trees that they fail to also tell a compelling story about the forest.

UX researcher conducting digital focus group for EdTech product

How to use digital focus groups to quickly gain actionable insights

Your EdTech company may already be in the practice of utilizing focus groups. They can be a great way to bounce new concepts off your users and glean insights about their preferences and mental models. But what about digital focus groups? You may be cringing at the very thought of hosting these events at all, let alone digitally. You might be concerned that they are less personal or effective when hosted remotely. However, with the right approach and tools, digital focus groups can be an extremely engaging and cost-effective way to gain crucial feedback. Here’s what you need to know. 

Photo of 5 users needed for user testing

How many users do you really need for meaningful usability test results?

You probably already know that you can conduct meaningful usability tests with as few as five users. This widely-adopted tenet of UX research and design has endured two decades because it’s both surprising and heartening. After all, it shows that UX research doesn’t have to be expensive and time-consuming. To the contrary, it can be quick, accessible, nimble, and cost-effective. That’s good news. And in general, the guideline holds true. However, it’s important to recognize that the “five users rule” is more rule of thumb than rule of law.

An EdTech product owner and UX researcher review early testing recaps.

Squeeze the most value out of each round of UX testing with early research recaps

As an EdTech product owner, you likely know the drill when it comes to UX testing. You work with your UX research team to identify testing priorities. Next, your research team goes off and conducts user tests. A week or two later, you receive research findings. But there’s a better way — a very simple tweak to this process that allows you to be more engaged in user testing, drive more value out of each round of UX research, and iterate more quickly? The solution can be found in what we call “early research recaps.” 

UX researcher reviewing inclusive testing practices

Want to create a truly inclusive EdTech product? Start with inclusive UX testing.

EdTech products must meet the needs of the students, teachers, and administrators they serve, regardless of ability. The goal of inclusivity doesn’t just make sense because it is the right thing to do. Or because it is in keeping with the goals of educators more broadly. It also makes sense because it leads to a better-quality product — for everyone. For all of these reasons, more and more EdTech companies are embracing inclusive design.

UX researchers and designers preparing for tests

Are your UX design and research teams working in lockstep?

The best EdTech products, the ones that instructors, students, and administrators value most, are those that truly anticipate and meet their users’ needs. Developing a product with a superior user experience requires the right UX expertise, of course. But that’s not all. Your product’s usability also depends upon how well your product team coordinates and collaborates during the development process.

An engineer observes a user testing session for an EdTech product.

Why your engineering team should regularly attend your user testing sessions

When your engineering team is in the midst of an agile development sprint, they must be laser-focused on the tasks that comprise the next leg of their work. That sort of tunnel-vision is a good thing. Good, that is, so long as it’s tempered with an appreciation of your users’ needs. You see, unless engineers intentionally approach their work from an empathetic, user-centric perspective, they will naturally prioritize technical limitations and considerations over other factors — sometimes at the expense of user needs. 

A student performing tasks on an EdTech product during a user testing session.

The right people at the right time: Building a best-fit user feedback panel for user tests

User testing is a critical component of the product development process. You need your users’ feedback to shape your EdTech offering in a way that meets their needs and creates an enjoyable user experience. But when it comes to following the best practices of effective UX testing, not just any users will do. The reliability of your tests depends on your ability to recruit the right mix of users at the right time.

Photo of students using educational software

Observe your users in the wild with this downloadable worksheet

When you’re observing users in the wild, one thing’s for sure – there’s a lot going on. To help you capture key insights, observations and ideas on-the-fly, we’ve created this worksheet you can download and print to make sure you don’t miss any important details when you’re in the field.

Photo of UX researchers reviewing user data reports at Openfield.

Quality reporting is the key to realizing the full ROI of actionable UX research

Most EdTech companies now understand the importance of UX research in developing products that meet the needs of students, instructors, and administrators. But the thing about UX research is that it’s actually only the first half of the equation. Without thoughtfully prepared reporting, your UX research is really just a pool of data. By adopting effective presentation strategies for reporting research results you can ensure your findings are carried through the rest of the development process.

UX researcher working on report early in the discovery phase.

Early and often: The importance of UX research throughout the product development process

EdTech companies are increasingly recognizing the importance of UX research in successful product development. The numbers bear this out, with industry surveys showing an uptick in companies who identify the need to conduct more in-depth customer research as digital products continue to revolutionize the marketplace. That’s a step in the right direction, for sure. But the reality is that many product teams remain uncertain about when and how to incorporate UX research. 

UX researchers reviewing quantitative data to discover problems in educational software products.

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.


UX research methods (part II): Unlocking user insights with qualitative testing

In this article, we’ll dig into qualitative UX research and explain what it is, why it’s important, and how your team should approach it.

Students being observed using educational software by UX researchers.

UX research methods (part I): Avoiding user bias with observational user testing

User testing is a crucial component of successful product design. Without the insights that on-the-ground testing yields, designers can only guess at how users will actually interact with their products.


How CX and UX come together to meet users’ needs and inspire loyalty

A harmonious integration of customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) is especially important in EdTech, where educational IT managers and instructors have become accustomed to not just strong products, but also to comprehensive, personalized service.

Corporate training staff using EdTech product for career growth.

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.

Product release dates for classroom software.

Makers of classroom technology must align product releases with academic calendars

In general product design, frequent releases is accepted as the best way to update products. But in EdTech, timing can be the difference between success and failure. Learn the best practices for product design and development release cycles that consider the natural cycles of academic calendars.

UX researchers reviewing research report.

Are your stakeholders user research skeptics or superfans?

If you’re an advocate for user research in an organization that doesn’t value it, you might feel like you’re shouting into the wind sometimes. Too often, stakeholders (and we’re talking about executive leadership and even designer/developers) consider research an obstacle to rapidly launching a product or update. Recruiting users to interview, analyzing results and reporting on findings takes time, and in a quick-turn release cycle it may be too late by the time you get the answers you need.

The Openfield team looks to other industries for best practices that will improve educational products.

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.

A college professor reviews test results as students follow along in a connected app.

Building powerful EdTech tools starts with understanding students & instructors

Remember that you’re creating products for two audiences with distinct but overlapping needs. Instructors select the tools for their classrooms, so tech companies often develop products with them in mind. But for every one instructor there may be 600 student users, and if something goes wrong with the app, instructors get 600 emails about the problem.

Carefully balance rock formation illustrates the need to balance ux design and research activities.

​Research vs. design: balancing your UX budget for better outcomes

In the mad dash to launch a new product or major upgrade, product teams tend to expend more energy on designing features than on understanding users. In organizations that don’t place a high value on user insight, there’s a perception that design moves a project forward, while research holds it up.

iClicker app

New connected digital experience for students and instructors fuels rapid market dominance.

Whether it’s a classroom of 20 or a lecture hall of 200 students, instructors and students in higher education expect in-classroom technology to reliably and efficiently foster the most effective learning environment possible.

CoursePoint interface

Refreshed UX aligns product with mental models of nursing instructors.

Wolters Kluwer sought to address issues with one of its products, Lippincott CoursePoint+. Openfield helped them identify problems which led to a realignment of the user flow to match the mental model of its instructor user base. In addition to helping them solve specific challenges with the product, we identified new UX processes that have resulted in them adopting new viewpoints and practices that will improve team efficiency and user satisfaction across their product suites.

A UX design regenerates inspiration by enjoying a difficult hike.

Looking for inspiration? Go off-screen.

Sometimes, the best problem-solving comes from shaking off tunnel-vision and stepping out from behind a screen.

A UX team lead reviews product roadmap updates with her team.

faUX v realUX: What EdTech leaders need to know to when evaluating a UX partner.

Now more than ever companies need to be careful about choosing a partner that specializes in UX at its core.

Children using educational software in the classroom.

Three ways research improves UX outcomes

Research is the foundation of best-practice UX, leading to gains that can be transformative for digital products. But all too often, product teams either forego research altogether, or they fail to implement it properly.