Project-based or long-term contract UX: Find the right approach for your EdTech product

Both project-based and long-term UX contracts have a place in the EdTech space. It’s not an either/or scenario. But each option for engaging an external UX partner comes with a unique set of considerations. The scale and scope of your project will play a significant role in your decision about the best approach. Regardless of which option you choose, there are a few things to keep in mind. At Openfield, we’ve worked with product owners in both contractual capacities and have learned what makes each one successful.

Interactive modules redesigned to meet learning objectives on any device.

Macmillan Learning: Interactive Modules Interactive modules redesigned to meet learning objectives on any device. Using pedagogical learning objectives as our consistent guide, we designed accessible, interactive modules from the ground up. The goal was to provide a rich, exploratory learning experience that supported a wide range of user needs.

Multi-phase research and design drive high-impact improvements to the student assignment experience

Wiley Publishing: WileyPLUS Student Assignments Multi-phase research and design drive high-impact improvements to the student assignment experience. Student assignments are complex by design. When that complexity is amplified by technical constraints, retrofitted navigation, and poor information hierarchy, it results in a frustrating experience for students and instructors. Openfield harnessed the complexity into a focused experience […]

Photo of young student using e-learning software

Is microlearning the secret to engaging your EdTech product’s users?

Successful EdTech product teams do more than design a product that’s easy to use; they design products that support learners’ goals. And the only way to support learners’ goals is to know the learners themselves. That’s a continual challenge as users’ needs, priorities, and preferences are always shifting. Post-pandemic, it’s clear that learners won’t automatically return to any well-worn paths. They’re more interested in blazing their own educational trail, shaped by their own unique goals. People have discovered facets of their lives — including education — are more malleable than they once thought. 

Photo of UX designer working on course templates

Incorporating a UX mindset in your EdTech product’s course templates leads to better learning experiences. Here’s how.

In EdTech, your product and UX teams share a purpose: meeting the evolving needs of your users. You may be more likely to invest in improving the UX of the visible, user-facing parts of your product. That makes sense — it affects the bottom line. There’s no denying what students and instructors immediately see (like attendance, grades, and assignments) influences what EdTech product is purchased by or for them. These user-facing elements are made with internal course building tools, yet you probably make far fewer investments in them. From a UX perspective, this is a mistake. Internal tools — like the ones that build course templates — powerfully shape users’ overall experience with your product. 

Rapid adoption of digital transformation leads to the world’s top student engagement system

iClicker Rapid adoption of digital transformation leads to the world’s top student engagement system. iClicker came to Openfield with a vision to create a digital experience that would improve on its already pervasive handheld remote devices. The resulting experience quickly led to market dominance by giving instructors new ways to engage with their students who […]

Research leads to design improvements that better align to how users think and work.

Wolters Kluwer Health: CoursePoint+ Research leads to design improvements that better align to how users think and work Openfield helped Wolters Kluwer uncover a serious issue that was causing user friction in their product, CoursePoint+. By realigning the user experience to mirror how instructors think and work, we eliminated user frustration and increased satisfaction. In […]

New design system reduces wasted time and unifies user experiences across the product suite

Macmillan Learning: Design System New design system reduces wasted time and unifies user experiences across the product suite Because Macmillan Learning’s suite of EdTech products were designed at different times by different teams, growing design debt was leading to duplication of internal efforts and inconsistencies in the user experience. Openfield analyzed the issues, created a […]

Photo of a member of an EdTech product development team looking out the window while thinking about industry trends.

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.

EdTech data visualization showing how better graphics can help users understand data better,

How to avoid EdTech data visualizations that are all beauty and no brains

At their best, data visualizations enable EdTech companies to tell interesting and meaningful stories using the data collected within individual products. Visualizations are both attractive and powerful. They have the ability to highlight trends, support decisions, and improve outcomes across the board. But not all data visualizations are created equal. If you don’t approach them with focus and care, they can actually work against you. A data visualization can be gorgeous — a piece of art worthy of hanging on the wall — without being truly useful.

A college student using EdTech software

How to prioritize user needs as your product team tackles feature requests & business demands

As a product owner, you’ve been trained to put your users’ needs first. But you also know from experience that you don’t have the luxury of developing EdTech products in a vacuum. While your users should ideally drive everything you do, you must also contend with a host of competing pressures, from budgetary constraints to compressed timelines. The truth is that your feature requests and production timelines are often driven by business needs. But your users are the reason you created your product in the first place.

Photo of tools

Evaluate your UX design tools to amp up efficiency and innovation

Your EdTech company’s UX team relies on digital tools to do their jobs, from design work and prototype creation to UX testing and managing internal workflows. Chances are, your team is fully dialed into a suite of tools that works reasonably well for them. Sure, your tools aren’t perfect. But the familiarity you’ve gained with them enables your team to create smooth, efficient workflows. Or do they? Stop and look a little closer. Your team may be using more workarounds than any of you realize — workarounds that are so deeply ingrained they no longer even seem like workarounds.

Photo of an EdTech product team conducting a remote discovery session

How to host a remote discovery workshop — and get the most from your EdTech team

When your team decides to build a new feature for your EdTech product, you likely start by holding a discovery workshop. You use the workshop to bring all the necessary stakeholders together, brainstorm ideas, and come into alignment about the underlying user needs and business objectives driving the new feature. The mechanics of putting on a virtual discovery workshop may seem overwhelming. But with a little planning and a few best practices, you’re sure to get the most out of your team — wherever they are.


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.

A mom and two daughters using EdTech software during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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.

A student user experiences haptic feedback in an e-learning app.

Want to increase product engagement? Expand your UX to include sensory cues.

Our best experiences outside of the digital world are made up of much more than what we can see. Think of walking in the woods, petting a dog, or eating a warm, flaky croissant. These real-world experiences engage all of our senses — not just sight — to create meaning and elicit delight. However, most digital experiences revolve around just one of our senses: sight. No surprise there.

Stressed college student using Edtech software

Want to reduce student anxiety and increase enthusiasm? Great UX is the answer.

Most digital products, such as social media, budgeting, and news apps, appeal to users on the basis of their utility or entertainment value. Individual users make the personal decision to purchase or download these products because they want to use them. EdTech software, on the other hand, is different. They are undoubtedly useful. But for student users, they may not seem like much fun when they are required to use them.

Man looking into distance with binoculars

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.

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.

Design debt weighs heavily on a product leader's mind.

The high costs of design debt – and how to pay it down

Usability problems can crop up in EdTech products for any number of reasons. An incomplete understanding of user’s needs. Inadequately defined product requirements. Insufficient user testing. The list goes on. Many of these issues can be headed off simply by incorporating UX and user-centered design best practices in the product development process. But no matter how attentive your team is to its users, and no matter how airtight your approach, there’s another usability problem that is sure to materialize with time: design debt. 

Members of the UX team conducting discovery session for an EdTech product.

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. 

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. 

Investing in UX: How to structure your UX budget for maximum impact

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?

An instructor viewing data on a dashboard designed to provide insights about student performance.

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.

Click on image to launch article about third-party integration in EdTech products

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.

UX designers and researchers reviewing design progress at Openfield.

Hiring guide – choosing the right UX partner for the long haul

Your EdTech company is thriving. Your product is growing and so too must your team. It’s a good problem to have, of course. But for companies considering working with an outside UX agency, it can be hard to know exactly how to gauge their value. It’s easy to see why this can feel like such a challenging decision. The idea of spinning up an internal team is daunting, but the idea of working with an agency brings its own set of concerns and unknowns that can lead to misinformed buying decisions.

UX team members conducting an audit of an EdTech product to reduce design debt.

Getting out of design debt with an actionable UX audit

Products, like people, don’t always age gracefully. When it comes to digital products, this aging process begins as soon as new features or bug fixes are introduced to a newly launched product. Over time, as more and more changes take place, design debt (or internal inconsistencies that don’t match the product’s underlying design system) naturally begins to accrue. From minor visual discrepancies all the way up to broken functionalities, design debt fragments and undermines user experience.

UX team members meet for daily design reviews to increase collaboration and efficiency.

Daily Design Reviews: An evolved design review process fit for the complexity of EdTech products

At Openfield, we found that the same old design review process didn’t quite fit the bill anymore. Instead of formal, infrequent design reviews, we needed to develop a design feedback loop that was as agile and iterative as the development process itself had become. And that’s how we landed on a system of daily design reviews.


‘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.

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.

UX designers conducting empathy session as part of inclusive design practices.

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.

UX team collaborating with EdTech product owners.

Avoiding Dependency Hell as product teams scale

For EdTech companies, the opportunity to develop single, enterprise-wide products is both exciting and potentially lucrative. But with bigger projects come bigger challenges throughout the UX process. With multiple UX teams, product teams and engineering teams all functioning separately within the same project, building products at a large scale opens a web of complex communication issues for the teams involved.


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.

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 user is confused about how to use an EdTech product due to its lack of onboarding features.

How onboarding helps users get up to speed on your EdTech products quickly

Improving the on-ramp to your product makes users confident in their choice and increases their satisfaction. The bottom-line benefit of a better onboarding experience comes from both greater customer retention and reduced customer service.

Openfield leads a session to show how product teams can shorten Google's 5 Day Design Sprint.

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.

Design elements underscore the importance of universal design systems in EdTech products.

Evolving your design system over time improves team efficiency

Often, design systems are treated as “one and done” initiatives — drafted, agreed upon and set in stone. Many a design team has embarked on a fool’s errand, thinking they could anticipate every design need that may arise in the future. If you instead adopt a continuous release approach for ongoing improvements to guidelines, you essentially mirror the product development process itself.

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.

friction in UX

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 design leader talking about the cost of UX inaction in educational software products.

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.

A disabled student and his teacher using an educational app together.

User experience really does mean all users, part 3

While achieving compliance in your digital products is important, it’s a first step. Make it your goal to reach ALL users through the practice of inclusive design

A user with physical impairments working on a tablet in the classroom.

User experience really does mean all users, part 2

It’s important for EdTech product teams to embrace industry guidelines and best practices around accessibility. The web and technological advances create new opportunities and have the potential to remove communication barriers many face in the physical world. Yet millions of people can’t fully reap the benefits of those opportunities because of inaccessibile digital products.

A blind student using a Braille keyboard.

User experience really does mean all users, part 1

Governments (including the United States) have made strides in implementing or updating regulations and policies that ensure that people with disabilities do not face discrimination and have equal access and opportunity to use the web and digital products. While regulations provide a baseline, industry guidelines can provide more context and direction for accessibility in UX. Features like screen readers, text-to-speech, closed captioning and sticky keys are commonplace thanks to established industry guidelines.

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.

Trevor Minton, VP of Product Experience at Openfield, talking about ROI of UX investment.

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.