For Effective Edtech Platforms, Listen to Users
Edtech has not reached its full potential. There are a number of reasons for this situation, but the criticism that’s most often directed at developers is the fact that they don’t consult their users. Fact is, educators often only hear about a new tech solution that they must implement after the administration has already made the purchase decision.
The number one essential rule of product development is to make sure you build something that people want and to avoid building something that people don’t want. As Hacker Noon puts it, the number one reason products fail is “…people go from an idea on the back of a napkin to writing detailed functional requirements, without asking whether people truly want the product in the first place.”
Educational product developers and platform providers who meet up with teachers at webinars, seminars, and conferences have a great opportunity to learn from teachers what they need and what works in class. Let’s look at what it would take for an educational product to succeed.
1. Find out what the real challenges are
Very few of the edtech programs and platforms available today are succeeding in solving teaching or learning problems in the classroom. Research from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation found that teachers want more and better resources for every grade level and across every subject area. In fact, only 59% of teachers think the tech they use is meeting student needs. That leaves a large number of teachers who have not seen any reason to use education technology in their classrooms.
Edtech entrepreneurs must talk to teachers and educators to find out what challenges they face on a daily basis. They need to spend time in classrooms to come up with a product that will address today’s teaching and learning challenges.
2. Develop a product that addresses one of the priority gap areas
The abovementioned research identified the gaps in digital product offerings where edtech developers could step in and help teachers out. These areas are K-12 English language arts (ELA), high school social studies, high school math, and K-5 science. What teachers need, are products that focus on these areas.
3. Help teachers transform their instruction
Many teachers feel that their instruction doesn’t reach every student. The evidence can be seen in widespread low scores, poor graduation rates, and student apathy, which make teachers feel that they are failing at their task. With the right software edtech developers could help these teachers transform their teaching. For this to work, that software needs to offer fundamentally new approaches to teaching and learning.
4. Make data easily accessible and easy to understand
Teachers need data to create better learning outcomes, but this data must be easily available. Edtech platforms must make it easy for teachers and administrators to view and understand data; the layout should be easy to grasp at a glance. It should also be easy to move data sets between different data management platforms.
5. Prioritize learning standards alignment
Only 36% of teachers agree that edtech products they use help students to meet standards. This is a shocking statistic. Edtech developers have the responsibility to make sure that they are familiar with the curriculum standards in the states that they operate in and they must make sure that their product meets with the learning objectives.
It’s not easy to come up with an education product that works well, but first talking to end-users to find out what they need, will go a long way towards finding solutions that work.