With more complex edTech tools comes an influx of student performance data and new standards for teaching and learning tools. While data can be an extremely powerful tool for educators, training teachers to use complicated edTech products can be cost prohibitive and inefficient for both software companies and school districts.
Even more complicated? Proving the efficacy of your edTech product in the classroom is on you — and if your users can't access or understand this data, too, they won't be convinced that your product offers a good solution.
Thankfully, you can reduce or eliminate many of these obstacles by designing better, more functional data dashboards. These design improvements will go a long way toward convincing your clients and their users that edTech tools help teachers do their jobs even more effectively.
The gap between edTech designers and their users was never more apparent to me than when I left SXSW EDU earlier this year, mulling over a lively panel on the topic of data-driven learning. When panelist Josh Dormont, the director of product development for the NYC Department of Education, revealed how hesitant teachers and teachers' unions have been to embrace data-driven teaching tools, I wasn't necessarily surprised. I understand the objections and fears teachers have about how data could potentially be weaponized by administrators or misinterpreted when reviewed out of context.
After all, an influx of data can be a powerful tool — or a source of anxiety for your users. That's why it's so important to make data dashboard design a priority as you plan your next edTech product. Here's what you can do to make it even easier for teachers, administrators, and parents to use robust, data-driven edTech tools:
What Makes an edTech Tool Effective?
New educational technology transforms learning in schools and homes, and it also generates tons of student performance data. In order to be successful, these new products must also enable teachers and administrators to easily track, monitor, and react to performance data. Otherwise, teachers are left drowning in data that isn't actionable, and they miss out on significant takeaways about their students' performance.
Each new edTech product is also judged by how effective it is. When considering a new edTech product, school administrators and other key stakeholders look for a few key measures of efficacy before they make an investment:
- The product improves assessed learning outcomes, i.e., "hard" data. Straightforward, before-and-after data that shows how students have improved over time is the baseline for most buyer decisions. This is true even for products that have "softer" learning goals or outcomes, like those tied to social and emotional learning.
- The product improves observed learning outcomes, i.e., "soft" data. In the crowded world of edTech solutions, positive observed outcomes have become a powerful differentiator for many products. Sure, the numbers show the product works, but what do real teachers say? These observations could be as complex as expert-driven testimonials or as simple as social reviews. Finding ways to track and display observed learning outcomes in meaningful data visualizations can be a powerful addition to your product's data dashboard.
- The product demonstrates high engagement with users. How frequently the product is used, and for how long, matters a great deal to administrative stakeholders. These personas also consider which elements of a product users engage with. Are students only playing games? Are teachers actually using the product for its intended purpose? As you develop your data dashboard, be sure to make it easy for the right user to track and access the engagement data they need to determine whether the product is working for them.
- It meets internal benchmarks of teacher satisfaction. If you build in simple systems for teachers to submit feedback about their experiences using your product, you can use this data to improve the next version of your product. Teacher satisfaction data is often a key indicator for administrators who make purchasing decisions for their district.
When you design with data visualization in mind, not only will you find more opportunities in the UX and UI to make your product more effective, but you'll also demonstrate to clients and their users that you truly understand the challenges they face in the classroom.
Well-designed data dashboards make it easier for students to track their progress, for teachers to assess student performance, and for administrators to make purchasing decisions. It's up to edTech designers to make these visualizations easy to understand and even more powerful to engage with.
Your Data Dashboard Designer Checklist
Well-designed data dashboards offer the simplest and most elegant solutions for user insights. In one place, users can see how their product or system is performing, whether that's within a single classroom or across an entire grade, school, or district.
Providing school administrators, teachers, and parents with robust, actionable tools for assessing student data is key to ensuring your edTech product will be utilized thoughtfully both in and out of the classroom. Students need their own data feedback systems, too, whether that's a series of prompts that encourages them to engage more deeply with your product or a dashboard that shows how their performance measures against the goals they've set for themselves.
After years of creating and testing data dashboards for each of these audiences, we've distilled our best practices for creating a killer data dashboard. Follow our Data Dashboard Designer Checklist to help educators make better, more informed decisions and take immediate action based on the data collected by your product.
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