3 Effective Ways edTech Products Can Support Professional Development

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

So many digital professional development offerings are very linear. Teachers take courses, watch video content, and test for understanding. This linear approach leaves something to be desired, especially in edTech! 

Take advantage of all the things you can do in products to make them more engaging and personal. Whether you’re supporting teachers as they perfect their classroom management skills or helping them to use your product with more fidelity, here are tactical ways you can integrate professional learning into any edTech tool.

1. Train teachers to be more effective in the classroom.

Entire edTech products can be devoted to professional development that helps teachers become more effective across the board.

From better results in the classroom to creating more memorable learning experiences, pedagogies in a holistic professional development tool might include:

Unlike in-person workshops, edTech products can deliver these trainings in scalable, flexible ways that work for teachers and their busy schedules. 

As learning engineers, a specialized UX team can also translate the power of these techniques using a variety of media to explain concepts. Interactive infographics, videos of teachers modeling best practices in classrooms, and gamified experiences all help build user engagement and encourage teachers to stick with a training course or program.

Try incorporating these support systems in your edTech product:

  • Create a system that tracks accountability over time
    Help teachers track their own progress against classroom outcomes by showing their progress over time.

  • Develop qualitative tracking systems by using self-reflection
    Prompt teachers to be reflective in light-weight, convenient ways. For example, your product might help users learn to integrate formative assessments into their classroom. By answering questions like, “How did the lesson go today?” or “If you had to attribute the success of today to a specific resource, what would you choose?” your users can help you build helpful qualitative data sets.

  • Allow users to choose their preferred learning modes
    When teachers are able to customize your software settings in highly contextualized ways, your tool becomes more responsive and more valuable over time.

  • Provide non-linear experiences that allow for learner agency
    When teachers have opportunities to choose the areas they want to focus on, they have more agency over their professional development and skill-building. Whether you design a customized dashboard of skills or prompt them to choose a new area of learning content, taxonomizing your content allows for more choice—and more flexibility for content engineers.

  • Identify user trends over time
    Teachers ultimately use professional learning software to address specific needs. When they can look at a journal, report, or dashboard that captures needs or trends over time, they develop a more holistic picture of their own teaching practice.

2. Train teachers in best pedagogical practices for specific content areas.

If you design edTech products specifically to help students learn new concepts, you can always build a more robust teacher-facing side of your learning tool. 

Professional development that supports educators as they dive into the specifics of teaching a new concept helps them develop instructive mastery for a specific subject area. This benefits your users—both students and teachers—and will make your tool even more valuable to administrative buyers.

Here are some practical effective ways to support teachers throughout your learning tool:

  • Complete a real task during onboarding
    Asking teachers to complete a real task during the onboarding process allows them to make choices right away. They might even potentially make a mistake, which means you have the opportunity to create and introduce a powerful feedback system.
  • Offer just-in-time help
    Go beyond onboarding to offer in-line tips and tricks or other feedback items associated with reporting. By providing next steps, you’ll train teachers to use the software more effectively. Potential next steps could be anything from suggesting the next lesson to prompting teachers to offer resources to struggling students. 
  • Help them to understand the complexity of your tool
    As much as you want to design simple turn-key software, the truth is that edTech products are often based on robust content sets and complex learning experiences. Even tech-savvy teachers experience barriers to complexity, whether they don’t have time to learn new features or think a specific tool isn’t really “for them.” Prompt them to use new features and tie features directly to outcomes or benefits.
  • Demonstrate the value of engagement
    Persuade users to engage by telling a compelling data story or creating a mini marketing moment. For example, you might suggest, “We’ve found that other teachers improved reading comprehension by 25% once they introduced this guide to their students. Do you want to try and use it?” Just be sure you have a solid data plan in place with your engineering team!
  • Help them integrate supplemental tools into existing curricula
    Typically, teachers aren’t the buyers for supplemental learning tools. That means there’s extra pressure on you to help them understand how the tool integrates into an existing curriculum or their existing practices. Demonstrate how they can save time or build efficacy without disrupting their usual teaching flow.

3. Train teachers to use your products with greater fidelity.

When teachers use your learning tool the way it was designed to be used, everyone sees better results. Teachers see better learning outcomes in the classroom, students retain new concepts more easily, and you’ll see better product engagement across the board.

By extending the concept of professional learning to include teacher training to use specific products, you’ll design stronger features. You’ll also help your users unlock the full potential of your edTech product.

Here are the features where professional development packs the biggest punch:

  • Onboarding
    Train users on how your product works, including how to complete tasks that are integral to product success. You can do this by offering just-in-time help or tool tips for additional context. In addition to helping teachers understand the full work-flow of a feature, it’s also important to demonstrate how your learning tool integrates with other products or supports curriculum-based tools. Integrations are valuable to busy teachers and cash-strapped administrations, and they make your overall product a more powerful solution.
  • Reporting
    Help teachers go beyond generating reports on high-level classroom trends. Reports should be the jumping-off point for further action. For example, you might also provide clarifying details about student trends or prompt your users to take specific next steps most relevant to the students in their class.
  • Virtual training sessions
    Build community around your product through webinars or other virtual training sessions that help teachers connect with one another and with your brand. If training is too much of an upfront cost, provide downloadable resources that support teachers learning to use your tool.
  • Video demonstrations
    Modeling product usage is one of the most effective ways to ensure that teachers are using your learning tool correctly. Show them how the product gets used in the classroom and provide step-by-step instruction.

  • Toast messages
    This is a light-weight way to provide continuous training, even for veteran users. Messages give users ideas for the best ways to use the product or encourage them to try new features.

As teachers use your product over time, you can deepen their engagement with your product. If you’ve done a good job making it relevant and useful, they’ll understand how valuable your tool is to their classroom practice.

As you develop professional development features for your edTech product, find opportunities to make it more useful and relevant at every turn. Respond to teacher feedback, test your product in real classrooms, and survey the competitive landscape to gain more insights about how teachers can use your tool more effectively in the real world.

Teachers will see immediate value in this work. After all, they know when learning tools are designed with them in mind. And because teachers value professional learning, they’ll value learning tools that support their career goals and help them improve classroom outcomes. Why not make sure the product they value is yours?

Are you planning to integrate professional development features into your edTech product? Contact us below to find out how we can help!

Let’s build the future of digital products together.