Two Ways to Support User Journeys in edTech Products

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

As we begin to apply lessons from remote learning to new product roll-outs, edTech product owners have a unique opportunity to evaluate how user journeys have changed. With a more nuanced understanding of users’ new learning environments, you’ll be able to design products that support your users’ day-to-day experiences in post-pandemic classrooms. 

User feedback throughout remote learning has also clarified the technological needs of teachers and learners. The increased use of digital learning tools has made all of our users more sophisticated, discerning, and engaged edTech consumers. Redesigns for existing tools must meet this new set of demands and expectations.

Buckle up! Everything in edTech is about to change.

Why the Pandemic Changed edTech User Journeys

The pandemic changed the trajectory of edTech user journeys in ways big and small. 

School schedules are more flexible than ever, and students have far more choice about how they complete projects. Educators are also more sophisticated about how they approach classroom tasks and digital learning, including how they combine technologies to facilitate that learning. 

This means that the universe surrounding your product has fundamentally changed, too. Educators are no longer using individual edTech products in isolated ways. Your edTech product is, in all likelihood, being used in concert with many other products, making integration a key need. If your product is a platform built for school use, user relationships to your product look more like a B2C model than they ever have in the past.

The relevance of future edTech products depends on how well product owners navigate these major shifts in the user journey, from learning environments to individual user needs. In light of these changes, Fall 2021 is the perfect time to refresh your approach to conducting user research and challenge the typical assumptions you start with in edTech product development. 

Here are two areas where we think product owners should revisit user research ahead of Fall 2021 product roll-outs:

Embedding Project-Based Learning Features into Your Learning Tools

We know that student collaboration and project-based learning have an outsized impact on learning outcomes. But the rise of remote learning demonstrated why educators need product owners to embed these approaches directly into their digital learning tools.

Re-thinking the UX design of your collaboration tools in this way requires digging back into your learning content. This could mean re-examining tried-and-true content or lessons already vetted by subject-matter experts. It could also mean re-evaluating user flow and changing how your content is delivered, from teacher-student facilitation to peer learning models. 

When you’ve already built and tested content designed for one method, it’s no small feat to re-imagine it within a different context and for different users. Good UX design teams can look at teacher-student content and help product owners translate it into content that works more effectively for flipped classrooms or peer-to-peer learning environments. 

Although this might seem like an expensive investment, developing better UX for peer learning drives both student and teacher engagement. And as the edTech market becomes more crowded, it’s even more important to build meaningful digital learning experiences that extend beyond digital workbooks, virtual lectures, and online quizzes.

Your new approach to peer learning environments can also be quickly validated with lightweight user research and rapid prototyping. Whether you’re building project-based learning features, asynchronous online grouping and collaboration tools, or embedding SEL tools into existing content, rapidly building and testing features is an inexpensive way to test new approaches to delivering tried-and-true content. 

With a targeted, lean UXR strategy, you’ll ensure that your peer-peer content not only works in a digital format but also meets the needs of future classrooms.

Addressing New edTech User Expectations with Short-Form Content 

It’s no coincidence that educational TikTok posts and YouTube channels became ever more popular during the pandemic. Short-form learning content engages users in their curiosity, shapes their expectations about content, and broadens the concept of who a learner is, how they learn, and when they engage with content.

YouTube Channel “The Sci Show” offers easy-to-digest science  content for teens.

Product owners can apply these lessons to digital tools by producing high-quality, short-form learning content of their own. Short-form digital learning content addresses new user expectations while providing multiple engaging pathways to learning. From a production standpoint, short-form learning content is also easier to produce and repurpose for other channels, including just-in-time support for both teachers and students.

If you know that short-form content will drive future products, you should be prepared for how this decision will affect your UX and design strategy. From solutions for search to more personalized dashboards, your learning content should be highly personalized to the user’s journey and easy to browse. 

The more targeted each piece of content is, the more you’ll be able to surprise and delight your user with UX and design decisions that support their needs and interests. As industry leaders like Khan Academy have demonstrated, short-form content is ideal for supporting students who need additional support. Videos and other learning aids are capable of breaking down complex concepts into foundational steps. Teachers can supplement their existing instruction plans with high-quality, short-form content and create targeted interventions more quickly. 

In student-facing products, learners think creatively, stay engaged, and exercise additional agency by choosing the types of content that appeal to them. Because digital learning tools are also able to gather data about learner interactions, students can receive content suggestions that personalize their user flow.

Additionally, educators themselves are likely to consume video content on their phones or in between other tasks, a finding supported by our existing user research. These viewing habits make short-form learning content an ideal component of teacher-facing products that offer professional learning, too.

We’re at a unique turning point in the edTech industry, and we’re never going back to old ways of thinking about digital content or designing digital tools. As you reimagine your user journeys, consider how these shifts are likely to affect your approach to learning content in new and existing products. 

Whether you create new, short-form content or shift teacher-student content toward a peer learning model, your UX team can help you find and test the best solutions for your users.

Are you thinking about making a change for Fall 2021? Contact us today to discuss how new user journeys have shifted your product and feature priorities.

Let’s build the future of digital products together.