Our research has identified areas in which your EdTech products frequently fail teachers in UK schools. This practical checklist is a necessary tool for you as a product manager to use in order to create a product that simultaneously delivers results and eases teachers’ lives.
Students have grown up with touchscreens. They know how to use them. Surprisingly, the same can not be said for keyboards, Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel. In fact, asking many students to use common desktop software is like asking them to ride a horse when they’ve just got their driving licence. It’s astonishing, but for certain technology you should consider today’s students to be tech-illiterate.
Many students from disadvantaged backgrounds have no technology at home. You need to think about how to help teachers easily meet the needs of these students, whilst also providing the rest of the class with the benefits of the technology. And if you’re thinking about building for students’ mobile phones, think again. Many schools are banning them in the classroom.
Does your product save teachers time? Unfortunately many tech solutions in schools today do the opposite; from wasting lesson time to resolve login problems, to double entry of data. EdTech product managers should be deliberate in how their product saves teachers’ time. And if it is going to incur an additional time commitment, it needs to be efficient and have overwhelming benefits. Solving this one problem can be the difference between a hard slog and seamless improvement for your customers.
WIth most schools facing reductions in funding, there is neither the money, expertise or time available to adequately train teachers to use technology effectively. You need to invest in an intuitive product that caters to the needs of the least tech-confident teachers; providing them with easy-access support when they get stuck.
We’re hearing from teachers that schools have become a dumping ground for technology, whether that’s broken whiteboards, or desktop computers running ye olde Windows XP. As school funding gets tighter, this problem will only get worse. As an EdTech product manager, I’m sure you know that dealing with this is a delicate balancing act. Cater to everything and you’ll either blow your budget, or create a prehistoric product that is obsolete before it’s even been launched. But ignoring this problem and building for the latest browsers or devices is as stupid as belligerently sticking with Adobe Flash in 2019 (we’re looking at you, Mathletics!). A large chunk of your market will be using old, slow devices that haven’t been updated for years. What is your strategy for dealing with this?
With no budget for IT support within schools, many are relying on teachers with the relevant know-how to get technology working. With hundreds of users on aging technology, this is an immense pressure to put on a teacher who isn’t even hired to deal with these issues. And even when dedicated IT support is present within a school, it can be overstretched. EdTech products that confuse teachers, or require big interventions to install and training to onboard are effectively putting barriers in front of their own adoption. Stop it!
You are asking schools to invest time and money in your product, but why are you doing this when they have very little of either? To justify that investment your product must alleviate the pressures on the school or teacher, whilst also improving student outcomes.
A teacher shouldn’t spend half of the lesson resolving login issues, and this can be prevented by a product being properly tested in schools and having issues like these identified and solved before its release. Is user testing of your products as regular as clockwork? These tests aren’t just about testing the usability of UI, they’re for learning how a school will adopt the product and what the reality of using it in the classroom is like.
It is clear from our research that schools are one of the most challenging environments in which to successfully deploy technology. Due to an overwhelming variation of resources and teachers being faced with such time-consuming challenges daily, products are unlikely to deliver their potential on day one. You should stay as close to your customers as possible, and use the discipline of testing and iteration to solve the issues that they will inevitably encounter. By doing this, you will craft a product that improves the lives of teachers whilst also delivering results.
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