I’m a teacher.
This year I took a year off classroom teaching to develop some software, Class Creator, that allows schools to create better classes for their upcoming year in a fraction of the time.
As a result of our journey into software dev (no one says “development”), I have picked up a few “trendy tech terms” that I will take back with me to the education industry.
1. Value Proposition
When you arrive at most websites, you are presented with a “Value Proposition”.
On most websites it is the first thing you will see.
Basically a Value Prop is a reason to use the product/service on offer, or at least to give you a reason to find out more.
At Class Creator our “Value Prop” is: “Great classes, in a fraction of the time”.
Every lesson should start with a Value Prop.
Each student should know straight away how they will benefit from engaging in the lesson.
Why should a student invest their attention in the lesson being taught?
Is the benefit something that interests them?
If you’re not an educator, the Class Creator value prop has no value to you. The value of a lesson must be of value to the student.
*Is the benefit too far down the track? *
Often we teach something because “it will on the test” or “You’ll need to know this to get a job”.
They are negative and long term vale props.
The benefit of a lesson should be brought forward as soon as possible. This can be a real challenge for some lessons, so we have to get creative.
2. CTA (Call To Action)
A “Call to Action” usually comes directly after a value prop.
For most websites the CTA is a button.
For Class Creator it's our Free Trial/Test Drive (which you really should sign up for...right now).
As a teacher my instructions are often too vague.
I tell myself I’m letting the kids learn by discovering things on their own, but really I’m being lazy.
I’m not saying to show/tell kids everything, just to be explicit on what the next steps in their learning are.
It is certainly something I need to do better.
“Try a few problems yourself or come up the front and we can go through some together”
“In pairs discuss what you think might happen next and why”
Our Class Creator student placement algorithm has been incredibly complex to create.
Who would have thought teaching a computer to complete a task teachers have been doing instinctively for many years would be so challenging?
The algorithm has undergone many iterations.
Basically the way I see iterations is:
Draft + Critiques = Next steps of Development...REPEAT!!!
We will never stop tweaking our algorithm, no matter how great the classes it produces are…and yes, they are great :-)
The concept of iterations is a constant review cycle of what we are doing now, and how we can do it better.
As teachers, we are constantly iterating.
There is no end to our development.
Nor can we expect to be Google overnight, they have been iterating since 1998.
Iterations can be done on a formal level via peer reviews, or receiving feedback from students.
Or, on a more personal and reflective level, “Did my students achieve the outcome I wanted them to achieve?”
I guess the important thing for me, after 13 years of teaching, is not to think development is done.
For new teachers it is important to know that this process takes time, and reflection and development will help you to become the next “Google”.
4. Conversion Rate , Bounce Rate and Churn Rate
All websites monitor how many visitors they receive to their site, and how many they convert into new users.
This is called their conversion Conversion Rate.
Bounce Rate is how many people visit the front page of a website, but bounce off to another site. ie “There is nothing that interests me on this website, I’m going to look at cute pictures of cats”
Churn Rate is how many people sign-up or become users…then leave later on.
Obviously companies look at these numbers to tweak their website to Increase Conversion, Reduce Bounce and Churn.
There are two ways I plan to monitor my Conversion, Bounce and Churn rates in teaching.
Anecdotal- Watch to see which students are engaged in their learning.
Data- Test to see which students have mastered the learning objective.
Anecdotal- Watch to see students who are disengaged in the lesson. I will redesign my teaching to help re-engage those students.
Data- Roam the room to monitor students who have become lost in the lesson. I will provide “live chat”/support.
Anecdotal- Watch for students who were engaged, but I lost them. Where did I lose them and why? Ask the students.
Data- Test students down the track to see if they have retained the learning. I will review my teaching and ask “Why did/didn’t it stick?”
In the internet world, most of this is a guessing game and the same goes for teaching.
It’s crazy to think we are going to achieve a 100% Conversion rate or a 0% Bounce/Churn rate.
All we can do is monitor, iterate, monitor, iterate…
To change directions on the spot, or quickly.
In tech, companies often pivot in moments of crisis (“This is not going to work we need to find something else”), or after a new discovery (“OMG! This would work amazingly for that industry/problem”).
At Class Creator we pivoted (and iterated) early on.
Our early attempts at producing classes weren’t working.
We soon realised we were heading in the wrong direction (seeing students as numbers and making numerically averaged classes).
So we pivoted, and began developing using a better “teacher logic” based method.
I think pivoting can be on an individual as well as ‘whole school’ levels in education.
Crisis- “This lesson is going terribly, I’m going to try a completely different direction/style/concept”
Discovery- “Wow! I didn’t plan it, but I can see this is an unmissable learning opportunity for my students. Let’s go!”
Crisis- “This is going terribly, we going to try a completely different direction/style/concept”
(Traditionally this is very hard for schools, to do due to having so many stakeholders. PS: I don’t like tradition)
Discovery- “Wow! We didn’t plan it, but I can see this is an unmissable opportunity for our school. Let’s go!”
6. UX (User Experience)
Creating a positive User Experience is vital to long term success.
If something is unenjoyable or hard to use, we tend to avoid it.
Whether you’re a fast food restaurant (e.g. McDonalds), a furniture store (e.g. IKEA) or a software developer (e.g. Class Creator), we must all pay a huge amount of attention our UX.
Good UX– Clear. Easy to use. Enjoyable. Consistent. Reliable.
Happy, long term users (Low Churn Rate) and positive word of mouth.
Bad UX– Confusing. Difficult to use. Boring. Inconsistent. Unreliable.
Disappointed, short term users (High Churn Rate) and negative word of mouth.
A key element is also understanding that users vary greatly, so we must cater for them all. There is generally a HUGE variance between the most and least IT savy teachers in a school. Software with an eye on creating a positive UX must be very conscious of this, and develop their User Interface accordingly.
Our students are our “Users”.
As a school/teacher, we provide our students with an experience.
If the experience is not positive they will disengage.
The fundamental of UX development is user feedback.
Putting ourselves in the shoes of our users is one thing, but we are only guessing.
Ways to monitor feedback:
Ask for it- Be mindful though that our experience has shown users often say they want one thing, but their actions show they need something different.
Watch for it- User behaviour is the best way to receive feedback on what is and isn’t working.
Try it yourself- Become a user. Sit in a students seat. Go to their toilet (when they are not there). Line up where they line up. Do their work. Do their homework. You will quickly have a better understanding by doing than by guessing.
I hope this blog post give you a few ideas. If you put it into action please send me an email or leave a comment below.
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