[Edmentum’s Commitment] Simple Technology for Intuitive Use

Tuesday, July 26, 2016 -- Paul Johansen

Edmentum is committed to making it easier for educators to individualize learning for every student. This post is the first in a series where we will focus on each of the four components of this commitment: simple technology, quality content, actionable data, and customer success.

At Edmentum, soliciting and integrating user feedback during the design process is an essential component of how we build great online classroom solutions. We conduct user experience studies, focus groups, and market research with students, teachers, and administrators on a continual basis. These users are a passionate group who are never shy about sharing what they think about our products—whether good or bad. For example, we had a student named Hanna who wasn’t thrilled about a new interface concept and said, “I might fall asleep before I even get [my tutorial] launched.” On the other hand, we had a teacher named Chad who was so excited about a new feature that he exclaimed, “I just used the app to unlock some tests, and that is . . . awesome! I had [my student’s] test unlocked before she could refresh the page.” Both types of comments are equally valuable to us. They either tell us we still have work to do, or they confirm that we nailed the design.

For the positive comments like those from Chad, there is almost always a common theme: simplicity. When the software is simple and the user just “gets it,” we always see positive reactions. This is why Edmentum is committed to delivering simple, user-friendly technology in everything we do.

Simplicity is so powerful because it almost always equates to time savings. We know that teachers today are busier than ever and that truly every minute of a school day is precious time. If a class has a thirty-minute block in a computer lab, we have to ensure that the first fifteen minutes aren’t wasted trying to get students logged in. If a teacher needs to find out which students didn’t understand a concept taught the previous day, that data needs to be immediately accessible so that the teacher doesn’t have to waste time searching. And when students need to get in touch with their teacher (or vice versa), they should have a convenient, safe channel readily available.

Every day, our development teams focus on infusing simplicity into our products. To illustrate this commitment, I would like to share two recent examples of features we have added: Group Sessions in Study Island and Teacher Graded Activities in Plato Courseware.

Group Sessions

For many years, teachers have been using classroom response systems (often referred to as “clickers”) with Study Island to engage a classroom or group of students and receive immediate feedback on their understanding of a topic. Unfortunately, these systems have historically been complex to set up and difficult to keep functioning consistently. Knowing how important this kind of interaction is in the classroom, we set off to simplify these systems. Our solution was Group Sessions, which we introduced for the 2015–16 school year. This feature allows teachers to quickly set up a collaborative session that students can join as easily as they can a regular practice session in Study Island. These sessions function with no additional software being installed and no other configuration; students simply need a device with a browser. In a matter of seconds, teachers can be engaging their class in an interactive manner and receiving valuable data to inform instruction.

After only one year of being available, we saw Group Sessions used 338% more frequently than traditional clickers in Study Island—proof positive of the power of simple design in action.

Teacher Graded Activities

Our Plato Courseware online courses are filled with rich, interactive opportunities and activities to provide an engaging experience for students and also meet today’s rigorous standards. Our courses frequently require students to generate some sort of written product, such as an essay for an English course or a lab report for a science course. In a world before mobile devices, the process of submitting these kinds of assignments was easily solved by using a digital dropbox to upload and download documents from the course. However, with the increasingly common use of devices like tablets and smartphones, that process can become time consuming and challenging for both students creating the work and teachers grading it.

Enter: Teacher Graded Activities. These activities allow students to create their final product to be submitted within the course itself—removing the need to leave the platform to create a different document that has to be saved and uploaded. If students are writing an essay, they have the same rich editing capabilities found in a word-processing program. If the final product is a lab report, students can draw pictures of their results or record figures in a table to demonstrate their learning. When students complete these assignments, their teacher is immediately notified and can seamlessly view the work and provide feedback or a grade. This allows the focus of any activity to be on the learning, not on the mechanics of the technology.  

Study Island Group Sessions and Plato Courseware Teacher Graded Activities are just two examples of how we are implementing easy-to-use online solutions every day to engage students and save time for educators. Our goal is always for Edmentum’s products to provide an experience like Chad’s through the power of simple, user-centered technology.

Want to see our commitment to simple technology in action? Watch this short video to see how schools across the country are using Edmentum solutions to power blended learning instruction! 

Bright ideas for tech-savvy educators, right to your inbox