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Ed Tech User Engagement Challenges and Solutions

These are some challenges that I've encountered while doing user research within EdTech and some of the ways we solved them.

At my time at Discovery Education I’ve encountered a number of challenges while doing certain types of research within Ed Tech, though I’m sure this applies in many other industries I can only speak to what I know. I’ve addressed these challenges, with the help of some amazing peers along the way, in a number of different ways and I would like to share not only how we did it, but what our circumstances were, and hopefully communicate what we did, and why we did it. For the most part the focus is on direct user engagement and research. Some of the methods we use are interviews, usability testing, prototype feedback and testing,

Challenge: Increased Security

It’s fairly common for teachers, and almost always with students, to use a school provided computer and as a result, tend to be restricted in what can be installed. This presents a number of conflicts with tools that we use to facilitate remote user research. For a number of years most of our interviews were done by phone without the ability to interact, assist, or observe users. Often software is required for video calls and couldn’t be installed by the users. This resulted in increased technical difficulties and data being compromised at a higher rate than we liked. Furthermore, it really hindered the ability to connect with users and develop a relationship. Facilitating any type of session with more than one person was made more difficult by the pure fact that no one could see each other and participation would often cause users anxiety. This was discovered as we talked to users over time. Moderation was also made more challenging since there wasn’t any users control when on phone lines.

Solution: Internet based chat programs

We leveraged tools like appear.in that didn’t require as elaborate of a permissions model as other services. Eventually programs like Ring Central offered hybrid experiences were we could still use the regular tools and reduce our library of solutions. The challenge that still remains and won’t ever change is that screen sharing almost always requires the users manually installing something, although I found a creative way around this in some regards I’ll speak to later on.

Solution: Mailing cameras to people

We actually ordered action cameras and built custom stands for users to use and then mailed them with pre-paid postage to return. When mailed back, which usually took a bit of time, we would then digest everything. This method was time and financially intensive and really only implemented when we had something imperative.

Solution: Figma

We leveraged Figma’s prototype and multiplayer modes to get around installation and security issues. This enabled us to follow and record the exact mouse actions, interactions with prototypes, and offer better support and facilitation of research.