One of the central tenants of the tools competition is engagement with users. This case study aims to provide insight into the process of user engagement throughout product development and support individuals who are developing products.
In this interview with Sashwati Banerjee, Founder and Director of Humanitus Learning Sciences and Consulting Services, she shared tips and strategies from her team’s experience working with parents to develop their Top Parent app.
Some strategies that Banerjee recommends include:
- Leverage existing partnerships (or form new partnerships) with grassroots organizations to reach users
- Identify a gap that your product can fill by talking with potential users to understand their needs
- Design a user experience that reflects feedback
- Regularly check-in with users to identify issues, areas for improvement, and suggestions
- Utilize user feedback in conjunction with the data that your product collects to inform continuous improvement
Read on to see how the team at Top Parent put these strategies into action.
What is Top Parent?
The Top Parent app, created by Humanitus Learning Sciences and Consulting Services, is a free mobile app solution that helps minimize learning loss in young students by fostering parent engagement.
The app integrates multimedia content including educational videos for children, parent-facing videos to scaffold learning through play, and gamified worksheets and monthly assessments designed to take children from emergent to foundational literacy and numeracy.
How To Engage Users: Start By Identifying a Need
In 2019, Sashwati Banerjee, Founder and Director of Humanitus, and her team conducted research with parents to gain an understanding of their needs. The research study of approximately 550 low-income parents in India found that the greatest challenge the parents faced in supporting their children’s educational development at home, was not feeling capable. Lacking the literacy skills necessary to engage with and evaluate their children’s progress, many parents did not feel confident in knowing how best to help their children. The onset of the pandemic only magnified the problem, as many students were now limited to at-home learning, which brought its own challenges. Many of the parents wanted to help but did not know how.
Building on global research, which concluded that if you engage parents you can see continued learning progression in children, Humanitus aimed to create a tool that would help parents better understand their children’s progress and actively engage with them at home to enhance learning outcomes. Humanitus specifically targeted low-income communities in India, where many of the students were first-generation learners with parents who lacked both basic literacy and digital literacy skills.
Engaging User to Develop the Solution
Humanitus leveraged their existing partnerships with grassroots organizations to reach out to communities and better connect with groups of parents. Using an immersive design model that engaged users in testing the design, user interface, and user experience, Humanitus created the TopParent app. Everything from the app name, logo, and branding was chosen based on user feedback and input, and the app was designed in Hindi, a language spoken by 44% of the population in India.
Early feedback from parents was instrumental in helping Humanitus decipher user experience issues. For example, for a time, the team recognized that there was a significant dropoff during the onboarding process, when users were asked for a telephone number. After investigating the issue, they found that many users were concerned about the potential of their number being tied to their bank account. Humanitus proceeded to launch an entire campaign that included changing the app’s overall design, including disclaimers, and more, to reassure users. The response resulted in dropoff being halted by 60%.
Regular check-ins with parents continue today in the form of weekly pulse checks that involve contacting 30-40 Top Parent users to identify issues they may be experiencing, changes they would like to see, or suggestions. Consistent user feedback has helped Humanitus realize the importance of keeping Top Parent and their approach simple. For example, based on feedback from parents, the rewards system within the app has been revamped, and the frequency of new content releases has changed.
Along with user feedback, the app’s development and continuous improvement are informed by what regular data collection shows. Humanitus works with third-party research company Center Square Foundation, which uses its own team to ensure the integrity of the research and validate all data collected.
Challenges Around User Engagement
Humanitus faced a number of challenges in getting the Top Parent app created and disseminated. One of the most difficult challenges was trying to shift the behaviors and mindset of parents. Many parents faced significant economic challenges, as well as other problems plaguing the larger community – such as malnutrition, alcohol abuse, etc. – making it very difficult to convince them to take time away from their wage-earning hours to engage with what they initially considered a silly mobile game.
Similarly, the overall culture around learning and development in India was challenging as the focus is predominantly on foundational literacy and numeracy skills. Non-academic elements of learning and development, such as critical thinking and executive functioning skills are rarely emphasized.
Humanitus works around these challenges by offering two types of parent-facing content on the app – informational, and practical tips or activities. The former emphasizes the cognitive development, physical and mental well-being of students, while the latter presents practical tips and activities that parents can do with children to help foster foundational literacy and numeracy skills. The combination of both types of content builds confidence and knowledge in parents, while also providing data that shows the impact of TopParent on student learning outcomes.
Other Advice For Engaging Users
For teams competing in the Tools Competition, or individuals generally interested in developing ed tech solutions, Banerjee advises seeking out a gap – an unmet need that your product can solve. She also stresses the importance of being passionate, in particular, about education, learning, and technology, and having a supportive and equally passionate team around you. And most importantly, she emphasizes the importance of staying flexible, as things can change in an instant. A fact demonstrated by the effects of the recent pandemic.