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Revolutionizing the Public School System — a Design Sprint Case Study

When Romania locked down in 2020, education was hit hard. At Durran, we were driven to make sure students, teachers and parents had better access to the resources they needed, leading a Durran Design Sprint to support Edus, an EdTech company serving 650+ schools and 100,000+ users, rethink its platform and redefine its target audience.

Dani Andor picture profile founder durran
Daniel Andor
6.11.2020

TL;DR

  • Project duration: 3 weeks (from identifying the main pain points to hand-over to the development team)
  • Goal: The primary goal was to redesign the existing Edus platform and improve user experience. However, testing new ideas led to us rethinking the platform’s structure from the ground up, as well as redefining Edus’ target customer.
  • Format: The entire Sprint was run remotely, using platforms such as Miro and Zoom.

Outcome Highlights:

  • 6 concepts and 1 interactive prototype generated
  • Feedback gathered from 3 user tests
  • New target customer defined
  • Enhanced student onboarding 
  • Gained crucial buy-in from local teachers
  • Most importantly, the Edus team is now realigned with clear focus on upcoming goals

Project Background

In Romania, where our story takes place, the entire school system was forced to undergo a massive digitalisation process due to the government’s COVID-19 lockdown. It turned out to be the perfect opportunity for Edus to take the stage, save the day, and scale their business.

What is Edus?

Edus offers a complete education management solution, with 100,000+ active users and a presence in 650+ schools across Romania. The company’s known for helping all education system beneficiaries get together on the same platform — parents, students, teachers and school representatives.

With years of experience working with the education system, Edus helps teachers focus on teaching by reducing the time they need to spend on administrative work. This frees educators up to dedicate more of their time to what they do best: improving students’ academic performance and supporting new generations’ development.

The Challenge

Initially, Edus came to us with the goal of improving their platform’s overall user experience and setting a baseline for future development. Based on conversations with the Edus team and analysis of the existing platform, Durran opted to lead a two-week Design Sprint to create and validate a new direction for the platform.

To keep things interesting, there were a couple of specific challenges we had to address:

  • On the whole, teachers in Romania aren’t hugely tech-savvy and tend to resist change
  • Some Romanian students don’t have internet access, email addresses, or even devices they can use to get online
  • In general, Romania’s education system is outdated

Durran Design Sprint Process Overview

We used a two-week Design Sprint process, consisting of a Research and Strategy week followed by the Design Sprint week itself. We then added an extra week to finalise our designs and hand the project over to the development team.

As the whole Design Sprint process was remote, we also made slight adjustments to our normal scheduling, splitting the first day of the Sprint in two and moving some of the exercises offline, to make the process less exhausting.

The Team

Durran facilitated the Sprint and oversaw technical and creative design, with input from Edus’:

  • Founder
  • Product Manager — also the lead decision-maker throughout the Design Sprint
  • Chief Technical Officer
  • Marketing Specialist
  • Business developer

We ran the full Sprint mostly using platforms such as Miro and Zoom, but the full resource toolkit’s listed further down.

Week 1: Research & Strategy /  Project Kick-off

First, I reviewed Edus’ current platform and researched one of their main competitors. I then structured Week 1 around two main workshops with key decision-makers from Edus (the Founder and Product Manager) to better understand the product and establish a vital shared baseline for the decisions we’d make about the Edus platform, as well as which user personas we’d address.

On a conference call with Edus’ Founder and Product Manager, we discussed the product’s journey so far, its challenges, goals, target users, marketing strategies and channels, as well as how Edus plans to monetise its platform and the company’s main opportunities and advantages.

We analysed Edus’ competitors, and how Edus’ platform compares to its rivals, followed by a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats) Analysis to evaluate Edus’ assets and areas for improvement.

Next, we used the 4P’s of Marketing (place, price, product & promotion) to guide us towards a clearer view of Edus’ business and how and to whom they sell. We used a Value Proposition Canvas to identify typical jobs held by members of Edus’ target audience, the pains the Edus platform could solve for these target users and what they’d gain from the Edus product. Finally, we created a Positioning Statement to clarify Edus’ next steps and how the company aims to present itself to its target audience.

We summarised our discussions so far using a Business Model Canvas, so the information could be easily revisited and shared with the wider Edus team.

The next day, we discussed and defined Edus’ main user personas and created an empathy map and a customer journey map to locate the most challenging parts of the audience journey. For Edus, this was onboarding teachers, including supporting them in adding their students and courses onto the platform.

Besides this, the Durran team conducted additional research to explore how Edus’ competitors were solving similar challenges and created a mood board to outline potential redesign directions for their platform. We also mapped out their app’s current flow, and had one-on-one calls with the Edus team members who would join the Design Sprint to explore their perspectives on the platform’s major challenges, and walk them through using Miro.

Outcome: Week 1

  • Clear understanding of Edus’ education sector context and challenges faced
  • Overview of Edus’ existing strong points: sales team, connections with the Romanian educational system, experience in the field, etc.
  • Clearly defined user personas, with an empathy map and a customer journey map
  • Clear understanding of key areas for improvement: adding new features, finding new strategic partnerships, improving overall platform experience, etc.
  • Clear understanding of the crucial pain point for Edus’ current platform users: the onboarding process

The Design Sprint Week

The Durran team used the information acquired during the first week of the project to pre-populate the boards for each exercise throughout the Design Sprint. This provided a time-saving and less overwhelming starting point for the Edus team, putting everyone on the same page. 

Day 1: Understand the Challenge, Map It Out and Find Inspiration

After a brief introduction, we moved onto Expert Interviews. The aim here was to continue to understand Edus’ context and challenges, but now with a more targeted approach based on the information we’d gathered in Week 1. While the Edus Product Manager and CEO were sharing their insights, the rest of the Edus team took How Might We notes on Post-its to explore the problem space, encourage brainstorming and uncover fresh perspectives. 

We organised the entire process remotely, using Miro and virtual Post-it notes to support collaborative, transparent and flexible thinking across the combined Durran - Edus team. We then grouped the Post-its by category to zoom in on specific problem areas (for example, the sign-up and onboarding process).

Next, we moved onto defining Edus’ Long-Term Goal — the ideal outcome for the updated product — and the Sprint Questions we’d ask to see which obstacles might stop us from reaching that goal. We voted on the suggested Long-Term Goals and Sprint Questions, and Edus’ Product Manager selected which ones we’d focus on during the Sprint.

Before we started the Design Sprint week, the Durran team had partially filled out a Sprint Map using the insights from the Pre-Sprint week. So at this point, we went through the flow with the Edus team, updating it with relevant information. Next, we added the most-voted How Might We notes, and then selected our target area for the Sprint. Then, we moved onto selecting a target area for our Sprint informed by Edus’ main pain point: the onboarding process for new teachers.

Once we’d defined this crucial target area, the next step was researching sources that could help us formulate innovative solutions. We used a Lightning Demo approach to gather and share ideas across the Durran-Edus team. Everyone took 45 minutes of independent, offline work to look into how other companies had approached the onboarding process, jotting down two or three lines on the solutions they identified and using Loom to create short videos to highlight examples. Once the task was finished, the Durran team added the findings to the Sprint’s Miro board, as easily accessible reference material for everyone moving forward.

Day 2: Inspirations and Sketches

We started Day 2 by individually presenting the onboarding solutions we’d researched, from Edus competitors (Class Dojo, Edmodo, etc.) to more distanced examples (Masterclass, Monday.com, Zapier’s onboarding, Survey Monkey’s quiz creation process, etc.), then assessing them as a team.

For the next step, we went through everything we accomplished so far — How Might Wes, Long-Term Goal, Sprint Questions, the map and the Lightning Demos — and started to take notes, individually writing down what we found interesting and inspiring. Once this was done, we moved on to doodling and then Crazy 8s: our notes became doodled ideas and potential screens, which were then fleshed out with rapid ideation and iteration across 8 development areas, in 8 minutes.

These tools built us towards our next offline task, which rounded up Day 2 — The 3 Part Concept Sketch. This is a powerful method of showcasing ideas, rapidly creating solutions, and deciding what we wanted to build and what components it should feature. Before putting pixels on the screen, each team member used the old school pen and paper method to design their own concept, then photographed it and sent it over to the Durran team. The concepts didn’t have to be perfect or aesthetic; just good enough for all the team members to understand how they’d solve the challenges we’d identified without additional presentations or discussions.

Day 3: Concept Sketch and Storyboard

We started Day 3 with a team vote on ideas we liked in the submitted concepts, creating a heatmap of various aspects that seemed interesting and worth exploring later on. 

For the following phase, each team member chose their favourite concept for solving Edus’ onboarding challenge and presented the reasoning behind their choice. Edus’ Product Manager then evaluated all the selected concepts, as well as the rationale behind them, to cast the deciding vote. 

Next up: designing the User Test Flow. We used a similar approach, with everybody writing down their thoughts, then voting on them before the Edus Product Manager selected the version to be used.

We finished this high-intensity day by creating a Storyboard, which would form the prototype’s backbone. We used the Concept Sketches we had already, cutting them so we could fill each step on the Storyboard. We also added a list of the elements required on each screen, to make the prototyping step even more straightforward.

Day 4: Creating the Prototype

Using the insights acquired so far, we moved onto creating the prototype for Edus’ updated onboarding process.

We used Sketch to design the screens and InVision for prototyping, tying everything together for the user test. The Storyboard was crucial in facilitating this stage of the process, as it clearly mapped out all the relevant information in one place; no back and forth or second-guessing.

Day 5: User Testing

The final day of the Sprint week was reserved for user testing. 3 teachers agreed to test our prototype and give feedback on our work. We were excited about this step, given that most teachers in Romania aren’t very tech-savvy; this would mean that their feedback would be particularly valuable for helping us reach Edus’ most elusive target audience.

For the User Testing process, we used the InVision platform prototype and Zoom — which proved to be very helpful, given a lot of teachers were already using Zoom for their online classes  — as well as Miro to take notes during the testing sessions. 

The feedback we received was mostly positive: the teachers liked the new user flow and the platform’s new design. We’d increased the sizes of buttons and input fields, which they really appreciated. Also, one issue that they were pleased to see fixed was finding a way to create new accounts for students without needing to add their email address. Creating a way around this had tremendous impact, as some students don’t have internet access, or don’t own their own device.

We did get some push-back on one of the features we wanted to implement, so we decided not to move forward with that for the moment, which saved some time in the development stage. Based on the teachers’ feedback, we also reorganised the sidebar menu to better fit their way of working.

“I believe that the main obstacles we identified through the Sprint were our main pain points — the onboarding, and even more importantly, aligning our team on the same goals. Up until the Sprint, we didn’t really make time as a team to think about whether what we were doing was right or wrong in these crazy times. This process should be implemented in our projects more often and at a very early stage.” — Costina Papari, Project Manager @ Edus

Outcomes: Week 2 - Design Sprint 

  • Validated idea & user flow
  • Validated design direction
  • Clear understanding of user problems and how to solve them: an easier way to onboard new users, let users into the platform even if they don’t have an email address, reorganised sidebar, etc.
  • Ideas bank for the Edus team to refer to for future developments 
  • Alignment between Edus team members regarding target customers, challenges, solutions used, and what to focus on next

Finishing Touches

Once we finished the Sprint week, we used the learnings and feedback from the User Testing to make some adjustments to the prototype and move forward to creating the rest of the pages.

Since the user flow had been validated during the user feedback session, we didn’t change too much in that area. Our focus was on creating a Design System and the rest of the pages that were needed, so that we could hand the project over to the developers.

The Design System itself is a convenient resource, as the developers can use it to create all the necessary elements and states for the site. It’s also beneficial for coming up with new pages fast, if required, and making sure that design and features remain consistent across the updated site.

We used Sketch for designing the screens — creating a significant amount of the screens required for Edus’ platform redesign in just one week — and handed them over to the developers using InVision. Two months later, with a few check-ins and clarification calls, Edus’ revamped platform was ready to welcome the new academic year’s teachers.

Design Sprint: Overall Outcome

During the Sprint, we generated 6 concepts and 1 interactive prototype.

At the end of the Sprint, we tested the prototype with 3 teachers who helped us validate our direction, while sharing valuable insights into how to reorganise the sidebar, their main pain points (e.g., they needed a way to add students without email addresses) and how teachers actually use Edus’ platform.

We also reassessed Edus’ target customer, moving the platform from focusing directly on schools, to opening it up to teachers, students and parents. Likewise, we prepared suggestions for improving the platform even further and aligned the Edus team’s priorities using the Impact / Effort Scale (which puts high impact, low effort solutions first). 

The Edus team’s feedback on the Durran Design Sprint process was highly positive, and they were also left impressed by the amount of progress we’d made in such a condensed time period. The team also mentioned they’d happily recommend the Design Sprint workshop to others.

I liked the friendly and open approach. I think it would have helped if we had more time for offline work. — Edus team member

Durran Remote Design Sprint Tips

1. Over-prepare, over-explain & show examples

It’s better to over-prepare, especially if you are facilitating your first Sprint. For the Edus Sprint, creating a checklist so we could make sure that everything was done was a lifesaver. We also found a few things helpful for keeping us on our planned timeline: noting down the outline of the Sprint in Notion, breaking the process down into easy to follow steps, preparing for specific exercises and pre-filling some of the canvases we used with our knowledge from Week 1.

Also, make sure that you explain everything in great detail and answer any questions that come up, so everybody understands what they need to do, when, and how to do it. Make sure you show examples as often as possible, as this supports better understanding of the tasks involved in the Sprint. 

When including offline work sessions, providing examples is even more key, as your Sprint participants will need to understand what’s required of them to get the results they need, even when you’re not there to lend a guiding hand. 

I’d also recommend sending out an email covering what they’ll need to prepare before the Sprint, such as ensuring they have a good internet connection, functional webcam and microphone, headphones and quiet surroundings. These might seem pretty obvious to some, but a reminder is always worthwhile. 

Make sure you organise a Pre-Sprint week before the Sprint itself, where you can spend time understanding the goal of the project, the business, its users, and the specific challenges that need to be solved.

2. Have a 1-on-1 call with each team member who’ll take part in the Sprint

This step helped the Durran team create an overview of each Edus participant’s role, understand both the product and the users, grasp the differences in how each team member viewed these aspects, and spot the misalignments.

It also gave us time to explain the Sprint process to the entire Edus team, as well as what they needed to prepare, and to showcase the tools we’d use, such as Miro.

3. Initiate participants in the tools you’ll use

Introducing your tools is a critical part of preparing for your Sprint: you have to make sure that everybody’s comfortable using them. We had some initial hiccoughs with Miro, even though we demoed it and let them try out the tool in our one-on-one call. Prepare for this. Technical problems will happen.

4. Breaks - HAVE BREAKS!

A Remote Design Sprint is not like an in-person one it’s more draining when you’re interacting online. So, make sure you include regular breaks in the schedule. Our workshops lasted for 3 hours each day, and we took a more extended break after 1.5 hours.

Design Sprint Toolset

  • Miro — the online collaborative whiteboard platform we used for the whole Sprint. We wrote Post-its, voted, took notes, uploaded the Lightning Demos and sketches and, at the end, we exported the entire contents as a PDF and handed it over to the Edus team.
  • Loom — the video recording tool we used for capturing ideas and explaining them for the Lightning Demos.
  • Zoom — the video conferencing tool we used throughout the Sprint, as well as for User Testing.
  • Notion — used for sending over the Sprint Brief, putting together the summary after the Sprint, and tracking almost every aspect of the project.
  • Sketch + InVision — for creating the Edus platform prototype, sharing it with the teachers for the User Testing phase, and sharing the prototype with the developers.

Next Steps

So there you have it: the story of how I ran my first Design Sprint at my newly launched design agency, Durran. Since then, I’ve run several other similar quests for businesses ready to harness all the advantages a Design Sprint has to offer.

We also put together a PDF version of this case study that you can download from our website.

Thank you for making it this far. I appreciate it!

TAGS: 
UX, Design Sprint
Dani Andor picture profile founder durran
Written by
Daniel Andor
Founder & Lead Product Designer @ Durran