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Startup Education

Startup Weekend Education Redesign

How can we help generate momentum in ed-tech communities?


Startup Education is a global community of passionate individuals committed to changing the future of education.  The diverse and expanding community is made up of educators, designers, developers, policy makers, community organizers, etc.

In the interest of progressing education forward, Startup Education occasionally entices the entrepreneurial spirit within the community in the form of a 54-hour experiential learning hackathon event called Startup Weekend. 

Startup Education came to our design team looking for an easy way for ed-tech community organizers around the world to better communicate with each other, sharing lessons learned and advice they have for growing local ed-tech communities.  During this 2.5-week design challenge, my team was asked to consider how we might unite the ed-tech leaders around the world and empower them to strengthen their local communities.  

Who are the ed-tech community leaders and what are their challenges?

Our client provided an initial list of influential ed-tech community leaders across the globe to which we were able to reach out to and interview.  In addition, other ed-tech influencers were recommended throughout the course of the original interviews, creating a ripple-like effect in our stakeholder engagement.

Our main takeaway from the interview was that our community leaders were involved in distinct communities currently in drastically different stages of development.  Some were well-developed, due to the robust surrounding tech scene, while other were in beginning stages and growing slowly due to their distance from a large city.  

How does a thriving community come to be? What are the milestones, from point of origin to self-sustainment?

We researched patterns of community building within other like-minded organizations.  We spoke with organizers from Women Who Code, Code for America and Ted Talks. In addition, we reached out to education-focused organizations such as Mozilla Hive and Maker Ed.  Lastly, we went around to talk to some local co-working spaces to get a sense of how community was fostered there.

These conversations and go-sees all pointed to the fact that there is no one correct way to build community - no step-by-step recipe.  To begin building community, one must first have a clear understanding of who they are trying to attract, and what values they all share.

Taking what we learned from the competitor research, we turned back to the stakeholder interviews for insights into our personas.  We started by breaking community development down into 3 stages:

  1. Seeking Community
  2. Defining Community
  3. Maintaining Community

From there, we paired each stage with a persona, noting their primary needs within that stage:

• Community Builder: Currently "Seeking Community".  Looking for advice and support from more established ed-tech communities.

• Community Leader: Currently "Defining Community".  Looking for ways to feed the community passion and fuel the momentum.

 Superconnector: Currently "Maintaining Community".  Looking for ways to strategically connect people within the community to support education focused projects. 

In which stage is there the largest opportunity for impact by the community leaders ?

After reviewing the user journey map, we concluded that the biggest opportunity stage for our leaders was in Stage 2.  Within Stage 2, "Defining Community", community leaders have a dedicated set of community members, but are still looking to attract more people and share some of their organizer responsibilities with the greater group.  We found, after talking to several community leaders in this stage, that they're primarily looking  to inspire the existing community through hosting events and meetups.  One event shown to generate a lot of inner momentum was Startup Weekend.  It had proven to be a pivotal point in the growth of the community, yet fewer events than you'd imagine were being hosted.  

Taking a closer look at the community leader's needs, we recognized that they were fully capable of hosting a Startup Weekend, yet lacked resources.  The resources provided by the site weren't cohesive enough or easily accessible.

Site Re-Design Strategy

 We did an audit of the current sites, noting points of confusion in the existing architecture.  We focused on how a community organizer would sign up to host an event and acquire supplemental resource guides.  Our goal was to make that flow much simpler and more intuitive (fewer clicks).  We wanted to encourage the leader to complete the application rather than cause them frustration.

On the current site, the application could be accessed from the Startup Education site, in addition to the Startup Weekend site.  Unfortunately the process for these two sites differed, as did their end points.  In the redesign, we consolidated the flows to utilize one universal application form that, when completed, brought you to the communal Organizers Homepage with applicable resources.

With our goals in mind, we pulled together some quick wireframes and assembled them into a click-through prototype.  We set up remote-testing with our stakeholders and had them run-through the site-reorganization, offering feedback throughout the flow.  The overall response was positive, but they felt further prioritization could be more helpful.  The value of the tools needed to be emphasized more and the amount of superfluous content should be trimmed, leaving only the most pertinent information.

We revised the designs, and tested the next iteration with local users, asking them to access the application, complete it, and locate the organizer resources.  We also had our participants complete the task on the existing site, functioning as a point of comparison.  The users accessed the application 90% faster on the new design compared to the existing one, averaging 16 seconds compared to 171 seconds.  In addition, we got feedback to trim down the content even more.  Even though there was a lot of rich content in the resources, it was still proving to be overwhelming to our participants. 

The final design incorporated the given feedback, working to streamline the application flow and make the resources manageable and easy to access.  In addition, I applied this thought process to a mobile app extension of the organizer resources.  The app is even more trimmed down than the website, mainly focusing on the checklist and note taking during the planning stages and day-of event.