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How an education technology startup uses data for effective active learning

How an education technology startup uses data for effective active learning

We’ll be the first to tell you how much we love to learn. And learning comes in all shapes, sizes and it happens at any age. Because of what we do and who we get to support and work with, our education is ongoing, and best of all, it’s diverse.

Any time we get to share stories of our customers’ experiences and learnings with collecting and analyzing data is a time to cherish—because we get to learn from the best data set around—you, our customers. 

On that note, please welcome Allison Harper to the blog to share her education startup’s survey story. Allison runs marketing at Smartlya free learning and career platform that offers certificates and degrees, starting with an MBA.

Thanks for joining us, Allison!

Our innovative, mobile-first design makes learning over ten times faster and more engaging than traditional online courses. Smartly has hundreds of lessons with over a 96% approval rating by learners. But, let’s back up a bit first.

In 2014, Smartly was a fledgling startup. Our founding members had been leaders at Rosetta Stone, the highly successful language learning company renowned for “no translation” and bright yellow packaging.

Our very small employee-base, composed of content and software developers, was split between D.C. and Harrisonburg, VA, and we were finally ready to premier what we’d been working on for about a year: our pilot active learning platform called Smartly.

We absolutely knew how effective active learning can be based on our experience at Rosetta Stone, countless consultations with experts, and from a plethora of research around computers, humans, and education. But we’d never tested our own creation before. The thought of finally getting real, live learner feedback was exhilarating…but also daunting.

We demoed our product to heads at The Business School for the World (INSEAD), a top business school in France, and designed a pilot project with them to prepare their incoming class of MBA students for the first day of statistics and accounting classes. It would be a “pre-MBA” pilot program for hundreds of students using Smartly as the learning medium.

After securing this pilot project, we then needed to figure out how exactly would we measure our success. We track many events in our product that help us understand how learners interact and enjoy learning. We analyze course completion rates, learners’ idle time and correct/incorrect answers. But, we also wanted to get a more direct understanding of learner feedback, which was essential. And that’s where SurveyMonkey came in.

We designed a series of before and after surveys for students that asked them some “hard truth” questions that we needed to know. Questions like how much confidence they had in different subjects before and after learning, how likely they would have been to recommend Smartly to other students (Net Promoter Score®), and what changes they thought we should make in order for us to get a better rating from them in the future.

Making sure our surveys were short and to the point was key. We put each question on a separate page so that we could get some data instead of none, in case survey-takers dropped out before survey completion. The creation of the surveys was simple and intuitive, and we benefitted greatly from the learning material that SurveyMonkey provides to ensure effective surveys. We easily sent students the link via emails.

Our pilot project ended, and we were floored by the results. The confidence level of students rose 70% after learning with our product. Students also gave us a high Net Promoter Score®, and they let us know they thought our product was “user-friendly,” “sleek,” and “innovative.” In addition, they gave us a number of extremely helpful recommendations of how to improve for the future.

SurveyMonkey helped us see for the first time a positive reaction to our hard work. The results were certainly a morale boost for our team, and since then we’ve used the data (and of course have collected more data to do further analyses) to communicate with potential investors, institutional clients, individuals in the consumer market, and more.

When we conduct research these days, we model our surveys after our first pilot study, and we continue to use SurveyMonkey almost every month to get vital answers to help our business.

To learn more about Smartly, visit their resource center here or leave a question/comment for Allison below!

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