Virtual Education with SMS

Engagement Details
  • 6 Weeks
  • 1 Product Manager
  • 1 Designer
  • 2 Developers

The startup we worked for provides learning opportunities in a classroom setting. To expand their operations and provide more training opportunities, they wanted to go digital. They had many unique restrictions and requirements with their busy target user base, and we knew we could help them quickly get to market to better raise funds by proving product-market fit.

Some of the key requirements they were dealing with were:

  • Students had full-time jobs and the learning experience should be asynchronous.
  • Students speak a variety of languages, so they should have an experience in their own language
  • Students are not technically savvy, so they need an intuitive interface that is very familiar.
  • Teachers need to spend most of their time interacting with students, so the rest of their experience should be automated as much as possible.

Our Process and Work

Starting with our Plan service, the client worked with our team on-site to understand and prioritize the initial feature set by understanding the goals of the first version of the software. Like most startups, they were very budget-limited (and therefore time-limited) so the major limitation was the effort required for the solution. Therefore, we worked with existing off the shelf technology to limit the amount of work required to go to market. This included early decisions like interfacing with SMS and WhatsApp to provide users a familiar and native experience without having to build a mobile app.

Once we were all on the same page, we prototyped the teacher User Experience (UX) to minimize the manual work required to maintain a classroom-like student-teacher relationship. With the added benefit of messaging templates, mass-messaging, and scheduled messages, we worked towards the goal of increasing the productivity of teachers tenfold by automating the mundane work.

When we got to work developing the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) we were successful in integrating with WhatsApp, despite limitations of the platform - most notably that the WhatsApp API was not designed for long-term communication. With clever techniques like friendly keep-alive messages, we helped the business pivot their communication model to work around these platform limitations.

This MVP was jam-packed with key functions to deliver a flexible experience:

Wireframe representation of delivered product
  • A minimal onboarding workflow
  • Group messaging vs. 1:1 communication
  • Scheduled messaging
  • Templated messaging
  • Multiple roles for Teachers (Instructors vs Course Creators)
  • Adjustable classrooms

This amount of polished work could have only been delivered in 6 weeks and within the budget because of the cross-platform architecture that allowed us to focus on the Teacher experience. For the backend, we wisely built an architecture that could easily scale to thousands of students while providing flexibility for the adjustment of the classroom courses and onboarding processes. This would allow business models to change (like the addition of Natural Language Processing or a Native Mobile App) and adapt to future market changes.

Wireframe representation of delivered product

The Results

Finally, we launched the platform under our Protect service to provide our best practices on hosting SaaS applications. This MVP proved product-market fit while making teachers (operations) 10x more efficient (more students). Backed by our expert services and partners, the startup was able to hire a CTO, secure more funding, and is disrupting its unique market today.

Core App Platform & API
Ruby on Rails
Frontend Javascript
React JS
JSON Web Tokens
API Specifications
Heroku, Postgres
Error Monitoring