Dost Education is an India-based ed-tech nonprofit building software, audio content, and toolkits that make it easy for low-income parents of any literacy level to boost their child’s early development. Dost is presently used by over 50,000 families in India. Dost is backed by Y Combinator and the Mulago Foundation, and receives assistance on the field from UNICEF. I worked with a PM (Kathleen Jiang) and engineer (Nitin Bansal) to design for the client, Dost Education. My contributions include client and user interviews, mapping the current journey, conducting secondary research, developing virtual training and rewards best practices, and prototyping.
Traditionally, trainings were done in-person, however with Covid-19, Dost is looking to redesign their training processes for a remote working environment. By improving virtual training, this project will drive engagement, excitement, and understanding, and parent subscriptions and growth results, while decreasing drop-out rates and uncertainty.
The target users are Parent Champions - who are entrepreneurial and typically stay-at-home moms who have completed Dost’s programs before as super users and were recruited by Dost and work part-time for Dost to engage other parents into exploring the Dost product.
This project will address:
• Making the virtual training more engaging and effective
• Collecting two-way feedback
• Integrating a gamification and rewards system
• Parent champion training process redesign
• Redesign for the remote working environment
• Anything outside of the training process
• In-person training processes
• Basic smartphones, limited tech know-how
• Limited internet bandwidth
• Dependency on WhatsApp
• Best practices guide
• Redesigned training journey, high-fidelity prototype
Before the pandemic, Parent Champions were able to engage with each other on the field. Parent Champions supported each other and went in groups to different villages to talk to parent users about the Dost product. With the Covid-19 pandemic, Parent Champion training is completely virtual and lacking for a remote working environment.
I facilitated user interviews with 3 current Parent Champions to gain their understandings about the training process, what they enjoy and what their pain points are. All interviews were conducted in Hindi, with translations provided by Nitin Bansal and the assistance of Dost staff. A few key user insights:
Scheduling is difficult
Juggling taking care of their children, household work, and being a Parent Champion can be difficult. Oftentimes, Parent Champions are needed before lunch and dinner to prepare food for their family, but these times often differ and coincide with Dost trainings.
Reluctance to give honest feedback
Parent Champions often felt reluctant to provide honest feedback given the employer-employee nature of Parent Champions to Dost staff and fear of negative repercussions.
Unsure of need
Parent Champions expressed for concern over why some parts of the training are necessary.
Insights from a brainstorming session conducted after user research are shown below:
The best practices research can be separated into 3 parts:
1. Virtual Training
2. Two-Way Feedback
3. Rewards & Incentives
• Notify about training in advance and send asynchronous materials ahead of time
• Make the training easily accessible and have dost trainers prepare engaging questions ahead of time
• Make training goals clear - how they align with Dost and Parent Champions' day-to-day and why each skill learned is important and impactful
• Facilitate peer-to-peer learning
• Conduct knowledge quizzes, polls, chats, and breakout rooms to encourage participation and engagement
• Capture learnings, information that was shared, and action items to send to Parent Champions after the training
• Send an anonymous feedback survey to collect feedback on training logistics and content
Virtual training sketches and storyboard are shown below:
• Have a conversation around feedback
• Share how-to's on giving and receiving feedback
• Provide examples of appropriate feedback and define what makes feedback effective
• Create a feedback-safe environment - reassure that honest feedback will not result in negative repercussions and be respectful
• Establish a clear structure including the goals and tools used for feedback sessions
• Use different feedback channels such as an anonymous feedback survey for data, 1-on-1 feedback sessions for participant-specific feedback, and group feedback sessions for insights and common issues
• Highlight decisions made on feedback and provide rationale
• Recognize the ideas coming from Parent Champions
• Define clear recognition program objectives and criteria for behaviors and metrics rewarded
• Inform all Parent Champions before training of the rewards program purpose and details
• Have recognition be publicly visible to others for transparency and communication
• Determine the metrics to measure and how to measure them (for e.g. performance, productivity, engagement, turnover, morale)
• Measure metrics throughout the programs' duration and optimize
SELECT FINAL BEST PRACTICE FEATURES
Because of technological constraints in designing for low resource environments with low bandwidth and lack of technology know-how, the designs are limited to within the WhatsApp application, Zoho forms, and explored web browser sites.
For inclusion of Parent Champions with varying literacy levels and added context, voice messages are now included.
Blended synchronous and asynchronous learning
Benefit of a synchronous learning strategy with the option to go at their own pace for an added asynchronous learning strategy. Provides additional flexibility for Parent Champions with busy household schedules.
To reduce cognitive overload from long texts of important information sent over WhatsApp, image texts are incorporated. Seeing the image in group chat media allows for easy access when referencing it later.
Training goals established
Structured training while making clear the goals of the training and how they align with Dost's mission demonstrates the importance of aligning training to realities.
Leverage online tools for engagement and interaction
Incorporate tools that offer greater engagement and interaction, such as Slido (pictured), which let Parent Champions answer live polls recapping meeting information and then see a summarizing leaderboard. Introduce any new tools with a demo video sent beforehand to allow time for Parent Champions to practice using it.
Integrate feedback into the training
Due to the hierarchical nature of the Parent Champions to Dost staff members relationship, Parent Champions often feel reluctant to provide any feedback for the Dost team about the training and surveys. Incorporate anonymous feedback into part of the training to encourage a feedback-safe environment where honest feedback is valued.
REWARDS AND INCENTIVES
WhatsApp sticker Dost medals
Create a supportive environment in which Parent Champions are rewarded for their achievements. Parent Champions will unlock a "Dost Certified" medal upon training completion. Subsequent Parent Champion medals explored are for reached milestones such as the number of parents registered, activations completed, and surveys collected. I converted these Adobe Illustrator made stickers into usable versions for Dost staff members to adopt (Canva templates with editable colors and text).
Make recognition publicly visible
A medal count and leader board, updated by a Dost trainer, are made visible for all Parent Champions for transparency. Major milestone medals are tracked and then awarded quarterly to Parent Champion WhatsApp chats.
USABILITY TEST INSIGHTS
A usability test was carried out with Parent Champions.
Test sending PDF slides and visual text:
• Everyone was able to easily access it and Parent Champions found this helpful to follow along
• Parent Champions enjoyed visual text messages and felt that it was easy to understand
Test video demos (how to use the Slido tool):
• Parent Champions found the demo videos easy to watch, clear, and helpful to learn the tool
• The video helped Parent Champions know how to use Slido faster
Test using Slido, an interactive live polling website:
• 67% of Parent Champion users were able to access the quiz and felt it was easy to use
• 33% of Parent Champions were unable to get past the Slido splash page because of bandwidth issues
• Parent Champions felt like Slido was exciting and fun, like they were in school taking a quiz
FINAL prototype and training journey
Two storyboards and prototypes detailing the redesign of scenario 1 of onboarding training and scenario 2 of a new survey training were provided to Dost, as well as design artifacts and user interview notes as final deliverables. Each prototype can be walked through as a story being told about Priya, a Dost Parent Champion who is completing her virtual training.
OTHER FINDINGS & NEXT STEPS
Insights and subsequent solutions:
• Parent Champions desire more structure to their life and work under the new normal, so Dost might want to explore suggested work schedules or a workshop for scheduling work activities and using calendar apps
• Parent Champions have difficulty understanding the "work from home" concept, so Dost might want to explore a workshop on "work from home" and providing tools and tips for remote productivity
• Parent Champions sometimes run into challenging questions from end users, so Dost might want to set a norm for peer-to-peer feedback and advice in WhatsApp channels or review recorded conversations with Dost trainers
• The redesigned virtual training program is currently being piloted at Dost with a new cohort of Parent Champions
• Gather feedback and optimize the program
• Explore other potential apps and tools to facilitate training that work with very low bandwidth (i.e. Kahoot, Quizizz)
Always meet the users wherever they are
The mindset is essential no matter where your users are located. It is crucial to understand your users and meet the users where they are, wherever they are. For this project, we dealt with different levels of literacy, bandwidth issues, technological constraints, and low resource environments. Despite that, a set of best practices can be applied to any project located anywhere that has to do with optimizing for slow connections, accounting for differing levels of literacy, and designing for comprehension.