Client: UCLA Psychology Department
Project Sponsor: Karen Givvin & Jim Stigler
Education at all levels suffers from a disconnect between research into best practices and implementation in the classroom. First, it’s difficult to study practices in situ, as doing so would ideally involve randomly assigning individual students to different instructional inter- ventions. Then, even when opportunities to apply newfound understanding of how to best serve students are identified, it is often difficult (if not impossible) to apply those findings in a timely manner.
Stigler and the CourseKata team wanted to create a tool for statistics courses with dynamic content that could produce different versions for selected groups of students. This innovation would permit researchers to analyze the effects of different versions of the textbook and allow them to adapt the content to optimize learning.
WHY EDIFY WAS CHOSEN
Stigler and his team initially sought an off-the-shelf product that could fulfill their vision of an online platform. Finding none, they contacted a number of potential partners and asked them to craft an approach. Edify’s solution aligned well with their needs and in 2018, a partnership was formed.
Edify and UCLA confronted two distinct challenges in bringing the Better Book Project to life. First, UCLA’s team was not familiar with the software development process and didn’t have experience working with an outside technology consulting firm. Initially, their requirements were defined by the academic context of their research project and involved a number of unknowns and assumptions. They hoped to develop technical requirements on the fly while spending as little as possible. Diego Munguia, one of Edify’s founding partners led the discovery process said, “We had to overcome this challenge by communicating in a non- technical way the minutiae of the engineering process in relation to our billing schema.”
The second challenge Diego uncovered was technical in nature. The CourseKata team hoped to integrate a number of disparate software services into a single unified solution, which, in some cases conflicted with the closed nature and intended use of those services. Again, communication between Edify and CourseKata was essential to defining a successful end solution. Throughout the discovery period Edify held Q&A sessions with CourseKata almost every day, resulting in a robust understanding of the goals, constraints, and requirements of the project.
During the design phase, the Edify team worked iteratively with Stigler, Givvin, as well as other members of the CourseKata research team. As the sole technical contributor to the project, Edify developed both the frontend and backend technology.
When asked about the design process, Stigler and Givvin said Edify was incredibly flexible for their needs: “Javier and Diana help us to refine our requirements, suggest alternative strategies, manage our priorities, and then implement the work... Diana is an excellent project manager, and also a conscientious communicator, making sure that details don't fall through the cracks. Javier works hard to figure out what we want, and to help us refine our requirements."
In January 2019, after 6 months of work, CourseKata launched The Better Book Project with some of the following key design features:
- • Integrating Technology from Multiple Services
- Because there was nothing on the market to meet all of CourseKata’s needs, Edify spent the first three months of the design phase implementing different technologies to find the best possible solution for CourseKata.
- • Compatible with Multiple Content Management Systems
- Edify ensured the project could be used on multiple learning management systems (LMS), including Moodle and Canvas.
- • Control and Experimental Groups
- Edify ensured researchers could create base and variation groups for research comparison and analysis.
Today, the Better Book Project has been implemented by 25 instructors at seven institutions. While the project is currently only focused on statistics courses, there are plans to use the platform for other classes to increase research opportunities for other disciplines.
This implementation was made possible by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative DAF, an advised fund of Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and led to both a grant from the California Learning Lab and additional CZI funding.
Researchers on the team have presented their findings numerous times including conferences at Google and Stanford University, and have published articles about the technology in academic journals including:
Stigler, J.W., Son, J.Y., Givvin, K.B., Blake, A., Fries, L., Shaw, S.T., & Tucker, M.C. (in press). The Better Book model for education research and development. Teachers College Record.
Fries, L. C., Son, J. Y., Givvin, K. B., & Stigler, J. W. (in press). Practicing connections: A framework to guide instructional design for developing understanding in complex domains. Educational Psychology Review.
THE PROCESS CONTINUES
Stigler and his team have been very satisfied with Edify’s performance, saying, “Given the nature of our project, we are happy with the flexibility afforded by the ‘pay as you go’ contract.”
They also praised Edify’s responsiveness: “We define requirements, identify possible improvements, and set priorities. Javier and Diana help us to refine our requirements, suggest alternative strategies, manage our priorities, and then implement the work. We accomplish all of this through bi-weekly sprint calls and weekly check-ins.”
Time management skills surfaced as another key asset of the Edify team: “The time estimates we were given were generally on target, and work usually was accomplished before the expected end date.”
Today, Edify continues to help CourseKata improve the Better Book Project and adapt it for use at different universities with different technologies. When asked about the partnership between Edify and CourseKata, they wrote:
“In summary, we are quite satisfied with the working relationship we have developed with Edify. We look forward to continuing our work together as we expand and improve our CourseKata platform.”
CourseKata and the Better Book Project were essential to the development of Edify, as it was one of the first technological innovations they developed with a university team. Since they began their work with Stigler and the CourseKata team, Edify has used their wealth of experience to help universities and organizations like the UCLA Psychology Department’s Teaching and Learning Lab’s CourseKata team to transform their visions into technology platforms that dramatically improve research and educational outcomes.
Edify uses their understanding of the education and research domains to create cost-efficient technology solutions, consistently delivering highly successful custom products and technologies currently used by thousands of students, teachers, and educational institutions throughout the world.
If you’d like to learn more about how Edify can help your educational technology company, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karen Givvin & Jim Stigler
/UCLA Psychology Department
"The time estimates we were given were generally on target, and work usually was accomplished before the expected end date."
"In summary, we are quite satisfied with the working relationship we have developed with Edify. We look forward to continuing our work together as we expand and improve our CourseKata platform."