After all the struggle of communicating who you are and what you stand for in convincing the management to subscribe for Report Bee, the next immediate challenge is to make sure to do the same with the Principal & teachers, who are the real users of the product and may not be the direct decision makers in paying your bill for the first-time.
The first step and struggle is in generating interest in teachers to learn something new which is not part of their current workflow, with the promise that it will work; it’s here to stay for a long time; it’s worth investing & learning and it’s going to help in working better.
The success and failure of Report Bee simply lies in this first step. If this step fails, however good the product is, however powerful the management is, it’s not going to work. The final sentence or feeling which is going to prevail within the school is that, ‘the product doesn’t work’ when they haven’t even given a fair try to learn or use the product, rather we haven’t done a good job in convincing them to do so.
The most common reason, heard from the market, for the failure of any software product is directly related to the implementation rather than the quality of the product.
To solve the problem, it’s fairly simple to employ a person from Report Bee in the school to get the tasks done. Without bothering to convince the users, under the disguise of comforting the user, you are not even exposing them to your product. But this human resource intensive model apart from having scalability issue, kills the curiosity and keenness to learn the nuances of product usage in improving the product to be self-reliant. Thus, there is no other means of making your product work & scaling than making sure that the intended users have enough interest and are convinced to use the product by self-learning.
YES, now we are talking about learning and the most intuitive & natural way of learning, self-learning, but for adults.
What is the difference in learning between kids and adults?
Kids learn to quench their curiosity without the need to learn. Adults just can’t put themselves in line to learn something new without knowing why they should or what do they get out of it, at least a considerable number of adults. It’s easy as an adult to keep following the routine process which has been working and stable, rather than learning and switching to something new which could bring better efficiency and quality.
We have been doing the bit of convincing and answering the why & what, by being physically present in school in the name of teacher training. But with the number of customers going up, we switched to videos, online demo sessions, instruction documents, on boarding kits, and love email, interactive SMS to make the teachers listen and encourage them to give it a try. It has been working so far, but as we grow with more customers and geographical spread, there is a need for many lateral and direct methods to convince the user to invest time in learning the product and we believe that’s the way forward.
Share your ideas and thoughts on the methods you employed to convince your users to try your product.
The last phase of Report Bee’s very first Teacher’s Day Campaign had our Team working almost round the clock, so much that I don’t even remember sleeping for over a week! We stumbled upon a variety of interesting but panic-inducing challenges – getting envelopes too small, repeated shut down on systems at the printer’s, discovering missing messages on the last day, power failure and lots more. We successfully waded through these monumental challenges to make sure each teacher received her ‘surprise’ this Teacher’s Day, hidden in a designer card from Report Bee with personalised messages from their own colleagues.
The non-stop thrill ride lasted 7 days! Countdown begins…
Days Left = 7
28th August 2014, Thursday
Target: Complete card themes and finalise Envelopes.
Challenge: To buy an untested envelope or accept late delivery?
1. Overall Theme Completed: Front and back of general theme for the A6 cards was done (in 3 days).
2. Subject-wise Theme: 1 day needed.
3. Advance Money for Envelopes : With everyone else occupied, I had to go to make advance payment at 7:45 P.M for the tested Yellow envelopes. The rush was because we desperately needed the envelopes by 10 AM, Monday. But when I found that Ganesh Chaturthi, the next day, would affect our delivery by a several hours, I had to settle for untested Green A6-Envelopes. I bought 2000 A6 size Green envelopes!
Reached home at 10:30 PM.
Days Left = 6
29th Aug 2014, Friday
Target: Make messages fit the cards, find the ‘perfect font’ and Make Madras Day Poster.
Challenge:To automate deletion of unwanted space characters and to get a great font for messages.
An example of message with extra spaces that led to the messages spilling out:
Teachers Days wishes.
Unwanted Space Deleted: (I started work at 11:30 AM after the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations.) Excel, Umesh and Nikhil came to the rescue. Then, Sharanya asked me to check the edited messages and try Photoshop generation. “Works perfectly”, I replied at 3 PM.
Subject-wise Theme Completed: After lunch-break, I started working on the design at 4 PM; finished at 9 PM, or so I thought. Jack reviewed and gave a go ahead to the design but suggested a change of font type and colour for sender’s name and message.“Right Typography is important to convey the whole emotion of the design.” I tried 12-15 fonts from 9:30 PM to midnight till I found a close match. Checked with Jack; he gave a go ahead but was not 100% happy. My search for the right font continued till I found a beautiful one at 12:20 AM. Font applied with changed and balanced colours by 1:50 AM!
Poster for Madras Day: The day was not over yet as I had an important task of coordinating 375th Madras Year celebration with Madrasters at 6 AM (next day). I designed a poster by 2:30 AM and uploaded on Facebook.Now it was over!
Days Left = 5
30th Aug 2014, Saturday
Target: Coordinate Madras Day and Generate soft copies of Cards.
Challenge: Incorporate Umesh’s inputs before he leaves for his hometown.
Celebrated Madras Day: The idea was to get a selfi with all old monuments in Indo-Saracenic Revival Architecture Style or Indo-Gothic Style. Woke up at 4 AM (after just 1.5 hours of sleep), reached Central at 6:00 AM, and wrapped up by 11:15 AM.
Finalised Card Content: I reached office at 11:45 AM and found Umesh waiting for me to send the PSD template so he could check the PSD generation part. He came up with few more suggestions and made all changes himself despite being in a hurry to leave for his hometown!
Generated Cards: ..in Photoshop from 12:45 to 10:00 PM.
Reached home at midnight!
Days Left = 4
31st Aug 2014, Sunday
Target: Printing the final cards!
Challenge: To be patient and smart with Printers’ slow systems.
Increased Efficiency of Printers: Their staff took 1.15 hours to import 330 cards to Corel Draw and 15 more minutes to print them. We did not have 15-16 hours. I asked them to give me a good configuration system to try. I brought the time down from 30 seconds per import to just 5 seconds, or less. I Completed 777 cards in 20-25 mins!
Printed all Cards: Subjects cards were printed by 4:00 PM. I split the Generic Theme into two sets of 1000 and 1139 cards. Their system shut down twice after an import of every 1000 messages and took our momentum down. 1500 cards still had to be printed!
Reached home at 9:30 PM with more than 300 printed board sheets full of teacher’s wishes!!
Days Left = 31st Sept 2014, Monday
Target: Get cards cut and ready.
Challenge: Resolve all the annoying unexpected problems!
Got the Cards Cut: When I reached the printer’s Office at 7:45 AM, they were too busy to oblige. A bit of convincing and some luck saved me a delay of about 1.5 hours. I reached Office with the cards at 9 AM!
Nikhil Found 4 Problems: (1) Art & Co-curricular Theme card had 300 wrongly printed messages; (2) Few messages exceeding the cards by 5-6 lines were not visible; (3) The Green envelopes that I bought could hold only 4-5 cards; (4) Pasting printed Name labels would be inefficient and messy.
Sorted Cards by Number and School Domain: An efficient method (suggested by Jack) to simplify sorting took us 10 hours even with the help of Larva Bees.
Addressed the Identified Problems: Mothi and Kanmani went to get white Envelopes at 3 PM but we got them only by 7.30 PM (their bikes got towed away!) Sharanya reduced all exceeding messages individually; I generated cards from 8 to 10:20 PM. Sharayana suggested printing Name labels on stickers to save us time.
Reached home at midnight.
Days Left = 22nd Sept
Target: Get ALL the cards printed: missing cards, cards with errors, and Generic
Challenge: The day was full of unexpected challenges! So much to do in so little time.
Addressed the Identified Problems (from Previous Day): Work at Printer shop began at 10 AM after wasting 2 hours: 1 hour waiting for shop to open and half hour for the staff to figure out how to do the task. To top it, the two systems that I took hanged! The previous day taught me to make 11 separate folders with less than 300 messages each to keep their system from crashing (while importing files to CoralDraw).
New Problem: Just then, at 10:45 AM, the Manager said, “Electricity Board office is shut; go to Anna Nagar.” I reached Anna Nagar at 11:30 AM; completed 8 folder sets by 1:30 PM which Daniel came and took to Office. I finished the remaining 3 folder sets by 3 PM and reached Office by 4.30 PM.
Sorted, Separated and Enveloped the Cards: Larva Bees, Nikhil and Sharanya continued the marathon of sorting the cards. The high energy levels of the Team got this back-breaking task done by 7:45 PM!
Packed the Cards: Nikhil, Sharanya, Jack and myself packed from 8 to 9:30 PM.
Reached home at 11:30 PM!
Days Left = 1: The final DAY!!
3rd Sept 2014, Wednesday
Target: Pack and Courier.
Challenge: More missing messages; Pack and Courier before 8 PM!!
Packed the Cards and Gifts: Nikhil, Sharanya, Larva Bees and myself packed the whole day starting 10 AM.
Printed Missing Messages: 7 messages were found missing! I rushed to get them printed at 7 PM and returned (drenched in rain) by 8 PM.
Couriered: All looked good to go.
Principal opening the cards on Teacher’s Day.
Chasing a Tight Deadline as a Team Taught me a Few Lessons:
It’s good to experience challenges once in a while.
Printing brings unforeseen challenges; so be wise in blocking time for this job.
Nikhil’s ability to understand the problem in all its aspects by first asking questions, well before starting to solve.
Sharanya taught being smart and cute helps.
Larva Bees’ child-like curiosity to make things happen was very impressive. They are a great team!
The game ended at the final ball of the final over with a sixer!!
Visiting a Cloud Vidyashram (CV) school was one of the top items on my agenda during this trip to Chennai (in August). I was eagerly waiting to experience the WOW-ness of the most talked about project. In addition to the great vision the CV team upholds, CV seems to have struck the right cords with thousands of people concerned with quality and equality of education. Its rapidly rising Facebook likes since its roll out in June, my friends reaching out to me in praise of the initiative and articles in two of the prestigious newspapers are testimony to its popularity. CV team’s dream is to bridge the language gap so that one of the best Math tutorials may reach all children (and are not restricted to the English-speaking lot only). These videos are essentially Math concepts covered in 6th to 8th standard. The project is being piloted in two schools in Chennai, in collaboration with school authorities, wherein students of 11th standard are exposed to Salman Khan’s (Khan Academy) videos translated into Tamil.
Having waited so long, I could not have missed the only opportunity I had to make it to a school where CV was being implemented. So, despite a crazy schedule, I tagged along with Sharanya during her routine visits to Guindy School. All thanks to our secret project launch (Bee-to-Bee), we were running pretty late; to top it, Auto’s refused to take us one after another, and the coordinator’s call was not going through for Sharanya to make sure children wait in the room. Apparently, it’s a challenge to bring students back from the playground (which is where they would head if they find the room locked). That’s right! CV has found its place in the Games period, which children seem more than happy to sacrifice. There was bit of panic in the atmosphere, justifiably so. But suddenly, things started falling in place; after some 4 refusals, we found an Auto, the call went through and we reached the classroom to find everything in order.
Even though we were late by 20 minutes, the class was in progress with students engrossed in their respective tasks/videos. Sharanya apologised as some of the students were upset about having a shorter class. This was my first WOW! moment. Who, in their right minds complains when a Math, of all the classes, is cut short?? Once I settled in, I had my next WOW! moment. It is one thing to be in awe of the idea of children learning at their own pace and it is quite another to see it for real. This is the most beautiful aspect of this initiative since I too strongly believe that each child should ideally learn as per his own interest, curiosity and aptitude. Each child on a computer engrossed in Salman Khan’s lessons in Tamil, functioning on its own by filling out sheets and assessments…WOW!
Moving on, I kept my amazement aside and discussed a few concerns. There is an element of self-assessment built into this plan to see if children can be honest about their own learning. Students, having completed their assessments, take the answer keys, identify mistakes which they are supposed to disclose and follow up by going back to the video to grasp the concept. How does it work? Why should it work? What is the incentive a student has to re-visit the video? My questions are basically based on an assumption that performance, for the most part, is essentially score driven. If no one’s checking, how many would cheat and how many would play it fair in the current system? Some children do reach out to Sharanya on their assessments to have their doubts cleared, ask for more questions to be thorough etc. (another WOW!), can it be said to work for them all? Sharanya plans to test this assumption out. Sounds great! That should give us some more insights into what’s working or not and may be some answers to ‘why’.
Further, the effectiveness of CV pilot would be tested by comparing FA (Formative Assessment) and SA (Summative Assessment) scores of students who have completed the programme with those who have had no exposure to the videos. Additionally, scores of the exposed group would be compared against their scores in other subjects. Further, the other school where CV is being implemented functions in a slightly different mode; the students there do not have Sharanya J (an engaging Math teacher who makes Math easy for them)! That makes for another possible point of comparison!
One last WOW was for the efforts made by Sharanya and her team towards planning, preparing and organising the multiple forms to record data. I look forward to the lessons from this awesome experiment so that it can reach out to all the Tamil speaking children and lay a foundation for translations to other languages as well. That would be a Global WOW moment.