Inspiration

Primary school teachers are currently experiencing - like many other professions - one of the most challenging times of their career, due to COVID pandemic and the context of confinement. For many of them, it has been really tough to find ways to keep in touch with their students and monitor their learning progress while schools are closed or classroom restricted to a number of students.

Many teachers told us that they didn’t know whether their pupils saw the material they shared, if they understood it nor if they completed the activities.

At the same time, children and parents experienced difficulties in coordinating homeschooling, especially when parents work from home, when there are not enough computers in the household or when there are other siblings to take care of.

Our research showed that teachers, parents and children really had one blatant need: how can we make it possible for children to learn from home, while being as autonomous as possible, within the existing skills and available material of their teacher?

What it does

We developed HomeClass, the first learning management system that fully enables the creation of hybrid classes. HomeClass is available as a mobile app or as a web application, allowing for flexibility for both the teacher and pupils.

HomeClass is tailor-made for children aged between 6 and 11, offering them a seamless transition between physical and virtual learning while making it fun and rewarding, thanks to gamification features.

All the features of a real classroom have been put into HomeClass, to reduce the impact of the pandemic on the children’s learning experience, and create a non-disruptive transition to a hybrid classroom.

On HomeClass, the teacher can design an entire week, organized by day. Creating topics and activities is super easy. The teacher can just upload digital content as PDF: there is no need for spending hours creating interactive forms.

When pupils log into the app, they can see an overview of the topics and activities scheduled for the current day, as well as a time estimate for each activity. Completing an activity is very intuitive, and many activities are supported. The pupils can enjoy an interactive and non-disruptive learning experience via a dedicated set set of features.

For example, if the activity is a maths worksheet, the pupil can easily add text directly onto the PDF file, submit it to their teacher, and get feedback. For other activities such as reading, drawing or anything that shouldn’t be done on a PDF, pupils can snap a picture of their work, record a video or send a typed text. Every time they submit an activity, they have the opportunity to attach a question for their teacher, either as a voice note or as a written message.

On the "Board", pupils can get creative and share photos or videos of anything they want, fully secured, and compliant with regulations. It kind of is the Instagram of primary schoolers, within the safety of their very own hybrid classroom.

How HomeClass started

We started our design sprint by using design thinking to spot the problem and area of opportunity around it. After we came up with a few challenges that we believed covered impactful areas, we reached out to teachers to get their input on the overall situation and to vote for the challenge they thought would help most. Once our challenge was defined, we started brainstorming on various ways to solve it, and when we created napkin pitches for the most usable ideas, HomeClass stood out as the obvious choice.

The next step was to push the concept further and figure out what skills were needed to take the project further. Between Friday night and Saturday morning, we started our recruitment process and by Saturday, we had found several talented people that are now part of the team.

Together, we challenged, refined, and perfected the idea - along with building the prototype and the business model that would support the project. While tasks were clearly defined among team members, our roles remained fluid and everyone was happy to give a hand or feedback here and there, making for a really agile

How we built it

We built a demo version of the web app that has our basic (most important) functionalities covered. Its front end is built with Angular 8, the backend with Node.js, the database is PostgreSQL and it's being hosted by Heroku.

Check it out: here (username and password can be found in the pitch deck)

Challenges we ran into

  • At first, it was really hard to figure what skills and profiles we needed to bring our idea to life
  • Team onboarding and translation of all the research material who had been conducted throughout the week
  • Building a working demo web app
  • Choosing communication channels

Accomplishments that we are proud of

  • Organized ourselves and prepared a great final presentation
  • Built a working demo
  • Built a solid business model based on real estimations
  • The amount of material we produced over the weekend
  • Coordinated great teamwork despite having no time for team building

The solution’s impact on the crisis

Improve student monitoring by the teacher:

  • Teacher can see whether students do the work
  • They can see how long it took the students to complete the tasks
  • They receive feedback from the students that allows them to reconsider and adapt teaching tools and complexity

Facilitate digitalization of teaching material:

  • Making it easier for teachers to use pre-made material, which saves them the time of having to (i) write everything by hand and (ii) make it digital

Short term impact:

  • Improving the learning experience for students who are forced to stay at home
  • Reducing frustration among teachers who currently can’t see their students progress
  • Improve the quality of teaching
  • Reduce the need for parents to be involved in homeschooling

Middle-term impact:

  • Enabling hybrid classrooms where students can experience pedagogical continuity even when half the class has to stay home due to limitations on how many students are allowed to be in class

Long-term impact on teaching:

  • The student acquires technological skills which are required for tomorrow’ jobs
  • Working from home is easier and of better quality: HomeClass can be used under normal conditions for homework or during school holidays
  • Student with learning disabilities or difficulties can use the platform as additional support where they can review and get more individual support (which is usually complicated in crowded classrooms)

The necessities in order to continue the project

Business side:

  • Recruit software developers and UX designers to turn our prototype into an app with top-notch, kid-friendly user experience
  • Hire a marketing manager to design and establish our brand and start paid advertisement
  • Bringing the app to pilot schools in France for testing and feedback before scaling up
  • Iterative process for testing:
    • User (Teacher/Pupil) testing to determine the success factor
    • User (Teacher/Pupil) feedback to determine new functionalities or improvements to be implemented
  • Seek endorsement from national and local education authorities
  • Establish partnerships with textbook editors

Features to develop:

  • Earning points for punctuality, badges and shareable weekly certificates
  • Time tracking for activity completion
  • Notification warnings for the pupils if they work too many hours a day or outside regular school hours
  • Adding group activities with shared chat, calls, documents and whiteboards
  • Chat rooms for communication between pupils, between pupils and teacher, and between parents and teacher
  • Enhanced collaboration between teachers
  • Artificial intelligence that enables visual recognition and conversion of an image into interactive digital content.
  • Embedding digitized textbook and enable the creation of activities directly from a page in the ebook

Funding needed for:

  • Application development support
  • Marketing and paid Ads, such as
    • Schools marketing via official communications from educational authorities and municipalities
    • Google Ads to convert schools based on teachers' search for such a platform
    • Social media organic promotion

Pitch deck: here

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