When we were given the task to solve a problem caused by COVID-19, our team brainstormed ideas on our Crazy 8s JamBoard. We noticed that a lot of the problems we brought up were Education related, inspired by our own experiences as students during the crisis. Most of us have siblings, some as young as 12, whose education is being affected by lockdown, so we set out to solve the problem of home education.
Following this, we went through a Design thinking process to finalize what exactly the problem was, and how we might find a solution. We invented user personas to help us more effectively empathize with those affected, and come up with a solution that would actually be helpful.
We sent out a survey to collect data on what exactly people's pain points were, and to affirm our assumptions of the problem. The data we received from that survey shaped our product to be what it is now; reliable, fast, and accessible for students and teachers alike.
What it does
OLFA provides students a method to fill the 'gaps' in their education due to COVID-19. Many less fortunate students are being left with less teaching time, due to teacher illness, childcare issues, or general unavailability. OLFA aims to take students in this situation and deliver them to a teaching professional who can ensure their learning stays on track. All a student has to do is fill in their preferences such as a Maths class for Year 11s taught in English, and they are sent to a page of available teachers, all filling those requirements. When they select a teacher, they are given a link to whatever platform that teacher is using to teach (Zoom, Classroom, Hangouts, Teams, etc), and the student can join a virtual 'class' to continue their learning.
Of course, OLFA empathizes with teachers' side to the story, they have to adjust very quickly to a whole new method of teaching, for sometimes hundreds of students. That's a tough workload for anyone to handle, which is why OLFA allows teachers to look up other teachers with similar details to their own, and share students, worksheets, and homework tasks with one another, to build that network of support that keeps the education sector ticking.
How we built it
Having shared our previous programming and development knowledge with each other, our team came to the conclusion that using Python within the Flask framework was the easiest approach to making a functional web app. Our Backend Developers immediately dived into online tutorials, learning how to create a simple functional webpage, including using SQL Alchemy to take user data and store it in a database.
Meanwhile, our Product Designer set out to construct a prototype version of the finished product, using Marvel software. Once our two Backend Developers had figured out the basics of Flask, they split, with one focusing on creating the web pages and links between them, and the other focusing on creating a search algorithm that would rank teachers based on how close their profile matched the student's request, and researching how to include AI in our product.
Challenges we ran into
One issue we ran into was deciding on the funding of the project; we were unsure whether to use a sponsored B2B approach or a customer-based B2C approach. We overcame this by getting advice from leading professionals in our field such as the Head of Online Learning at Eton College, and listing pros and cons of each option, and eventually settled on using a B2B approach initially, with a review of our business model after the COVID-19 crisis was no longer a threat.
The other main challenge was how to increase the reach of our survey. We struggled to get our survey to get lots of answers at first. To overcome this we spoke to a number of Design Thinkers, redesigned our survey, and got in contact with professionals in the education sector to share it as far as they could, using LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
Accomplishments that We're proud of
Learning to use Flask, creating a search algorithm to rank teachers based on suitability, creating a very pretty Marvel interface, and learning to use HMTL and CSS to enhance the UX of the Flask web app.
What we learned
We learned how to delegate tasks between the team effectively, and sticking to predefined roles within the group. We also learned a lot of debugging skills, there were plenty of errors along the development path!
What's next for OLFA: Online Learning, For All
The next steps for OLFA would be to finalize the partnership and funding processes and begin promotion and marketing for the app. In the future, a review of the business model, allowing for a possible OLFA Premium to exist would be a priority, with extra content and functionality, as well as expanding our scope to cover all secondary school students and most major subjects.