Being students ourselves, we experienced the frustrations first hand of trying to navigate the unknown brought on by the pandemic. We wanted to be able to assist the learning connection that K-5 students students thrive on with their teachers by giving them access to a tool that fosters that one-on-one connection to get help and motivation from their teachers.
What it does
Reach-Your-Teacher is a chat service that provides safe and secure communication between students and their teachers. It takes the office hour model used at the university level, simplifies it, and gives it a virtual form that is easy to use for young students. They can reach out to their instructors to schedule appointments, get quick answers, or see announcements, all on a safe, moderated platform.
The first challenge was coming up with a cohesive idea to solve many of the issues with distance learning. While our product is far from being a complete answer to the situation, it is a powerful and intuitive tool for students and teachers to use. We struggled with approaching distance learning from a student or teacher perspective, but we ended up looking at it from where the two demographics meet, communication, or in this case a lack thereof.
What we learned
We learned a lot about the push and pull nature of education. Different teachers want different things: some want to guide their students through challenges, topics, or assignments, while others preach a higher level of student agency. Both methods are valuable approaches to education, and both, even a more "hands-off" approach, require a strong connection between teachers and students, something that can be lost in distance learning. One teacher we interviewed actually wants her students to feel some stress, but it is important that it is the right kind. She wants them to feel challenged by their topics and pushed to succeed, but not stressed due to complex technology and unclear instructions. We learned a lot about the education process, but most of all the importance of the connection between the student and teacher, no matter what form it takes, and we believe our product helps to strengthen it.