Client: The NROC Project
Project Sponsor: Ahrash Bissell
The NROC Project (NROC) is a non-profit organization with a mission to help meet society’s need for access to effective, high-quality educational opportunities in an era of rapid economic, social, and personal change. In that vein, the founder and CEO, Gary Lopez, assembled a team of people with the expertise to build and disseminate a collection of open and low-cost courses and tools designed to recognize every student’s unique learning needs and preferences. This is the story of how NROC's pursuit of this mission led to the need for a technology partner - Edify - to help build a truly transformative learning solution - EdReady.
Colleges and universities often require incoming students to pass placement exams in math and English to determine their readiness for college-level coursework. If a student fails to pass these exams, universities often require students to take remedial courses in the subject they failed before they begin college-level classes. These classes not only cost students thousands of dollars but also often affect a student’s ability to graduate on time. According to a report from the Center for American Progress, remedial courses cost American students $1.3 billion every year and furthermore, “on-time completion rates of students who take remedial classes are consistently less than 10 percent.”
In addition, students often could not access remedial course materials because of disorganization and high costs. NROC sought to develop technology that could fix these issues and improve the pathways to higher education across the country.
While at first NROC believed the problem could be solved in the classroom, when current president Ahrash Bissell joined, they realized the best way to solve the problem was through technology employed outside of the classroom.
NROC desired to create a low-cost, efficient online learning platform that would teach students the knowledge and skills necessary for college-level work. More specifically, they believed if a student mastered the knowledge and skills typically assessed by college entrance exams, they could avoid remedial coursework and achieve higher on-time graduation rates. In addition, they envisioned the platform could be flexible enough to help students prepare for other assessments, such as the GED, ACT, SAT, and TABE (Test for Adult Basic Education).
Why Edify Was Chosen
Like many education reformers, NROC needed a quality, cost-efficient contractor to help them create content-management software.
Edify connected with NROC in May 2012 when Lopez met Edify’s Justin Beals at a Gates Foundation meeting. Later, members of the two teams spent two days developing the concept and architectural solution. When asked about the meetings, Bissell said, “We had a functional specification in hand and a clear idea of what we needed the application to do, but it took Edify's expertise in modern technology designs coupled with prior experience building flexible learning solutions to bring the technical specification to fruition.”
NROC identified Edify as a cost-conscious contractor that could quickly develop innovative technology solutions for education since they were already experienced in the space. Bissell also explained that Edify, “represented the right people to do what we wanted.” Edify possessed “excellent verbal communication skills” and offered “incredible flexibility in schedule, scope of work, and shifts in strategy.”
Beyond these qualities, Bissell said one of Edify’s most exceptional qualities was their “willingness to understand the requirements in sufficient detail to be able to recommend more effective approaches and also to flag potential problems that may have been overlooked.”
The Edify team continued to meet with NROC in Spring and Summer 2012. Edify sought to understand NROC’s vision for the project. During these initial meetings, NROC explained they wanted Edify to develop an educational technology platform, which met the following criteria:
- Individualized study plans based on diagnostic assessment results
- Leverage existing technologies to maximize efficiency and minimize costs
- Scalable to support communities from 10 to 100,000 students
- Customizable landing page and URL
- Live data dashboards and downloadable reports
- User guides, professional development materials, and implementation resources
- Single-Sign-On (SSO) integration with an existing learning management system (LMS) or student information system (SIS)
- API (Application Program Interface) for interoperability with other software platforms
- Additional implementation support
The EdReady team requested that Edify create a new platform around the concept of “goals” - what students want to achieve. Students would first take a diagnostic assessment to understand how close they are to their goals. Then, they would pursue personalized study paths based on their diagnostic results that would enable students to study and develop the necessary skills and knowledge to achieve their goals. NROC also requested that the platform expand past college entrance-exams. NROC wanted to expand into adult education (GED and TABE Prep), Common Placement Exams (ACT and SAT), and middle and high school content (Algebra 1).
During the design phase, the Edify team led by Adrian Porras, Software Architect and Founding Partner, worked iteratively with NROC to develop the EdReady technology, test application performance, ensure quality assurance, and then refine it. When asked about the design process, Bissell said, “Edify provides the insight and expertise to collaboratively build great educational software. They continue to find edges and always demonstrate strong capability.”
EdReady launched in December 2013. Some of the key design features of EdReady include:
Specifically, Edify ensured that the platform included a personalized dashboard configured with individualized study plans to create a unique experience for each student. This personalization extended to an individual landing page and URL (YourInstitution.EdReady.org) to provide a local context for each of EdReady’s partner institutions.
- Resource Library
Edify created a library feature, which allowed institutions to display their resources, as well as those from NROC.
- Administration Dashboards
Edify generated the ability for teachers, administrators, and counselors withappropriate permissions to view and download live data dashboards and reports.
- User Guides
Edify fashioned user guides, professional development materials, implementation-support resources, and activities to support EdReady implementation.
Danielle Sewell, a Montana college student, said:
“Completing EdReady resulted in me skipping two math classes and being on track for my major. And, it saved me and my parents a lot of money.”
Hundreds of institutions use EdReady, including ACT, several campuses within the California State University system, and the school district of Beaverton, Oregon. The University of Hawaii’s former Vice Chancellor for Students, Francisco Hernandez, resoundingly endorses EdReady:
“I’m a strong advocate for EdReady because EdReady doesn’t care if the system has already determined who is or isn’t college-ready.”
Today, Edify continues to help NROC partner with universities and institutions to address challenges in the creation, management, and analysis of EdReady content and learning processes. The Edify team augments institutions’ custom reporting capabilities, adapts data access for different users (e.g., students, teachers, administrators, counselors), and develops ways to help teachers curate topic-specific, media-rich learning resources to guide students toward their readiness goals.
“We have in our hands an amazing, capable core product.”
- Ahrash Bissell, President, NROC
EdReady was essential to the development of Edify as it was one of the first technological innovations they developed from start to finish. Since they began their work with EdReady, Edify has used their wealth of experience to help organizations like NROC transform their ideas and visions into software platforms that dramatically improve educational outcomes.
Edify uses their understanding of the education domain to create cost-efficient technology solutions to consistently deliver highly successful custom products and technologies currently used by thousands of students, teachers, and educational institutions throughout the world
If you wish to learn how Edify can help your educational technology company, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
/The NROC Project
"Edify provides the insight and expertise to collaboratively build great educational software. They have great depth of understanding of the education sector, reducing or eliminating the need to explain why there are certain functional requirements that often must be met in certain ways."
"Excellent verbal communication skills, and probably even better in Spanish! Incredible flexibility in schedule, scope of work, and shifts in strategy. Willingness to understand the requirements in sufficient detail to be able to recommend more effective approaches and also to flag potential problems that may have been overlooked. Internal expertise across a number of significant aspects of educational software development. Edify also performs any necessary research on new requirements very quickly. They work fast."