Augli a startup founded by IIT and Stanford grads that’s aiming to revolutionize the field of 21st century skills education. The founders see a world in which kids grow up to be knowledgeable and responsible citizens by having the skills to think critically and express effectively on topics that matter.
How it started
Anjali and Kamal, wanted to teach critical thinking to kids, at scale.
The Problem and Opportunity
Critical thinking is not a part of the curriculum in India, so our app is unlikely to have the parental push enjoyed by the likes of Khan Academy and Byju’s.
However, if designed in a way that touches deeper desires in kids and parents, the product could become habit-forming and transform lives.
To address this, Augli approached us to design an immersive learning experience.
Understanding their vision stakeholder interviews
We had an in-depth discussions with the founders to understand the problems they want to tackle. Through these conversations we synthesised their vision. We used coding techniques from ethnographic research to derive them.
Help kids to stay up-to-date with information and facts, which are beyond school-curriculum by developing skills like:Reading, Comprehension,Listening,Understand the other person and situation, assimilating for Gaining Knowledge.
Helping them develop thinking skills by developing skills like: clear, complete, higher order and interdisciplinary thinking, abstracting, reasoning for developing a point of view.
Helping them learn to communicate by developing skills like:Command of language, verbal as well as written, emotional prosody,Best Practices in for having quality conversations, clear and coherent speaking, making a point.
Understanding the users
Given the product would be positioned in untested waters, we started with deep ethnographic research. We visited our potential users at the places where they were most likely to use this app: their homes. These contextual research sessions gave us some valuable insights.
Help kids relate to world events through the lens of their favourite fantasy worlds and characters
Enable kids to create show-off worthy expressions of their opinion using digital tools
Enable kids to assimilate knowledge from amusing and funny videos
Compete/play with your friends on news
We conducted researchon pedagogy of critical thinking.
What are the best ways of teaching these skills to a young audience? One way of teaching reasoning, as recommended by the faculty of IB, is to teach kids how to distinguish publications from one type to another.
How do we get students to regularly engage -- without anyone asking them to -- with the app and learn the skills?
These were the pillars on which we designed the experience.
Attract, with stories they are awed by
During our sessions with kids, we were lucky enough to get a peek into their rooms. There was one clear pattern that we noticed – there were plenty of superhero images and artifacts.
When we asked these kids to imagine stories involving 21st-century goals, they naturally created stories involving ‘superheroes’ who have ‘powers’ rather than stories of ‘people’ having ‘skills’
Insight (from primary research): Kids think of ‘extraordinary skills’ as ‘powers’ when imagining narratives.
Decision : Weave an overall narrative that AugLi is an experience of building superpowers by completing challenges
Engage, with games and video
Once we attract the students with an interesting story like superpowers; it was necessary to cognitively engage them so that they get into the mood to learn.
Insight: Kids are highly engaged by video content. In fact, they were quite comfortable being convinced about doing something after watching a video.
Educate, through techniques from empirical learning sciences
For ed-tech products that are serious about the ‘ed’, it is important to decide upon a pedagogical principle that’s grounded in the learning sciences.
In this project, the principle was grounded in insights from a review of the literature.
Learning sciences : Critical thinking skills can be taught as a series of sub-skills
IB curriculum : One of the exercises is allowing students to differentiate between news and non-news based on analysis
To structure the user's flows as ‘rules followed by a quiz.
Reward and build a habit, with leaderboards
At a strategy layer, here is how the insights from research helped:
Primary research : parents want kids to ‘go beyond the novels’
Data : Kids want to play games that can be completed in a short duration
Create an exercise where kids learn a sub-skill of critical thinking, by learning how to differentiate between news and not news.
Iterating based on evidence
It was a moment of joy for all of us when we finally held in our hands the developed version of this app – it was beautiful! We spared no time in taking it to the users and seeing what they think.
And that's when we realized we weren't there yet. There were some things that the users liked – and quite a few things that we could tell they didn’t.
We observed an issue : When the kids were asked to choose interests, many preferred not to choose interests such as science. Upon probing further, we realized that they would be quite interested in the content under these topics.
Through these probes, we found out the cause : The kids find the names of these interest areas not very relate-able. We then brainstormed how we could resolve this.
We designed a solution that works : Showing them some sample content from the topics and asking them whether they find this boring or interesting.
At a later stage we noticed that kids enjoyed using the app and rapidly completed multiple levels and after a point there was a decrease in user engagement and the kids stopped using the app on a daily basis.
We studied the hooks model that helped us understand the reason why a person starts doing something and might choose to continue or terminate it. It helps build a bond with the user, nudges them with actionable steps and helps us build a habit forming product.
With this cycle of observation > cause-finding > solution design, we’re on a journey of constant improvement to make sure that the product gets aligned to the user's needs over time.
Ideas that we implemented on studying the hooks model:
Triggers - Internal triggers are a major motivation to do a particular task. Understanding this helped us design the external triggers i.e phone and email notifications around their personal goals and motivations.
Variable Rewards - Social recognition and appreciation is valued. Understanding this helped us design a competitive league flow that allows users to compete with each other to achieve the top spot and be recognised. a)Reward of the Tribe: - These rewards help us feel connected with other people by giving us social recognition and promotes healthy competition. Based on the above learning we designed 3 Leagues - Bronze, Silver and Goal Based League. - On participating in and winning these leagues, users would climb up the ladder.Competing with fellow users and getting recognised.Along with points users would also get a medal for their win. - The triggers were designed to motivate the user and help them know who is their competition in the league. E.g Brace yourself to defeat Rahul in the next round. b)Reward of the Hunt: - This reward is related to material resources and information. - On completion of all the leagues we planned to send over a book along with some swag to the user. (This was an idea - not sure if this was further implemented by the team) c)Reward of the Self: - These rewards give us a feeling of self accomplishment and help achieve goals that we have set for ourselves. - We designed a goal based league which has a list of goals that the user might want to achieve. E.g - become an author, prepare for education abroad, Ace the MNUs.
Increased customer base
Gamification made the app more interactive and competitive
Improved user engagement and user retention
Built a customer base for future offline workshops and events