The updated Microsoft Educator Community: A journey to personalization
The updated Microsoft Educator Community launching this month reflects the insights of educators around the globe and months of hard work. It’s also more functional, more engaging, and perhaps most important — according to team lead Dr. Iris Yuster — more personal.
Yuster, a user experience (UX) expert who joined Microsoft last February after working on a slew of innovative apps and products, heads up the team responsible for the community’s redesign. Her background, while somewhat unconventional, made her uniquely qualified for the task.
“I studied educational psychology, and earned my master’s degree in cognitive psychology,” Yuster explains. “I was most interested in the way students learn complicated subjects and how learning within a hyper-textual environment online helps them to better solve the problem.”
That interest led her to research the impact of the user interface on student learning, perceptions and flexible thinking. Then, as part of her PhD in business administration, Yuster began to look at the influence of personalization on consumer buying behavior online. And she’s excited about the possibilities of personalization to transform education.
“Education technology has developed a lot in the last 10 years,” Yuster says, “and we’re seeing great advances in e-learning, but we still have a lot of opportunities in the education world to implement innovation and personalization into the online experience. I believe that we can achieve much more.”
This belief played a key role as Yuster and her team approached the Microsoft Educator Community with a mission: to create a valuable personalized service for educators.
Achieving that mission meant first conducting extensive research. Yuster began talking to educators to learn more about their experiences at last year’s Educator Exchange (E2) event, shortly after joining Microsoft.
“When I started to work on the Microsoft Educator Community,” Yuster says, “the first task was to analyze users’ minds and try to understand their current value of the community. Without understanding the educators’ minds, we wouldn’t be able to create a solution that supports their needs, goals, plans and vision.”
Based on feedback from 300 educators from around the world, the team’s research lead to improvements on the Educator Community that launched recently. The redesigned Microsoft Educator Community features a new navigation and user experience with Novice Guides, a focus on educator interests and journeys, and high relevancy and personalization. But, according to Yuster, these improvements are only the start.
“The plan is to continue to innovate and be the market leaders in education by tracking, measuring and analyzing our educator’s journeys; creating more journeys that offer Office 365 Education in relevant context; and taking the personalized experience to the next level,” she notes. “I want every educator who comes to the community to feel that we know their needs and their history, and that they can trust Microsoft in Education to help them grow.”
To experience the new, more personalized Microsoft Educator Community.
Dr. Iris Yuster
Senior Product Strategy and UX Manager, Microsoft Educator Community
Seattle, Washington, USA