The Value of a Pilot

As mentioned in my previous post Baby Steps, I’ve had progress in district partnerships for piloting Mootup.  A district in Arizona has moved quickly with dozens of teachers already actively using Mootup.  Preliminary feedback is positive, and some suggested improvements have already been implemented.  Simultaneously, we’re quickly moving forward in starting another pilot in North Carolina, and hoping to secure another pilot partnership in South Carolina.

I’m hoping to get a two primary things out of these pilots.
#1:  Actionable suggestions from users

I have a passion for education, but that’s not the same as the wealth of experience that every teacher has from dealing with students every single day.  I hope for suggestions to make Mootup more user-friendly and useful for both teachers and students, and I believe that the best way to gather suggestions of this nature are from actual users of the product.   Teachers are already using Mootup in ways that I did not predict.  For example, I expected teachers to create assignments separately for each group of students.  We made Mootup to only allow up to 60 students per assignment because of this expectation.  We quickly received feedback from teachers that they’d like to create assignments that work across all of the “sessions” of each class that they teach.  In other words, instead of three separate but identical assignments for 1st Period, 3rd Period and 5th Period Sophomore English, they want to do one assignment across all three periods, within which you could have students paired up across classes.  Luckily, this was an easy enhancement.  I hope for more like this.


#2:  Real feedback on the value of the tool

So far, Mootup is receiving glowing reviews from both teachers and students that are piloting it.  I’m not interested in fishing for compliments here though, and I need to make sure that at the end of the pilot, I get real, honest feedback.  It’s one thing for me to tell the server at a restaurant that I really enjoyed my meal.  It’s another thing for me to actually go back to the same restaurant.  On that note, I don’t want to hear overly positive feedback from people wanting to please.  If they say they really like Mootup, I hope there’s an effort on their part to back that up by trying to use it more in the future.  If users don’t want to continue using the product after the pilot, then that delegitimizes feedback that overly complimented the product.  I need to make it clear that I want to hear the good and the bad.


At the same time, I believe this pilot is a true benefit to the districts and teachers that I’m partnering with.  I’m giving them free access to a tool that I genuinely believe will be helpful to them and their students.  Within reason, I will listen to suggestions and try to incorporate them into the tool.


All of the above really fits regardless of what type of product is being piloted.  Does anybody else have any experience with piloting something, and ensuring that the goals are achieved?


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