An online professional learning space for teachers and school leaders
Launched by the New York City Department of Education, WeTeachNYC is a resource-rich online professional development and community space for teachers and school leaders.
We began with an intensive discovery to understand the landscape of the NYC DOE’s existing professional development offerings and pilot programs. We also audited the various Learning Management Systems to determine the extent to which existing systems could support the NYC DOE’s needs.
WeTeachNYC was built in an agile process. The focus for Year 1 was the Learning Object repository and faceted search. This was followed by numerous releases to add functionality for creating individual teacher profiles, saving and organizing resources, creating shareable playlists, receiving personalized recommended resources, and more. In year 3 the platform was extended to include complex interactive communities.
By integrating with the DOE’s Department of Instructional Information Technology, we were able to support not just single sign-on, but also role-based services to ensure educators could participate in online learning communities, post new resources, and manage teams.
Throughout the process we maintained wireframe libraries, style guides, and technical documentation. This was important to both streamline our processes and ensure that we were creating a holistic experience, while still allowing the system as a whole to remain flexible and appropriately serve the platform’s many different types of content in their various forms.
As an open-source technology we were able to leverage Django’s flexibility to also build on complex and granular permissioning tools for the many content administrators in the DOE to quickly and easily edit the core experience from the front-end. Removing so many technical barriers helped to optimize user engagement and allowed us to focus on getting the right people to the right content.
At the heart of WeTeachNYC is a central repository of Learning Objects, which is also open and available to the public, so even educators outside of New York City can benefit from the NYC DOE’s high-quality and curated teaching resources. Educators can easily search and find resources by entering keywords into the search bar or by using an extensive array of filters, customized to reflect the way that educators think about their work.
A clean, organized design with comfortable hit areas help to make this complex faceted search, and the highly detailed metadata fields associated with results, easily parseable and user-friendly. Our engagement also included a branding exercise to refresh and extend WeTeachNYC’s existing identity. A full brand guidebook and assets were developed in tandem, so the organization’s offline marketing and funding efforts could be consistent with the ongoing digital designs.
Today, the NYCDOE and Blenderbox continue as partners to improve and enhance the product with the overarching goal of elevating the standard of education across all NYC schools.
“You know how it goes: the business reps sit on one side of the table, the technologists sit on the other, and they talk past each other until time is up. In the end, no one gets what they want. Blenderbox does the complete opposite. They listen intently, document needs, refine their plan, and work nimbly from conception to launchpad. Even in the face of complex integrations across multiple internal and third-party systems, they keep things moving, transparent, and calm. Past experiences taught us that we don't want a vendor who simply says yes. We want a partner who is unafraid to say yes with the same ease they say why. We have found that with Blenderbox.”
Dr. Tom Liam Lynch
Consultant, NYC Department of Education