edX is an online learning platform that provides 7 million+ learners monthly access to 2500+ courses from today’s top institutions and universities. Shortly after joining the team in March 2020, I learned that the Product and UX teams went 22+ months without speaking to a customer about their needs.
Through key partnerships with members from UX, Product, Engineering, Marketing, and Customer success, I drove a cultural shift around customer centricity in the company.
Discovery work to understand the hopes, dreams, and expectations around research
- I sent a survey to key stakeholders to understand their research skills and competencies
- Next, I setup 1:1 conversations to understand current perception around research
There were deep rooted fears around research being a blocker, taking up too much of the teams time, not leading to outcomes and being overly academic and unapproachable to team members.
There was excitement around the potential for research to create a shared understanding of customers, influence company strategy and product outcomes.
Finally, the team looked to the research team to:
– enable customer discovery within the product pods
– educate team members around research
– centralize findings from research studies
Crafting a strategy
Next, I worked with stakeholders to create a foundational vision and strategy for the research team. The team would focus on 3 primary areas:
- Building strong relationships with the existing functions at edX
- Evangelizing customer centricity across the organization
- Supporting UX research knowledge development for individuals and teams.
Getting to work
Building the operating model
As a solo researcher supporting 12 agile product teams, I wanted to build a foundation of trust to combat many of the fears that the team had around research. I piloted an embedded model with 3/12 of the agile teams. By embedding myself, I led everything from generative to evaluative research work.
I created an experimental google site to serve as a research repository where any employee could find insights from research studies and apply it to their work. This site also housed 20+ templates and best practices resources that were created to enable individuals and teams to conduct research.
I also invested time in building out edX’s UX Research tool stack from the ground up. This included vetting, purchasing, and educating team members on tools that supported everything from passive insight collection, usability testing, surveys, participant recruitment, and transcription.
Providing research education
After demonstrating the value of UX Research and building trust with the teams I was working with, I began to see a tremendous increase in research requests coming in. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, budgets were strapped and we were unable to hire additional headcount for the research team. My focus very quickly shifted to democratizing research and enabling individuals and teams to conduct studies on their own.
I designed and facilitated a 4 part synchronous workshop series aimed at skilling up individuals and teams on how to conduct research inside of edX. I also offered personalized coaching to team members who were conducting research studies and began offering bi-weekly office hours to answer any research related questions.
I was able to take the team from going over 22+ months without speaking to customers to conducting 40+ research studies that impacted thousands of learners in just 6 short months!
There was an increase in trust between the UX and product teams as well as increased awareness and interest in delivering solutions that met the needs of edX’s customer base.
As of July 2021, edX employees continue to use the resources that I created to connect directly with customers and store insights in its research repository.