Fervor completed a new digital platform (YE Academy also branded Entre-X™) for Youth Entrepreneurs (YE), a nonprofit that promotes business and entrepreneurial education for at-risk students around the country.
We worked to strategically plan and then execute three foundational phases for YE to scale their capacity, expand their reach and digitize their offering.
In Phase I, we built a custom Learning Management System (LMS), Entre-X to onboard educators and increase lead generation while laying the foundation for Phase II.
In Phase II, we created a roadmap to reach results and expand the LMS to move YE curriculum from paper to digital.
In Phase III, we conducted long-term conceptual work before finalizing the Phase II minimum viable product, defining vision and goals for YE Academy’s (renamed from Entre-X) future.
YE’s curriculum had seen widespread adoption, but they faced the challenge of scaling their program for onboarding new teachers. They asked us to create video and written content for a standard Learning Management System. This would live within a marketing website for lead generation while integrating into their organization as a training tool under a new brand identity: Entre-X. We strove to meet their immediate needs while identifying new opportunities that could positively impact their organization.
We proposed an iterative approach that would treat Phase I as an initial test platform to see how YE’s educators would respond. We came back to YE with a short-term proposal for a custom LMS that not only brought their curriculum and training online, but would lay the foundation for a social community and transform their organization. We then successfully pitched a multi-phase solution to address both medium and long-term needs for YE and their educators.
We documented every step in our strategic process while conceptualizing the minimum viable product for Entre-X in a Platform Usability, Process & Strategy booklet.
This included personas, a journey map, architecture & flow, navigation, interaction & behavior, responsive wireframes, storyboard content and visual design.
Each step of the way, we worked closely with YE’s key stakeholders. When we reached major milestones, we presented our progress to YE’s leadership team, and used those opportunities to refine our strategy and execution through client exercises and white-boarding sessions. We use a highly collaborative process with our clients to assure our team of specialists is in harmony with organizational structure, goals, leadership and business rules.
Our proposal was received enthusiastically with feedback stating that YE loved the way our strategic process was systematic, transparent and inclusive. They also valued having partners who understood their needs & goals while offering technical expertise outside of their experience. We built Phase I, which turned out to be a big hit with YE’s existing educators and proved to be more successful than anticipated, with 182 educators registering in 2018 (42% increase from 2017). We then conducted a user study and a marketing survey that included analytics to inform Phase II.
Phase I was created as a testbed for our larger learning platform. YE’s processes were resource, time and paper intensive, and testing allowed us to identify several key opportunities. They needed to standardize their curriculum and bring the majority of YE’s organizational functions online. Beyond training and content, however, we also recognized an existing community between educators that was central to their success. Educators were motivated to help one another and connect over new ideas and teaching methods. They were also eager to mentor new teachers but struggled to connect with them.
We worked with YE to identify organizational objectives and turned them into short, medium and long-term product goals that were distilled down into a product roadmap. Phase II was then defined as the minimum viable (and likable) product we could create to achieve both short and medium goals while setting up our long-term goals. The result was the product’s transformation from a training tool into a platform that housed their entire curriculum.
We led YE through our process to create a product roadmap using a series of exercises and collaborative work sessions. Once we defined the Phase II product, we began the process of content creation alongside design and development.
DISCOVERY & PLANNING
Once we identified short, medium and long-term objectives, we compared them to Fervor’s resources and worked with YE to define priorities by comparing costs and timelines to their business objectives. We used a continuous release framework with dedicated resources rather than a traditional waterfall approach with an inflexible scope. This flexibility allowed the product to evolve during the design phase.
We created a complex interaction prototype that allowed YE’s leadership to understand the behaviors we were proposing. This also allowed us to conduct periodic user testing that shaped the final product.
We designed YE Academy as a web app with the same kind of interaction that is often found in native app design with an expandable, sliding curriculum panel that adapts to every device width and orientation.
Our development team worked under a tight deadline to deliver the final product within four months from the beginning of the design process to public launch. While we had many incentives to create a custom back-end, we knew maintainability was necessary for YE. For this reason, we created the platform in WordPress.
Our work helped YE standardize the form and structure of their curriculum. We created video segments for each lesson with associated resources, organizing and presenting lessons, topics and directories in a compelling manner. The new site that lead into their curriculum became a powerful lead generator, and the content reduced time for training new teachers. Most importantly, we laid the foundation for YE’s digital future, some of which you can see in Phase III.
We identified seven product goals to assure they could tie in seamlessly with the minimum viable product we were building in Phase II.
We believe it is necessary to consider long-term possibilities while maintaining the flexibility to adapt as we create a product. We engaged in exploratory design sprints for seven areas including ‘My Classroom’, Gamification, eCommerce and Rewards, Content Mastery, Reviews, and a new user walkthrough. We chose to include these components when mapping the Phase II information architecture and planned for their placement in our wireframes to assure our minimum viable product would be a great starting point for YE’s future.
Agencies aren’t known for thinking beyond the present project scope. However, we believe it is necessary to consider possibilities while maintaining the flexibility to adapt. It’s a part of our ethics, assuring YE isn’t dependent on Fervor to grow their product in the future. This also has several additional advantages for YE in that it helped build team excitement for the future of the product while empowering investors and stakeholders to dream and plan. Finally, it points everyone in the same direction and helps expose misunderstandings and differences in vision.
Brand Impact Assessment
YE came to us looking for video production to fit their content needs. To achieve those goals, Fervor would first need to understand their audience, where they were located and what the message would be. We also needed to figure out how we would organize the video content in an accessible manner.
Fervor’s Brand Impact Assessment™, for Youth Entrepreneurs, allowed them to tangibly grasp a deep understanding of their educators’ hearts and minds. Understanding these Ideal Advocates™ changed the way we designed the interaction and content for this online digital platform. Once we knew their Ideal Advocate™ needs, we could then build the platform accordingly – had we not completed a strategic outline beforehand, the result would not have been nearly as effective.
By the time we were ready to build, we already had measured and truly understood the market and audience, so we could be confident the platform would have a high degree of impact.
The combination of Brand Impact Assessment™ with video content creation and the YE Academy e-learning platform led to extreme impact for Youth Entrepreneurs.
In 2017, YE saw a 42% increase in the number of educators using their curriculum – in large part because of the digital platform educators now have access to and can implement in their classroom. We produced over 130 videos to deepen engagement with over 3,500 (62% increase from 2017) students in YE programming. In addition, YE donors saw this platform and accompanying content as an investable opportunity. In short, this online platform completely transformed the way YE was able to grow. They no longer needed as much human capital to deploy their program across the country and can now easily engage even more underserved rural areas.
In addition to this project, Fervor was also engaged as YE’s Outsourced Digital Marketing Team. We took over their social media, content marketing, podcast creation, email marketing and video creation. We helped turn their average monthly social media reach from 3,000 to over 500,000 per month. We knew building an awesome product was only as big as the audience we could share it with, and ensured YE grew to maximize their impact.
Our strategic approach helped YE grow all across the country to reach educators in the classroom – when they score, students score. But Fervor loves getting the assist.
Start the Conversation
We like ideas at Fervor. But we love making ideas a reality. Does your business have any ideas floating around? We exist to dream up new ones, then collaborate to create impact. Let’s start the conversation.