Meet the Doddle Product Team!

This half term, students are going to see a lot of changes in Doddle. Not only will the online site be entirely re-designed, but we’re also launching an app! For the first time, students will be able to access all their homework and resources on-the-go. Parents can also log into the app to keep track of all the homework their children have been set.

We spoke to Paul Mallaband, John Furnborough and Laura Wills from Doddle’s Product Management Team about the process of creating the app to make homework easier for students and their parents.

What was the motivation behind creating an app?

John: We have floods of requests from students every week asking us to make an app. Students are on their phones all the time and they want to be able to quickly check if they have any homework. We’ve wanted to create an app for a while now and the time is right!

Paul: Something that’s really important for us is that students are engaged with the platform. We knew that having an app which could support notifications would be crucial in prompting students to check their homework. Equally, we know that parents don’t want to have to actively go and look for homework reminders. The app changes that because it ensures that they receive push notifications, so they can be reminded daily.

We also have evidence to back that up because the app has been massively requested by teachers, students and parents.

I was at Bett in January and a group of five boys from one of our schools accosted me and said, "We love Doddle, but can we have an app please!"

How did you get involved in developing the Doddle app?

Paul: As an Education Adviser for Doddle, I spent a lot of time out in schools talking to teachers and senior leaders about Doddle and how they engage with the platform. For me, it was absolutely crucial to get students involved in the development process as soon as possible. Several times, we were really happy with a design choice only to find that it didn’t make sense to the students and so we had to rethink.

John: I began working at Doddle three years ago as an editorial assistant for MFL. I actually remember using our Boardworks presentations at school, which made some of our staff feel really old! The opportunity came up to join the product team about a year ago. It’s been very exciting because, for the first time, we’re re-designing the entire student area. Students won’t have seen much change on Doddle in years.

We often get feedback from students which can be very detailed about the changes they would like to see in Doddle, while sometimes they just say, ‘it’s very orange.’ There is a trend at the moment towards darker colours, and we’ve tried to make Doddle friendlier too. Now students will meet Robbie the Robot, a Doddle mascot that guides them through submitting their work.

Laura: I'm the digital designer at Boardworks and my role encompasses all design projects for Doddle. This can be anything from creating illustrations and animations for Doddle resources to helping the marketing team with banners and brochures.

I've looked at Doddle for many years now and there are so many features I'd like to change and streamline. It's the first time I've seen a product management project through from the beginning to the end so it's been great to take part in all the changes we've made!

What impact will the app have?

Paul: Now that we’ve got the app in place and we can try it out with students we’re able to see the difference it’s going to make. They can move around it so easily, finding everything they need quite naturally. We want to give pupils a better learning experience. While, for parents, receiving daily notifications is going to make all the difference.

Students will now be able to do their homework wherever they are effortlessly, whether that’s on the bus back from school or they’re at home and their brother’s using the laptop.

We know that one of the priorities for schools is independent learning: schools can and will do a lot to promote independent learning, but a lot of that is just trying to make it as easy as possible for pupils to learn outside of the classroom. If you make any step in that process harder, that then puts a barrier in place which is going to cut out another segment of students from doing that independent learning. So if we can remove those barriers by having an app, then we can make a lot of difference. We can already see that students are using Doddle to independently find resources, but this should help to engage them even more. It’s independent learning made easy.

What did you find out from testing the app?

Laura: I was lucky enough to attend a user testing session at Princes Risborough School and it was the first time I'd ever seen students interact with Doddle. We really wanted their feedback to be reflected in everything we did so we spoke to them right near the beginning of the process and showed them some of our original designs. I was actually quite nervous because I'd only ever had colleagues feedback to me on my designs before, but these were students who were competent with Doddle and knew their way around and their feedback was very positive.

John: When we trialled the app with students, they just instinctively understood it. With the app, students will receive a daily notification, making it so much easier for them to keep on top of their homework.

Paul: Our approach to start with was just to see how the students interacted with our designs. We wanted to see where they struggled, where something wasn’t so obvious, and to ask them questions as they went along. A lot of the feedback we got was from watching the students because they can do everything so easily. Some of them use Show My Homework, but they really liked the separation into subjects in Doddle and the fact that their homework is ordered for them into ‘due now’, ‘due later’ and ‘overdue’ sections.  We get a lot of positive feedback just by watching them click. Sometimes they’re tapping so fast that they actually get to the right bit before you’ve even had time to tell them where to go!