Discovering new educational markets

Building a startup culture inside a 27 year old enterprise so new markets and new ideas flourish.

A major gap in English learning

English Language Learners (ELLs) are the fastest growing population of students in the US education system. However, ELLs also have some of the highest dropout rates. The existing tools and methods for educating ELLs were not working.

With increasing pressure from federal and state programs, schools are being forced to quickly re-evaluate. This gap presented a tremendous opportunity for educational providers such as Rosetta Stone.

The problem was that Rosetta Stone had never created products for school systems–only direct to consumer. And being such a large, entrenched enterprise, shifting into a new market wasn’t going to be quick or easy.

Rosetta Stone Consumer Product
Rosetta Stone historically sold products direct to consumer but wanted to explore selling to schools.

Luckily, they had recently acquired 2 co-founders, Kristie and Maya, from a startup. Their fail fast mindset led them to tools like design sprints, which ultimately led them to us.

Product transformation to drive new opportunities

Kristie and Maya had been tasked with producing new lines of business in a completely new sector. They were also being looked at to build up some muscle memory around new, sustainable product innovation practices. As challenging as this feat was, success would mean big impact on the company and major value to ELLs and the rest of the educational system.

After learning about the dual strategy and training benefits that our Product Sprint Program provides, they engaged New Haircut to help them achieve their cultural and digital transformation goals.

Problem Framing At Rosetta Stone
During problem framing we mapped out the existing experience for ELL students and their current touchpoints with Rosetta Stone.

Product design process improvements

We started by mapping out the expected goals of not only this project, but the overall product design process improvements the organization was hoping to achieve. They hoped to leverage the learning and outcomes from this project to drive their digital programs going forward.

Rosetta Stone Experience Map With New Haircut
We conducted an online problem framing workshop to co-create several digital UX artifacts such as proto-personas and experience maps.

Because the Rosetta Stone team was distributed, we used an online (virtual) version of our 1-day Problem Framing process using a host of digital tools.

During framing, we were able to successfully map out and discover the current experience of ELL students, and then prioritize their biggest pain points. This provided clarity and additional context of the problems ELLs faced. And with a clear problem defined, we were ready to begin ideating and prototyping potential solutions.

Rapid prototyping

For prototyping, we deployed our Design Sprint facilitation services — an upgraded version of Google’s popular, rapid design thinking framework. We leveraged the insights that we gathered during problem framing to provide intel most traditional design sprints lack — often causing sprints to fail.

We then provided process facilitation, product strategy, UX design, and visual styling to help the Rosetta Stone team move from business challenge to testable prototype.

Rosetta Stone Design Sprint Prototype
It took a team effort between New Haircut and Rosetta Stone to put a hi-fidelity prototype together in 1 day.
Design Sprint Demo
After only a few days of efficient and structured collaboration, we're ready for target users to test our prototype.

Student testing

The primary goal of any design thinking session is to learn. With a design sprint, your prototype becomes the tool you use to learn from your target users through a series of qualitative assessments.

We helped by facilitating targeted tests with 8 students, ranging from Kindergarten to 8th grade. The process was as fun and funny as it was informative.

Rosetta Stone Design Sprint Keynote Prototype
Our realistic prototype was a game we designed in Keynote, and included characters with voiceovers, videos, and game challenges.
Rosetta Stone Design Sprint ELL Student Testing
Testing new products is always exciting and nerve-racking, especially with 2nd graders!

Scaling the learnings and process

To help evangelize and train corporate leadership that was not part of the engagement, we met with individual stakeholders to explain the process as well as the value of design thinking tools like design sprints.

We additionally created leave-behind materials to capture the learnings, process, and successful outcomes.

Measurable results

The results exceeded everyone’s expectations. Not only did the students engage with the prototype, but others that dropped in to watch our engagement unfold were mesmerized by the collaboration and speed.

As a result of our work together, the core Rosetta Stone team was granted additional funding from senior leadership to continue with product research and development.

Customer reactions
Kristie Shelley
Kristie Shelley
Senior Director, ELL Curriculum @ Rosetta Stone
"We selected New Haircut to help us design, prototype, and test product ideas for a new business which is now off and running! The engagement was not only successful, but drove lots of excitement from senior leadership around the company."
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