Putting the power to achieve in every student’s hands
We helped Beyond 12 build the MyCoach mobile app to expand its high-touch coaching services, enabling students to better navigate their higher education experience and thrive in college and beyond.
Mobile App Development, Client-side Engineering, Concept Ideation
Coaching students where they are
When Alex Bernadotte got the acceptance letter from Dartmouth College, she felt like all her hard work – and all her parents' sacrifices – had finally paid off.
However, she quickly learned that the real work had just begun. For a Haitian immigrant and first-generation college student like Bernadotte, the experience was a culture shock. Not only did she feel unprepared in the classroom, she felt alienated by the privilege and wealth of her peers.
And she struggled.
Bernadotte was able to salvage her college career. She learned that it was okay to ask for help and discovered how to tap into campus resources. She graduated from Dartmouth, and later earned a Master’s degree from Stanford University.
Many low-income and first-generation students aren’t so lucky.
So she founded Beyond 12 – a nonprofit focused on bridging the gap between K-12 and higher education to ensure that all students succeed in college. And though the organization was seeing great results with its services, it wanted to reach more students. We helped build the MyCoach mobile app to expand its high-touch coaching services, enabling students to better navigate their higher education experience and thrive in college, and beyond.
Bridging the achievement gap
Just nine percent of low-income and first-generation students graduate from college by their mid-twenties. Nine percent. Now compare that to the 77 percent graduation rate of their more well-to-do peers. That’s a big gap.
These statistics don’t sit well with Bernadotte and Beyond 12, the nonprofit she founded to focus on bridging the gap between K-12 and higher education to ensure that all students succeed in college.
The organization has had great success with the 7,000 plus students it’s served – 82 percent persisted to their third year of college, a number that’s well above the national average – but that’s nowhere close to the hundreds of thousands of students Beyond 12 would like to serve to have a meaningful impact.
“We wanted to address this issue at scale,” says Bernadotte. “We needed to translate the best of our high-touch coaching model into a highly scalable digital tool.”
Beyond 12 pairs students with virtual coaches, or mentors, who help them navigate the college experience from the transactional – how to complete the FAFSA, for example – to the inspirational, such as encouragement and goal setting.
However effective, a coach in this model can only reach so many students, says Ji Hea Kim, director of products and partnerships at Beyond 12. That reality prompted the organization to examine how to use technology to support its students – and the MyCoach mobile app was born.
“Our students have very little room for error. That one missed deadline can often end their college journey.”
ALEX BERNADOTTE, FOUNDER AND CEO
One size doesn’t fit all
Beyond 12 partnered with a human-centered design agency, IDEO, to understand student needs and behaviors. That research led to a new tiered service model, ranging from digital-, or app-only to the traditional high-touch coaching experience.
In this model, those transactional, light-touch elements – reminders, to-do lists, campus-specific how-tos, etc. – are automated in the mobile app, freeing up coaches to have meaningful connections with their students.
“One size doesn’t fit all,” says Bernadotte. “We were very conscious that we still need a high-touch human model. The app isn’t meant to replace that.”
Beyond 12’s user research reinforced that students need actionable, easy, and bite-sized guidance, available on the device that’s always with them – their smartphone.
The Slalom team built the app using Xamarin’s cross-platform development software – which allows the iOS and Android apps to share code with one common language. In turn, that enables Beyond 12 to support a wide range of student devices as efficiently as possible, without sacrificing any of the functionality that digital natives expect.
Xamarin Test Cloud allowed the team to create automated tests – as many as 250 – for all of the major use cases of the app. With Test Cloud, the team could simulate the user on a wide variety of devices, all at the push of a button.
“We launched without a hitch because failure was not an option.”
GREG MARTIN, SLALOM BUILD GENERAL MANAGER
It’s all about the outcomes
The new model helps significantly trim the per-student costs of Beyond 12’s traditional coaching services. Beyond 12’s high-touch coaching costs about $700 per student per year; it wants to reduce that number by 40 percent – and bring the cost of its digital-only students down to just $6 per year.
Achieving those cost reductions will allow Beyond 12 to scale its reach from thousands of students to hundreds of thousands.
For Bernadotte and Beyond 12, “It’s all about outcomes.” When Beyond 12 can say that seventy percent of students using the app persist and graduate from college, that’s success.