An Educational Program to Help Teenagers Recover from Nicotine Addiction: A Case Study in EdTech

Drug addiction is a severe problem in youth across USA. In fact, prescription drug misuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States. And it intensely affects the lives of teenagers in multiple ways. Substance abuse and problematic patterns of substance use among youth can lead to problems at school, cause or aggravate physical and mental health-related issues, promote poor peer relationships, cause motor-vehicle accidents, and place stress on the family. They can also develop into lifelong issues such as substance dependence, chronic health problems, and social and financial consequences.[1]

As a non-profit organization that aims to transform lives impacted by addiction and substance use through behavioral healthcare solutions, one of Harbinger’s end clients had it on their plan to develop an educational drug recovery program for teenage learners. Their intention was to positively impact the lives of as many teenagers as possible by rolling out the program in multiple schools and colleges to improve its reach. Regarding the program development, the client had two primary requirements – Development of an app and an engaging educational course which would play on that app.

Keeping in mind the preferences and needs of teenage learners, sensitivity around the subject area, and the learning objectives, it was important to get the technology selection and design of the program right. Shared below are some guidelines by the client for each of their development requirements and how Harbinger helped achieve them through its EdTech development capabilities.

  1. App Development

They wanted to set up a drug addiction recovery application (Both web-based and mobile), which would enable individuals to access drug treatment programs based on user modules. Different roles including youth, parents and professionals would use the application. The application would also produce reports and analytics to analyze the impact of each training.

Harbinger studied many environments for their user interface quality, customizability, performance, overall maturity, and durability and finally chose AWS Lightsail environment. We then moved to build the custom web and mobile app for drug recovery. Other essential technology choices that we made were – ReactJS for the responsive web front, React Native for the mobile app, and Laravel Framework to support durability and performance. The app included functionality to give performance-insights to learners in real time. Periodic notifications and customized reports helped in tracking learner progress efficiently.

The below figure represents the solution architecture of the application.

EdTech Solution Architecture

  1. Course Development

In any online educational course, it is important to minimize dropouts and ensure a higher level of engagement for learners, and same was the case here. The client wanted to design an engaging educational experience, which suited teenage learner preferences, based on a 5-stage recovery program. They also wanted to ensure that the program wouldn’t scare the learners away, instead motivate and encourage them to achieve the objective of calling it quits on nicotine.

Harbinger decided to give the teenage learners a Netflix-like user experience. There was chunking of content into smaller modules, as series and episodes. Our designers treated episodes with different instructional and visual design methodologies. Some episodes were made available as comic strips, some as scenarios, some had an inter-conversational interface, while some had gamification components. This built learner interest and ensured engagement to be spot-on. The design of the entire learning program was as a responsive website.

As a result of all the research and efforts that went in, the client could launch a successful drug recovery program that helped improve student outcomes drastically. They were even able to promote this program in schools and colleges, which resulted in the program’s wider reach. Harbinger is very proud of the fact that it has been able to work with the client to meet all desired objectives and contribute to this noble cause of drug recovery. Apart from this particular case, we have also helped many other clients build successful educational technology solutions. To know more about our EdTech expertise or to view a demo of the drug recovery solution, please drop a note to


The EdTech Story: Designing Products for Impacting Student Outcomes and Student Engagement

The education landscape around us is disrupting rapidly. This was happening even before COVID hit us, and the pandemic just accelerated it. What is even more interesting is, that these changes are not happening at a focal point, but cutting across age groups – K-12, Higher Ed, and adult learning. With more and more teaching related activities moving remotely on devices through digital apps, impacting student outcomes and student engagement is coming across as a key challenge for various stakeholders.

The need of the hour is to blend instructional pedagogies with innovative use of technology. There are various aspects that are critical while designing an EdTech product. We have broadly categorized them into four key areas listed below from our experience.

Impacting Student Outcomes

An article published by Forbe’s magazine says that the only metric that matters in EdTech is student outcomes. The role of technology is to act as an enabler to impact these outcomes. At times, it may sound as a controversial stance, and debate it and say there is more to it. But eventually it all leads up to student outcomes. Broadly, if I had to list all such key outcomes, they would be:

  • Driving social mobility and prosperity in economically weaker sections of societies
  • Bridging the gap between formal education and jobs of the future
  • Making education inclusive and equitable for specially abled students
  • Closing the achievement gap for students

We should also consider making the product design process a more collaborative one, by involving educators. Educators would be able to put together a totally fresh perspective in front of EdTech investors and providers about how they perceive real world challenges, which then could be used to into a line of code or an algorithm for a feature.

Harbinger has been providing various engineering services for its EdTech customers. As part of our UI/UX services, we do interview teachers and professors, in the target market, to understand their needs, usage patterns, and pain points. And based on the inputs, our team works with product managers to design product features, improve current product and its design. This helps in not only designing relevant features, but also increase product usage, which in turn helps the business with their objectives.

Designing it Right for Enhanced User Engagement

When it comes to designing products for EdTech industry, design is an extremely important aspect. In fact, a bad design is a death knell for your product. There are numerous cases of debacles in the EdTech industry due to bad design. Once such remarkable case is when New York city’s education department created a data system to replace Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, or ARIS. The investment that went into this was in tunes of USD 95 million over a period of 8 years. When an audit was done to determine the user adoption, it revealed that only a meagre 3% of parent population had logged in into the system. Further investigation revealed that the main reason for this was bad design.

Why designing for EdTech becomes different as compared to some of the other industries is that varied persona types that you have to cater to. The same application or platform could be used by students, teachers, administrators, and parents. And each user type will be using it for a different purpose. This adds a layer of complexity and makes it fun and challenging to design an EdTech product.

Accelerating Digital Transformation through Integrations

In the current context of things, your products are key to help educational institutes make the leap of digital transformation. And integration is a key enabler for digital transformation. You no longer have the option to leave out integration for next time; you need it and you need it now.

Adoption and eventually success of your product heavily relies on integration readiness of your product. In the beginning, the stop gap arrangement for educational institutes was to deliver instructions on web applications like Zoom or Webex. But these were not designed to meet the focal needs of impacting student outcomes and engagement.

There are a variety of products that an educational institute might start using, but if they do not talk to each other, then the entire purpose is defeated. And imagine how the entire experience would be from a student or faculty perspective.

A majority of their time would be spent in navigating from one application to another. And of course, there is the entire angle of data. How do we manage this navigation problem and make sense of the data and provide meaningful insights to stakeholders – if the applications and products are working in silos? The need of the hour is to leverage integrations to accelerate your digital transformation strategy.

Let me bring up a case here to further support the case of integrations. Lately, educational institutes have turned to digital credentialing to validate and recognize skills. Credly, a leading player in this field integrated with Canvas. And a result of this integrated ecosystem – universities are now able to seamlessly and efficiently provide digital credentials to their students on completion of learning programs within the LMS.

Preparing for an Economy of Scale and Disruption

Preparing for an economy of scale and disruptions, both at the same time. Looks contradictory. Allow me to elaborate it a little further.
When the pandemic curveball hit us, and educational institutes closed their physical campuses overnight, replacing it with remote learning and instruction models. It was an act necessitated by the circumstances at hand. The curve to stabilize operations was steep for some and for some others it was relatively easier.

One key reason behind this was that EdTech products which were optimized for cloud could quickly scale up, but the others struggled, some crashed. This entire experience has helped convince stakeholders that preparing for an economy of scale is must and getting on the cloud is the key.

There is one thing that the recent disruptions have taught us is that this is not the last disruption. There could be more, something else, in different sizes and shapes. And while you prepare for an economy of scale, by migrating your products to the cloud, it will also provide you the much-needed elasticity for the next disruption. You can downsize the technology infrastructure and save on costs while you wait for enrolments to pick up.

These are the most interesting times in the EdTech space. This is an opportunity to contribute towards shaping up teaching and learning in the future. In the subsequent blogs, we will peel down the layers of each of the four key aspects we touched upon. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to drop us a line at