Life At DigitalEd

DigitalEd Leader Podcast: Company Direction

Meg Tyler
Meg Tyler


Welcome to the DigitalEd Podcast! This morning we will be speaking with leaders at DigitalEd about our direction as a company. In the DE podcast studio/zoom room we have Ruth Birman, Senior Director of Product & Design, Siobhan Paul, Director of Global Marketing, Luigi Casole, Director of Customer Experience, and Benjamin Klein, our Senior Customer Success Manager. Thank you all for making time this morning!

Meg: We’ve defined the company vision in the beginning of this year, and we’ve talked about it at various points since then. In your experience, has the direction evolved since we first discussed it? Is there anything that has been surprising about actually putting the vision into practice this year?

Ruth: Establishing the vision creates focus: it was one of the first steps. And then there was so much to get in place just in terms of even our analytics, our processes, communication practices, all the different pieces that we were doing, even what was already in progress, just connecting that together to that vision. Using that as a north star, and seeing, is it aligned? Is it not aligned?

It was interesting to see how necessary that was, and all these other pieces, in order to set us up for execution.  There is a lot more transformation that was required than I really originally thought.

Luigi: From my team, too, the focus on technology versus content is, I think, the biggest impact that I’ve noticed on my team. We’re focusing more on supporting customers and unique things they’re trying to do rather than: how do we fulfill that content obligation? It’s been freeing to focus on those things and provide a better support experience. At the same time it’s helped us focus on other things, too, that overall help in rowing in the same direction.

Meg: Ben,  is that similar to how your experience has been in the Customer Success team?

Ben: It’s kind of interesting, because for us it was a new department on top of everything else, right? So a department that didn’t exist prior to 2023. So there was a mix of building our own set of visions for this brand new department and following the corporate direction at the same time. How do we collaborate, you know, with Ruth, with Siobhan, with the rest of the team. 

Meg: in the marketing team. I know we’ve had a significant change to reorganize our message around that. How do you feel it’s evolved over the years.

Siobhan: It’s evolved a lot this year. Now, we’re more focused on our value, and the value that we bring to our customers. Our messaging has become very customer focused. What does it mean for our prospects to use Mobius? Outside of just being a platform for learning STEM. And I think that talking to our customers or prospects and asking them about their pain points, and how we can solve those for them is a great advancement that we’ve made for the team.

Meg: And now, looking forward to 2024, do you have any thoughts about how the direction might change? 

Ben:  I can go ahead. For us, we’ve already started putting together our game plan for 2024, so it’s a bit more tangible: 2024 is going to be all about growth, about connecting the dots. Begin leveraging the foundations and the connections we’ve made with our existing customers to reach out to other departments. There’s the Math department where we have super strong connections, but we’d like to talk to more Science, Technology, and Engineering teams.

Meg: Yeah, so much of something like engineering is math-based: we could really be helping connect the dots with those students.

Luigi: To build off that, too,  on the experience side. As we expand into other departments, our implementation for those departments changes, too. So we’ve been thinking a lot about that as we’re wrapping up the year—what are the different types of flavors of implementation for customers. What are the different ways we can get them to a good ROI quicker. And how do we show them the most value in the shortest amount of time. 

Siobhan: Definitely highlighting the customer experience has been a great advancement for DigitalEd in the past year. The initiatives that we started in 2023, continuing them on to 2024 is going to be super exciting, especially customer enablement initiatives. Whether it be the blended learning classes that we’re gonna continue on in 2024, or possibly expanding them for different types of courses. Making sure that we do have that regular communication with our customers is going to be amazing. That’s gonna be a very strong point for 2024. 

We’re really going to focus on the platform and the solution of Mobius, whether it means having new tools—we introduce Mobius grading this year—and ensuring that our marketing message is out there. It’s exciting news for both our customers and our prospects.

Ruth: I want to underscore some of the things that you’re saying around focusing on the solution and how critical that is, and on the product side it’s not a thing, it’s actually a solution. If we’re not solving anything, then we don’t actually really have a product. We do solve a lot of different specific challenges within STEM, specifically, and so you know for us, that shifts in the narrative: not being just a laundry list of tools and actually being solutions to problems is so critical

And conversely, as you’re talking about, understanding the problems. And that being sort of a big advancement—it’s super critical. Because if we don’t understand the problem, we can’t develop a solution that’s effective. So I really love the shift to solution and underscoring the point that Luigi was talking about around execution and making it faster for our customers to get to value. That’s a really core focus for us on the product side. 

And what’s probably most interesting for me with a product that’s been around for so long. This product has been around in different ways for almost 20 years at this point. So it’s well proven in the market. But also that means things change and interactions change and technologies change. And what people are doing in the domain changes. And so, I think the most interesting thing for me is how that turns into digital transformation for us. How that enables digital transformation for the institutions that we’re working with, who are also going through that journey as well. 

And I was talking to Chad the other day—it feels like 2023 was us kind of getting our strategy together and building the playbook. And now we’re entering our execution era.

Meg: Siobhan, as a long time employee of DigitalEd, how does the year’s direction compare to the direction when you joined?

Siobhan: When I first joined, we were trying to differentiate ourselves from being a spin off of Maplesoft. We always refer to ourselves as DigitalEd, DigitalEd and very strongly reinforce that we are 2 brands, we are DigitalEd, we have Möbius as our platform. Now Mobius is what we’re leading with. It is where we’re strong and is what we’re paying attention to. It’s not ourselves, it’s the platform and what the platform can do for our customers. 

We’ve talked about humility and being humble with what we do. And I think with our focus on customer success and the customer experience,  we know who the important people are—we’re providing them with the tools and the solutions to be able to enhance the learning and improve students success.

So I think the messaging will be a lot clearer in 2024 and I think it’s also a lot easier to speak to. There is some emotion there as well. So the storytelling will definitely be very important in 2024.

Meg: Luigi and Ben, What does this direction mean for interactions with and support for customers?

Luigi: Yeah I can go first—it’s been nice. I kind of talked about it earlier, how you know we have this renewed focus on the experience for the customer and  empowering customers, making sure they can do what they want to do. We’re obviously working with instructors, but it’s also given us some time to take a step back to work with students who have a lot of questions. We’ve done a lot of work this year bringing on our artificial hire Möbi to support them and giving them a quick chat experience that handles a lot of questions—”I’m trying to get into my class” Why do I have to wait to get an answer from someone when the answer is pretty straightforward  and we can automate that and make that a lot quicker. So we’ve been able to kind of leverage Möbi there. And use them to get students into classes quicker. And in doing that we’ve also created more time within our team to focus on the instructors and what they’re trying to do with students and how they can provide the best learning experience for them. So to me that’s really a point that stands out a lot. And yeah, I’m excited to see how it evolves in 2024 as well.

Ben: On the customer success side what’s going to be really interesting is we’ve heard, in 2023, a lot of feedback and comments around the platform and what they like, what they don’t like. 

We have long time customers that have been asking for the new UI, and Document Import as well. And all those things are coming along. So in 2024, we’re going to be able to get back to our customer and say, we listen to you, and here are the things that  we’re developing and giving you access to through Mobius. 

Meg: And Ruth, ​​what sort of thought goes into creating a company direction like this from a product design side? I know that there’s a lot that goes into considering features and partnerships and a whole array of extra considerations for you.

Ruth: Yeah, for sure. It goes back to what Luigi and Ben were talking about around like the feedback that we did get. That’s really a major element. There are also a bunch of other pieces to look at as well. Many of us have had an experience where we encountered some form of math and we were like, you know, I just am not getting this. I think it’s really trying to understand from the student perspective, how do we break through those barriers of understanding? And how do we make it accessible? How do we kind of get students to walk away being successful in the program that they’ve always wanted to be a part of, instead of what we typically see, which is a really high dropout rate for that first year and then walking away, thinking this was just maybe not for me, and picking something else.

And I think that that’s kind of at the core of it is sort of the driving force. And how do we help instructors with who are actually really the educational experts, and how they envision, you know, new and innovative ways of doing that.

And then there’s also the really tricky balance of doing that while moving our platform to our target architecture. And also, how do we do that profitably, that’s kind of a big part of the move from content to platform, we still have content. But how do we enable the other people who are really experts at making content? Put that into our system? How do we make content creation easier? And how do we make that more shareable and faster to do so if instructors are creating those assignments and they are creating those lessons and those interactions for students. How do we help them do that in a frictionless way? And that’s really sort of our North Star. What is the main problem in this space? What are others not doing? And that’s kind of all that goes into it. We also have a very well established product. That is a wonderful product. It’s just under a user experience that needs a bit of an update.