This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.
Three years ago, Trilogy Education sent out its first ever student feedback form. It was a simple survey, no more than five questions long—but it was one we diligently sent to our students and analyzed each and every week. As a tiny educational startup powering just a handful of coding classes, this survey represented our small way of telling students: “We care deeply about your experience. Hold us accountable.”
For us, every bit of praise was a call for celebration. And every gripe, no matter how large or small, was a call to action. We knew every student by their writing, and each week we waited anxiously to see how last week’s grumbler would respond to this week’s improvements.
Data drove us to be better. And we were meticulous in collecting it.
A lot has changed since then. We now partner with more than 40 universities around the globe, host hundreds of classes, and help thousands of adults learners gain new skills to make life-changing career moves.
Yet, despite all this growth and change, the quality of the student experience is as paramount to us today as when we first began. And, for us, data has been the secret ingredient enabling us to achieve those ideals.
Today, I’m proud to share that Trilogy Education just collected its 200,000th student feedback form — marking 2 million data points collected. This feedback has not just been useful as we’ve grown. It’s been a driving part of our growth story.
From the beginning, continuous feedback has been the common denominator between our classrooms, whether students are learning web development in Utah, data science in Los Angeles, or cybersecurity in Atlanta. It’s what’s allowed us to bring powerful experiences to thousands of adults, while not only maintaining, but increasing the level of quality in our programs.
So in commemoration of this event, I’d like to share a bit about how and why we use data in our classrooms—and what this means for our students, university partners, and the workforce as a whole.
“Count Something Interesting”
But first, here’s a book plug. If there is a single text I would recommend those interested in data-driven classrooms read, it would be: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. In the book, Gawande extolls the power of a simple idea:
“Regardless of what one does… one should be a scientist in this world. In the simplest terms, this means one should count something. It doesn’t really matter what you count. The only requirement is that what you count should be interesting to you. If you count something you find interesting, you will learn something interesting”
From Trilogy Education’s very start, we took this idea to heart. Through carefully designed surveys, we “counted” how our students felt about the quality of their learning experience and the pace of their own learning along the way.
It sounds like an obvious idea. But too often in education, the idea of monitoring the motivation and sentiment of students isn’t given as much attention as it deserves. Student feedback is typically relegated to an end-of-course survey and collected in ways that can’t be turned into useful insight. And this is a real shame. Because learning tough things is tough work, and if students lose confidence in their teachers, their curricula, or themselves, it’s all but certain their learning will get stunted.
In our world, this is particularly true. For the vast majority of people, entering into a rigorous boot camp on a topic like web development or cybersecurity presents one of the most daunting educational challenges of their lives. The opportunities to give up, call it quits, and admit defeat are vast. It takes tremendous work on the part of our instructors, curriculum writers, and coaching staff to ensure that every student receives the support, motivation, and feelings of accomplishment they need to thrive and succeed.
Over time, we settled on a set of key metrics that reliably capture the sentiment of the classroom. We consistently track how they trend in our best classes and in our worst. Data from these metrics gets aggregated into our Learner Analytics Platform, a powerful tool we’ve created to help all of our teams deliver the best learning experiences possible.
Through the data we’ve collected, we’ve been able to root out bugs in our curricula, calibrate differences across classrooms, offer targeted support to students, and continually raise the bar on our own quality standards. In fact, nearly every aspect of the student experience in our programs has benefited from our unique approach of looking at data.
Data, Quality, and Scale
Trilogy has grown a great deal since 2015. But as we’ve scaled, we’ve focused intently on making every class better than the last. The most powerful outcome of all this data has been in its ability to help us create a consistent learning experience across each of our classrooms.
Every two weeks, we meet with our university partners to share the data we’ve gathered. We perform collaborative deep dives, working closely to solve any issues. We provide intuitive graphs exploring how the data points have changed over time, making it instantly clear how well our latest iterations and changes are working, and where students are feeling the most stress.
Yet, most important of all, we review data that compares how each program looks side-by-side. By comparing the graphs of every university partner across the nation, we’ve been able to maintain consistency across all of our programs, ensuring every student receives a high-quality learning experience.
The Data-Driven Road Ahead
At the end of the day, this data isn’t just for our own benefit.
It’s for the benefit of our students, who receive better learning experiences and graduate as confident, skilled, and passionate technologists. It’s for employers, who discover engaged and capable workers that become valuable additions to their teams. And it’s for our university partners, who get high-velocity, high-impact programs that allow them to impart market-driven knowledge to the next generation of tech professionals.
It’s taken time and rigorous data collection to reach this point. But this approach has been the key to unlocking fascinating discoveries and delivering transformational learning experiences.
So what’s next?
After three years into our story, we’ve come a long way from those first classes and initial surveys. But we’re far from finished with our data-driven endeavor.
As time goes on, we’ll be adding more data points into our equation and looking for new ways to gather insights at the intersection of skill, demographics, sentiment, and outcomes. For us, the future of our programs is powered by data, and we can’t wait to see where it will lead.
If all this data has made you excited about our programs, then explore a boot camp near you today.