Listen up

Gareth Mellor from SAM Learning explains why it’s important for business, especially tech companies, to listen to the kids

If you were to examine the business development strategies of a number of successful technology companies today, undoubtedly you’d see that they all have one thing in common: they are constantly evolving and diversifying their products and services to meet the ever changing needs of their customers. So, what does that tell us? It tells us that they realise the significance and enormous value of customer feedback. And if their customers or end users are school goers, does it make the feedback any less important? Absolutely not! Gareth Mellor from SAM Learning explains why it’s important for businesses to listen to the kids.

Children today are digital natives. They have grown up alongside evolving technology, and as such, naturally gravitate towards it with an ease and familiarity that many of their parents may not have. It’s important that teachers and businesses recognise this; after all it is in their interest to work alongside these tech savvy students to ensure what they are teaching or providing is tailored appropriately to both engage and empower students. 

It’s something that the tech giants understand. Thomson Reuters, Samsung and Barclaycard are all perfect examples of companies working with students. They impart their knowledge on the next generation, however, they also understand how vital it is to make this knowledge-sharing reciprocal and listen to what they have to say. With the increasing use of iPads, computer games and mobile technology, students understand what works, what doesn’t, and more importantly, what they like. It’s time for us all to give students a voice, and listen to the feedback they have and make sure that what we’re providing them with is something that meets a real need, so they can truly get the most out of it.

Giving students the chance to express their views and opinions empowers them and allows them to take an active role in a resource, rather than just being a passive user 

At SAM Learning, we’ve taken heed on what the successful tech giants are doing, and decided to set up the first of a number of user group sessions with some of the schools using our system. We invited four students from Ravens Wood School in Bromley to come in and present feedback on how they would improve the resource if they had the opportunity. The students spent the day presenting likes and dislikes, ways of improving the system as well as meeting our development team and pitching a new concept. 

Naturally, you can’t change a whole resource or piece of software entirely based on student feedback, but it is interesting to hear suggestions that you may not necessarily have thought about before. And some may be simpler than you think – for example, the homepage of your website. Should it cater for your target audience, or should it be aimed at its end-users? The students felt that the homepage was too heavily-aimed at teachers, making it unappealing for their age group. As a result of this feedback, we’re now looking at creating a separate landing page for the students to make it more personalised for them. 

Even incorporating the smallest of changes can make a big difference. For example, after the boys told us it would be useful for the resource to make recommendations for related or more advanced activities after completing a revision or exam task, we are now planning to tag activities, allowing students to make a selection grouped by a particular theme or subject area.

Giving students the chance to express their views and opinions empowers them and allows them to take an active role in a resource, rather than just being a passive user. It gives them the chance to delve deeper into a product and gain an understanding and appreciation of its purpose and, by listening to them, it means that they are able to positively impact their own learning. 

Inviting feedback from students reinforces the idea that their suggestions, comments and criticisms are important to companies. And rightly so, because from a business development perspective, listening to students makes sense. It can make serious financial sense.