UnitedApp Case Study
In September 2015, United Learning launched its UnitedApp competition for a second year in partnership with 7billionideas. The competition gives students within the Group around the country the chance to develop their business, digital and critical thinking skills as they create concepts for an educational application.
During the academic year, 1,500 Year 9 students from state and independent schools across United Learning competed for the chance to design an app addressing one of their learning needs, which would then be created and sold in the app store.
The first stage of this was a 21-day roadshow, which saw 7billionideas staff visit 38 United Learning state and independent schools around the country to launch the competition and to teach students how best to generate ideas, refine a creative concept and build confidence in their own business skills.
As part of Round 1, each team had to produce 150 words on the details of their idea and three designs for the app screen displays. Out of the 444 student teams which submitted initial ideas, 50 were selected to attend Round 2, where they had to produce a one-minute video about their app vision, a detailed plan of what it would look like and initial advertising ideas. Ten of the best proposals were then shortlisted for the final at IBM Warwick.
For this final stage, each team had to produce a three-minute pitch, with a presentation showing how the app would look, the national impact it could have, competitor analysis and an advertising plan. Here, the teams had support from their United Learning business advisor, who “met” with them on Skype to help fine-tune their propositions. Students put in extensive work in preparation for this, holding regular meetings to apportion and discuss the tasks, which included market and competitor research, surveys and focus groups.
The ten teams brought a unique set of ideas to the table, giving the judging panel of four industry professionals and mentors real insight into the educational challenges these students faced – including the idea of a curriculum based virtual science lab for students to participate in set experiments, an app to help 6th formers find work experience opportunities and the concept for a e- reporting system within schools for teacher feedback to students and parents.
In addition to the overall prize, students from Richard Rose Morton Academy were awarded “Best Video” for their silent movie-themed presentation and Guildford High School’s team was awarded “Best Presentation” for their research, composure, preparation and presenting skills.
Ultimately, judges chose Greenacre School’s Financial Helper as the competition winner, with Northampton Academy’s Xperience Learning in second place and Wye School’s The World Changers in third.
One of the winning team’s members, Olivia C., said:
"The best part of the UnitedApp experience had to be going up to IBM Warwick for the app final; it was such a professional place and I really felt privileged to have had the opportunity to go there, especially with my friends. I have learnt so many things from the competition, such as how to work in a team and manage your time well. Working in a team was definitely the hardest though, as you have to make sure everyone has their say in decisions, that everyone is involved, and accept that sometimes you won't get your way! But this has been an unforgettable experience."
The winning entry, Financial Helper, was then refined and transformed into an app over the next six months. The concept addresses a gap in the market around financial education and so aims to help children of secondary school age understand financial concepts and language in order to prepare them for adult life.
To develop the app, the team of four from Greenacre School met again with their United Learning business advisor as well as a web developer from the Group to agree timelines and details for the app. In order to improve the girls’ own financial literacy, United Learning arranged for the team to spend a day visiting the London offices of MyBnk, a company which travels the country running groups for secondary school students on financial education. This was their very first experience visiting a head office environment.
As part of the team’s market research they also visited local schools, including Caterham School and The Beacon School, to seek the opinions of their target market on the app’s aesthetics, content and positioning. The team ran their own focus groups and collated the results, then decided what focus group input could feasibly be implemented and what would constitute a significant improvement.
Teamwork was one of the most valuable lessons for students during the process. One Financial Helper team member, Olivia B., said:
“I used to think I was good at working in a team but after doing this I realised I probably didn’t know how to work with others as well as I had thought. Now that I have has this experience I realise what it actually means. Speaking up is important, but so is being a good listener. Usually, I would speak up about my opinions and would always want to push my ideas, but now I’m more open to listening to others and taking on board their feedback.”
Combined with their everyday schoolwork, the challenge of designing an app from scratch was complex but hugely rewarding.
Lindsay Redding, Greenacre School’s Headmistress, was especially proud of all that the girls have achieved:
“The thing I’d say is that for all young people to commit to something and see it through, that journey takes quite a bit of tenacity. It is not just about the hard work though, it’s about the belief you can do it and not just giving up on the challenges alongside managing your school work. I think it has been a triumph for them on an individual level and on a group level, and, for us as a school it has been a source of enormous pride and a great initiation into United Learning. We are really proud of all of them.”
The completed app was launched in October 2016 at a special presentation to teachers, parents and classmates, as well as United Learning’s Director of Technology and 7billionideas CEO David Harkin.
For David Harkin, the team from Greenacre School stood out because of ‘the 3 Ps – their presentation, personality and passion’:
“They had a great plan within their presentation and had worked hard to do a great pitch but when the judges started to ask them questions, they also demonstrated how passionate they were about their idea. It was an intimidating situation as they had 70 people in the room but they did really well to get their personality and vision across. The girls have shown great character and spirit and have become superb representatives for the competition, so it is really exciting to see the outcome of their work.”
Head of Year 9 at Greenacre School, Megan Guinan, added:
“This experience has pretty much ensured these students will ace any job or university interview – they have gained so much from it: working in a team, managing their time, overcoming difficulties, having to learn very quickly about such things as copyrighting, financial terminology and educational ethics. They experienced a day working in a busy office in London, they had to lead discussion groups of students their own age and older and they have done it all while having to do their normal school work, exam revision and sports training. They have learned more than could be covered in any classroom – what an amazing opportunity!"
As Greenacre School celebrates the launch of their winning app of 2016, UnitedApp 2017 has kicked off with a 13-day roadshow to deliver 60 assemblies launching the new competition to United Learning schools. For the first time ever, United Learning and 7billionideas have developed a Primary and Prep School phase – UnitedIDEAS – in order to connect more children with their creative ideas and develop communication skills and teamwork amongst its youngest pupils.