Photo: Christina Sicoli

We built the flight, now you have the control

An open letter to the early users of Teacher Express

Dear teachers,

Back in September 2015, the director of China Foundation told me they are exploring ideas and probability to build the largest online Chinese teaching material platform, starting from Mathematics. This idea have been discussed for a while with the aim to help teachers prepare teaching material for their student on top of high quality resources, but they have been struggled with finding an agency which is capable to take a stab on the product strategy, design and development from 0 to 1 at the same time. Unicorn Vision as such take this challenge in the following months to convert the project aim into executable products. That’s how the journey of Teacher Express begins.

The Potential

Google and Baidu did a very good job for making information accessible through search. Facebook let you discover knowledge from the perspective of your friends. But sometime they are way too ambitious to solve all problem at once, being general make it difficult to be a useful and efficient product to solve a pain point for a specific vertical. We see a huge potential to build a knowledge database tailor-made for teaching materials to let user explore the content inside, to let it be the port and hub for teaching inspiration instead of a search, Facebook page or chat groups in Line/ WeChat.


The Knowledge Spectrum

We knew that there is a fixed amount of knowledge for students to learn in each academic year. The curriculum almost stay unchanged for primary, secondary education in the past decade. We see this as one end of the knowledge spectrum, on the other end is about the knowledge that update/ change frequently like medical research, programming technologies or space exploration. The frequency of the knowledge renewal is increasing from one end to other end. The way to handle knowledge discovery from two ends are pretty different.

Content Type in Teacher Express

With a fixed amount of knowledge, we tailor-made a better way to categories and organise them in a structured manner than just throwing content altogether like how the search engine does traditionally. In Teacher Express, there are two core parts in the platform — exploration and creation.

On the exploration side, we create a contextual filtering system to elevate the experience of content discovery on the platform. Along with a multi-step content creation process for users to upload content, we together can create a database that let us to build the recommendation engine on top of it through machine learning technology.


Make content a living thing

For a long time, people are saying search engines and social media provide us numerous ideas, opinions, views and perspectives which make a diverse pool of information and knowledge. On the contrary, the algorithms on personalising implied that the search engines and social media services are creating a filter bubble effect which actually decrease the diversity of information. Using the right algorithm become the most important task when designing the feed in Teacher Express, we want to display content that user care about at the same time providing diversity to enlarger users’ horizons for generating inspiration.

Content Flow in Teacher Express

We care about the resources you have bookmarked, commented; the keywords you searched; the content you created; We always stay update for what you care about; We always try our best to filtering signals from the noise of unrelated content. We make content on the platform a living thing as long as it is providing value, it will not sink to the bottom on the timeline.


It is a Sprint Relay, now it is your turn

In the past five months, we work very hard to build the platform. We conducted surveys, interviewed with potential users. We then draw a conclusion for the product direction and functionalities that should be involved. We create the platform with rational design process.

Sign Up for Teacher Express from the Home Page

Now it is time to get our feet wet, we need your input. Starting from today, you can use the platform by signing up an account on www.teacher.express. You have the control for the content creation, generate discussions, publish thoughts and share resources. If you find anything broken or something make you feel weird on the platform. Please let us know.

There are challenges ahead. We truly believe that it is the right moment the make the move to connect traditional education to modern web properly.

Thank you very much.

Best regards,

Kevin Hon Chi Hang — the founder of Unicorn Vision