OnHand Schools

  • Visual Design
  • Product Development
  • Responsive Strategy
  • Usability Testing


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For more than 10 years, OnHand Schools has been an industry leader in instructional management systems, helping teachers and administrators improve classroom instruction and outcomes. Now, with foundation support, OnHand Schools is expanding their offerings into personalized learning — the holy grail of teaching.

How do you get the right resources to the right students at the right time? OnHand Schools came to Bearded with a great concept and some existing back-end functionality to demonstrate how it might work. Over the course of several engagements, Bearded helped OnHand Schools turn a fledgling concept into a fully realized user experience.

The result: Kandoolu, a web application designed to assess students’ progress and deliver enrichment materials in a way that’s fun, simple, and targeted to the unique needs of individual learners.

Users to the Rescue

OnHand Schools wanted Kandoolu to be a powerful tool. The application includes a quiz builder, where teachers select questions they will use to test skills related to state or Common Core standards. But with teachers and children as the product’s users, we knew the experience had to be intuitive, simple, and delightful — or we didn’t stand a chance.

With this in mind, we incorporated touchpoints with users throughout the design process. We interviewed teachers up front to understand how they approach assessment today. And once we created an initial prototype, we quickly put it in front of potential users to see where it succeeded, and where it failed.

On hand schools website view on a tablet and in a browser

Based on the feedback of real teachers, interacting with a real prototype, the experience evolved significantly from where it began.

When Everyone Agrees That They Disagree

From our earliest conversations with OnHand Schools, we knew that visual design would be important… and contentious. Kandoolu had to be fun, but not childish — something that would appeal to kids and grown-ups alike. Previous attempts to get the tone right had missed the mark.

5 images of badges made for the kandoolu app: a robot badge, constellation badge, comet badge, telescope badge, and a jupiter badge.

Knowing the challenges from the get-go, we created opportunities for the OnHand Schools team to have open, productive conversations about what they wanted their visual brand to convey. We developed lightweight design deliverables to get buy-in before investing significant time and resources on a particular style.

Using the theme of space, we found a way to balance fun with sophistication. Learning is a journey that takes students to new worlds — so it seemed fitting to use planets, stars, and rocketships to convey a sense of progress and adventure.

We’re Not Kidding About Collaboration

Kandoolu was not just a new product, but also an opportunity to reorient the organization’s product development process around user experience and visual design, two areas that have historically been neglected in favor of robust engineering and client support.

For OnHand Schools’ first foray into responsive web design, we worked closely with their in-house team to expose our decision-making process around solving technical, design, and UX challenges.

Kandoolu Website Mobile View of resources page Kandoolu Website Desktop View of a parent dashboard

Three, Two, One – Blast Off!

We also worked together to choose a front-end JavaScript framework that we’d use to build the prototype. Together, we settled on Ember.js, and that became the basis of the full application. The final deliverable conveyed all of the key elements that OnHand Schools would need to build the full application — interactions, workflow, visual design — and with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript that could turn right into production-ready code.

Working with Bearded felt like being in conversation with an expert. They really listened to our needs and guided us to the best solutions for our tough interface problems. We think about 1,000 different aspects of our business so having design and UX professionals navigate our team through this complicated project really helped us make good decisions and develop a product we’re proud of.

Toby Basalla Director of Product Development OnHand Schools
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