EducationSuperHighway (ESH) is an San Francisco-based nonprofit founded to bring broadband Internet access to every student in public school the US. Founded by ex-hedge fund manager and SF Chronicle “Visionary of the Year”, Evan Marwell, ESH identified three barriers to bringing broadband to public schools: awareness, expertise, and affordability. ESH was building an online application to collect, analyze, and report a massive dataset that includes information about all public school’s Internet access, WAN and LAN configuration, and Internet Service Provider costs and services. The application was designed to be used by school district administrators, state legislatures and governors, as well as Federal policy makers.

Originally, ESH hired two internal developers to build this application using Ruby on Rails. With firm operational driven deadlines in 2015, ESH discovered it wasn’t able to (1) successfully hire additional developers to work on the application, (2) deliver the application milestones based on the hard timeline from operations, and (3) create an application that was both functional and delightful to use.

Presence engaged with ESH, providing a user experience designer and two senior developers who worked with the ESH team to deliver their milestones on time and with excellent fidelity. At the same time, Presence’s senior developer provided ongoing coaching and instruction for the other more junior developers on the ESH team. Presence’s UX designer — originally hired for just two weeks of “touch up” design — was extended to several months in order to create an entirely new and improved user experience for the entire application.

The resulting application allows ESH to manage its complex data set internally, and to present the data to school, state, and federal stakeholders in a way that is clear, engaging, and easy to use. Since engaging with Presence, ESH has been able to hire two additional developers but extended their engagement with Presence’s senior developer in order to provide continuity and help the new developers build their skills. In effect, we’ve become the accelerator for ESH’s entire development team — making sure the code delivered is of high quality and that the timelines set by operations are met.

The new application provides detailed information about how much each school is paying for Internet access, and tools for comparing to nearby schools and districts. This allows schools to negotiate with ISPs from an informed position and to get better rates on connectivity. State and Federal legislators are able to see data trends graphically and geographically, district by district and state by state. The allows legislators to direct attention and funds to the appropriate schools, bringing them inline with Federal goals.