Torsh

Conversations with Courtney: Coaching Corner

picture of the author, Lynn Bagwan by Lynn Bagwan, November 17th 2016

Back in October, Torsh launched Coaching Corner on Torsh TALENT. This new feature set brings together multiple tools to simplify and enhance the coaching process. There’s been lots of talk about Coaching Corner around the office, but I still had some lingering questions. Luckily, I caught our CEO, Courtney Williams, while he was sitting at the airport waiting for a delayed flight. He was more than happy to pass the time by fielding my questions. Here’s what I learned.

How has the addition of Coaching Corner fundamentally changed Torsh TALENT? 

I like to say that we’ve moved from a video-centric platform to a teacher-centric platform – one that enables an organization to support and coach teachers in person, virtually or remotely. With this new launch, we've broadened our product to facilitate and optimize the coaching process. Our customers can now capture important data about a teacher even if they don’t use video or they aren't ready to use video. Previously if you didn’t want to use video in the teacher professional development process, you couldn't find value in TALENT. That’s no longer the case. 

Was this shift always part of the plan for TALENT? Or did it come about because clients were requesting certain features or capabilities? 

A bit of both. It’s always been the plan, but we wanted to focus on video first. Then as we started talking to schools, we realized that we had to get broader to accommodate non-video interactions. So our way of doing that was building out Coaching Corner, which now puts the teacher at the center and allows a coach or administrator to organize the information they need, to really give that teacher good feedback and coaching. 

So what can a coach do within Coaching Corner, that wasn’t possible in TALENT prior to this launch? 

Well, a coach can store their observations (video or in-person), and assessments and assessment results, from our rubric tool, all in one place. They can also collect supporting materials like lesson plans, student work, and teacher planning materials so they can get a good overarching view of what's going on with a teacher. They can schedule meetings, whether in-person or by video. And then, they can show progress over time as the teacher addresses specific goals. They can create these goals, modify them and work with the teacher to master them. The reason we call it Coaching Corner is that if you're doing all of this and providing good feedback, you are helping teachers achieve their goals. Then, you are truly coaching, mentoring and growing your teachers, which should be the goal of each organization. 

Would you say that Coaching Corner is a compilation of input from a large variety of clients? Or would you say that one specific client really helped shape the product? 

It is an aggregation of ongoing feedback from a variety of clients and research from what was going on in the marketplace. When we started, there were companies that just allowed you to capture in-person feedback data. They didn't do video. Then there were companies like us, that just did video-based feedback and observation. Then there were companies like Teaching Channel that created videos of best practices in an exemplar library, where teachers could go see what great practice looks like. Then there were companies that just focused on evaluation, goal setting and tracking compliance with PD requirements. What I've observed over the last four years is that customers want all of these things, and they're increasingly asking for them in one platform. So all these companies will ultimately merge, or some will add these features. We are adding features that the market is telling us it wants so that customers don't go somewhere else. It’s hard to do and do well in a cohesive online platform, but we got it done. 

Okay, give me a glimpse behind the scenes. What’s the process for creating a product like this? Do you have a list of which features you want to add, then sit down with the development team and say "make it happen"? 

We have a formal product roadmap that we create at the beginning of the year. It includes at a high level all of the major features and products we want to build for the year. We then have a meeting with the development team where we walk through all of the things we want to accomplish and outline when we want to get them done. Our lead developer, David, then take these big ideas and breaks them down into a bunch of much smaller cases that the developers will work on. We put all of these cases in a "backlog" and then we give them a priority from “critical” to “if time permits.”  We then aggregate a bunch of high priority cases into a sprint, which means those are the specific cases the dev team will work on for a period of time. Our sprints tend to be two-week sprints, but sometimes they're shorter or longer. We periodically revisit the product roadmap to see how we're doing and how much of what we wanted to get done in a year actually got done.

Wow, that sounds complicated. Now that the developers have done their jobs and Coaching Corner has launched, what has the customer response been like so far?

I’m not sure yet. I think we need more time. We have to talk to a lot of the new customers who came on board because they knew we had this, and get their feedback. We also have to do a better job of letting our existing customers know that we have these features now. Just putting out a press release and sending them an email isn’t enough. We are still working on better ways to communicate all of the exciting features that are built into Coaching Corner. We feel confident that once our current clients start to play around with the tool, they will be very pleased by all of the new functionality at their disposal. 

 

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