Quality Assurance to Quality Engineering: An Edtech Evolution.

Ritesh Chopra February 17, 2021
The Impact of the Pandemic: 
If there were any lingering doubts about the need for digital transformation, the Pandemic has put them to rest. In a contactless world, schools and teachers continue to impart learning. While the transition to digital education was already underway, what’s noteworthy here is that pre-Covid, the transition was more like a dimmer switch – slow and sporadic. The pandemic has acted as a catalyst and has forced people to rapidly embrace digital.   In the world of social distancing, operating digitally helped businesses stay operational.    It is go digital, or shut down.   This pandemic has disrupted the conventional education system. In his book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, scholar Yuval Noah Harari outlines how schools continue to focus on traditional academic skills and rote learning, rather than on skills such as critical thinking and adaptability, which have become crucial for future success.   Can the move to online learning help reinvent the education model and make it more effective? While there are concerns over a hasty and unplanned transition, e-Learning is poised to become an integral part of the ‘new normal.’ The writing on the wall is clear “The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever”    
Problems and Opportunities at the Horizon
Firstly, publishing is one of the oldest industries that hasn’t largely changed with the advent of technology. Secondly, the way many students study across the planet is still orthodox. While there is a sizable opportunity for educators and publishers worldwide, there is a need to tame the challenges listed below, to ride on the new wave of learning and excitement!  
  • Need for Speed – There is an understandable pressure to deliver and curate engaging content faster.
  • Identify an apt Digital Medium – which could render a variety of content types, online videos, and ways to handle other admin tasks along with a personal dashboard for each role/user
  • Offline access to Content 
  • Digital Rights and Children Data Privacy
  • Empower teachers to use digital tools/pedagogy 
  • Use digital to enhance learning outcomes 
  • Testing across the devices ecosystem 
  • Agility and nimbleness to adapt to change/evolution 
  • Enhance student engagement by leveraging technology  
    Other operational challenges include:  
  • Cost Consolidation and 
  • Identifying areas of Optimization 
  • Adopting Agile methodology for Content/platform development
  • Lowering Cost of ownership – While leveraging technology and 
  • Commercials models – Identifying the right commercial models to distribute the content across a wider audience and putting a varied monetizing mechanism in place 
  • Creating a modular microlearning approach 
  With the above-stated challenges, it becomes vital that EdTech products go through rigorous quality reviews. Given the situation, the traditional quality practices may not prove fruitful. Hence, there’s a need to metamorphose into a more proactive and agile methodology. This seems to be a good time to change from Quality Assurance(QA) to Agile-based Quality Engineering (QE)  and moving testing upstream.  
Evolution of a learning product journey from QA to QE:
As the learning world moves towards software engineering, the quality aspect needs to mirror that development approach. Quality Assurance (QA) only entails ensuring the defined quality, spotting gaps and flaws early enough, code review, analysis, and refactoring. But the users need a more robust and proactive variant of this approach, the one that is beyond test runs and testing cycles, one that percolates down and gets blended into the software culture and gets integrated with the way developers and designers think about software. Yes, that mindset is Quality Engineering (QE). Quality Engineering transcends Quality Control, DevOps,  Quality Assurance, and Testing. It is Agile, Scalable, Strategic, Forward-looking, Intuitive, and encapsulates a much bigger scope than QA. It stretches well beyond the processes and procedures and into product engineering enhancement.  It spans across the way these processes were stitched – right at the nucleus of ideation framework and a user-centric product.  It straddles across all areas of QA and testing and elevates quality to an altogether new level. QE is also not at the fag end of a software development cycle. It is a radical way that pushes the quality upstream and starts way ahead of where code initiates. It permeates the entire development process. QE is needed today to help learning companies insulate us against the onslaught of diversity and the phenomenal rise of too many devices, platforms, browsers, and content types and specifications. Quality Engineering ensures that quality is acknowledged upfront, very early on, and is enhanced at every step and desk – and not just at the exit doormat of a digital learning product.  
How to support this evolution : 
Learning Companies have to embrace this new culture and mindset to help QA transition into QE. Today a quality team needs to think more creatively and more rapidly than ever before, and this is where continuous integration and regression testing model between developers and testers comes into play. Testing becomes rapid, consistent, embedded into code design, and gets seamlessly integrated into the core development chain. It also entails localizing problems and fixing individual parts so that all red flags are addressed before the whole software gets annexed. Below are some key points important for this transition:
  • Shift in Culture:
More than the skills, it requires QA to think and embrace themselves at par with developers. They have automation tools and coding within their arsenal. Understanding the product objective will help them define the precise quality goals for an adaptive digital product. This is where the culture and habit parts come into play. In fact, QE begins right from the starting point of any software development cycle. QE is about the collective and distributed quality initiative where every project person contributes to quality despite their role across all levels throughout the product journey.
  • Workforce transformation
There is a need to reskill the existing testing teams. This involves changing the team’s mindset as the first step. The overarching objective of this is to move towards testing as a service.
  • Upstream testing
Testing as an activity itself will have to be flipped; while the traditional way involves testers getting to see the product only once it gets developed. The Agile approach takes the testing right at the beginning of the software development lifecycle, at the ideation stage itself. This is accomplished by incorporating ongoing feedback and continuous integration during the development lifecycle.
  • Automation framework 
Identifying and having an automation framework in place is the key step to aid this transition. It is a common practice to automate repetitive steps and include this into the fold of regression testing. However, there is always a scope for greatly expanding the role of automation in testing with tools like Selenium, Robotium, and EazyTest leveraging Machine learning and AI libraries. 
  • Adoption of CI
A Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Deployment (CD) pipeline help save a lot of testing effort on manual, error-prone deployment work. It works in sync with the upstream testing lever to steer quality from the start of the software development lifecycle.
  • Outcome-based /Reward based Model
An outcome-based model increases efficiency while reducing recurring operational costs. Using quantifiable, objective, and measurable performance metrics, the QE processes can be aligned with the expected outcome, and this also helps eliminate waste than in a traditional managed services model. These models focus on the outcomes instead of individuals, bringing in higher levels of transparency and making it a win-win situation that increases your rewards and divides the risks. As the learning industry moves to new world order, all the above points do culminate into a shift.  There could be no better time to embrace this shift. 

Ritesh Chopra

Ritesh is a transformation leader with proven success in building large-scale multi-million dollar services business across the globe combined with a strategic mindset, structured execution, and strong people leadership capabilities.