Waggle: Playful and adaptive learning



Triumph Learning’s primary business was making test prep workbooks. They needed to become a contender in digital learning—and fast.

In 2012, most U.S. states were on the verge of switching to new learning standards—the CCSS. These standards shifted the emphasis from test prep (Triumph’s bread and butter) to just-in-time digital practice. Triumph had a brief window to reimagine its offerings and recalibrate its business (sales and publishing models) to support the new standards.

What I did

My challenge was twofold:

  1. Craft a digital roadmap to meet both business and user goals.
  2. Find the talent to execute (as Triumph’s team was largely print-focused).

I crafted the vision for Waggle, an assessment system that delivers adaptive practice (questions and games) on any device. Teacher and student dashboards would be free. Then schools would be able to purchase learning packs to plug into the system. The student dashboard helped kids prioritize their work. A unique meter (hosted by Cloudy) quantified score and effort—supporting a growth mindset. The solution was fresh; the business model sustainable.




I first conducted internal audits with Triumph’s front line; marketing and sales defined branding and distribution requirements. I then interviewed customers to understand their attitudes toward Triumph (“trustworthy, but boring”).

It was clear that stakeholders and customers were open to a significant product shift. To season what I learned, I extended my research outward—digging deep into CCSS standards, competitive and user analysis.

Personas crystallized. One key insight? This product wasn’t just for struggling students. By making the system truly adaptive, we could challenge proficient learners too. To generate consensus, I hung up persona posters and distributed a product vision trading card. This provided marketing and sales with early campaign language.

Jake, 12
I usually score As and Bs so I don’t interact much with my teacher. Even though I’m a decent test taker, I always forget what I’ve learned by the next day. Nothing sticks.”


After whiteboarding with the team, I created a primary user flow to describe the core components of each learning pack. Now everyone (content creators, developers, visual designers) had a common vocabulary to discuss the project. This helped align front-end features with the back end. For example, we learned that allowing kids to bookmark (or ‘grab’) content would skew the recommendation engine. The flow diagram made that issue visible. We fixed it in time.


All practice packs are based on this instructional model.

Behind-the-scenes, I designed authoring tools for content creators to drag and drop elements onto a canvas to build rich graphing, classification, and markup-based questions. Data hooks allowed the team to track which questions were (un)successful so they could make timely updates.

A tap-to-fill template supported prompts like: Plant beans in 2/3 of the field.

This tap-to-fill template supported questions like: Plant beans in 2/3 of the field.

This template supported point, line, and segment graphing prompts like: Draw a line of symmetry through the figure.

This template supported graphing prompts like: Draw a line of symmetry through the figure. It even supported prompts with more than one solution: Draw a parallel line.

A Boolean interface made it possible to tailor feedback. Up to five feedback statements could be authored per question.


Content creators could tailor feedback to a variety of student responses. This made it more likely that students could unstick themselves.

Finally, I worked with content creators to understand their workflow—laps and handoffs. The team was anxious about changing their print-based process. I documented a flow which allowed the CMS team to build something familiar and flexible out of the gate. This made it easier for the content team to adapt a digital workflow (and in the end, publish faster).



Triumph introduced Waggle in 2014. The final product supports adaptive learning and rapid content authoring. Triumph’s factory floor was reconfigured to support always-on publishing.


  • 2016 CODiE Award
  • Teachers Choice Award, Learning Magazine
  • Best in Show (ISTE) by Tech & Learning
  • Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grant
  • EDDIE Award