Challenge 4: Immigr8

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Immigr8 is a platform promoting the instruction and acquisition of basic skills to assist immigrants in adjusting to life in the United States, from lessons in American customs to a crash course in the English language and public speaking. The platform accomplishes this by linking immigrants to various instructional videos. In that way, our platform is one that seeks to connect educators, animators, videographers, and potentially businesses with those newly entering the United States and one that seeks to help new immigrants adapt to life in the U.S. It also works as a product that aggregates informational videos in an easily accessible design.

In developing the platform, we recognized that, according to Fogg’s theory on behavioral change, we are working with a target group that has little ability but likely a medium to high motivation. For the platform to be most effective, both motivation and ability have to increase.

With motivation, we decided that the best means are to:

  • Ensure the videos engaging/exciting to watch (for example, use animations)
  • Provide a rewards system for watching the videos
  • Provide a network for the user to remain committed to the learning

As for ability, we realized that we had to increase the user’s confidence in their ability to acquire the skills being taught. To do that, we must:

  • Make the videos short
  • Make the videos simple (for example, jargon should be broken down into its components and the language should be simple English)
  • Provide dubbing/subbing in the user’s language in the videos
  • Make the goals easy to obtain (i.e.: learning how to do something should not take 50 videos, but 5 videos)
  • Provide support/help whenever needed

These considerations guided our development of the platform.

Upon signing up for Immigr8, users are asked to complete a questionnaire asking for basic information—country of origin, fluency in English, age, current location, etc.—and Immigr8 will use this information to generate recommended Pathways (the platform’s name for a series of videos that will ultimately teach the user a specific skill). Through these recommendations, Immigr8 hopes to provide some guidance to the user, such that the user does not feel overwhelmed by the selection of Pathways available.

Immigr8 creates and curates the content for its Pathways. All content, even those used with permission from other sources and sponsors, will undergo a quality and lesson plan check to ensure that they fit into the theme of the Pathway. Pathways are highly specific, and if Pathways are broader, they will be divided into Mini Paths so that the user will never feel overwhelmed and lose motivation. Some ideas for Pathways include English Language, English Composition, Food Literacy, Home Buying, Mortgages, the U.S. Constitution, the American Citizenship Test, Navigating Supermarkets, and U.S. Road Laws. The Pathways are meant to help immigrants obtain skills crucial to adapt to their new lifestyles. For instance, reports agree that having a grasp of the English language is important for immigrants (1,2). Understanding U.S. history and culture to take the citizenship test has also been cited as crucial, along with being able to eventually obtain a home (as this provides economic stability)(2).

Each Pathway contains several short, high quality instructional videos (five minutes maximum in length); these videos are organized into various series that the user can follow every day. Upon opting into a particular Pathway, users are asked to watch a video every day—their subscription to the Pathway will result in email/text/app (depending on what they decide) reminders at a time that they have chosen themselves—and when they do watch a video, they will earn points to level up and reach certain achievement goals. If users neglect to watch videos after a certain amount of time, the reminders will be a bit more forceful, though users are allowed 5 cheat days a month. The platform will also include additional, extra videos in the series (such as some other fun tips or time/cost-saving strategies); the platform will suggest these videos as something that the user can complete “On The Go” (i.e.: when commuting, when taking a break, while working out, etc.). Watching these additional videos provide the users with more additional points and rewards. Upon completing of one Skill, based on both item-based and user-based collaborative filtering, the platform will suggest other Pathways that the user can pursue to accrue more points.

But what makes Immigr8 distinct from other online learning platforms is its integration of a support network. One of the largest struggles of immigrating is the feeling of displacement, the lack of belonging in a new environment, and the presence of racial inequality (3,4). While the platform principally seeks to teach tangible skills, attending to such mental, social, and emotional needs is a part of adjusting to a new life in a new country, so the platform seeks to provide some avenue of community for new immigrants. Upon signing up, the user will also be connected with a Coach—someone from Immigr8 who will provide messages of encouragement (via mail, text, email, the platform itself, etc.) every month and when the user reaches a Landmark (which occur when the user reaches a certain benchmark of points received, has a certain streak in watching videos, or receives an award, etc.). The user will also be connected to: a Community of fellow immigrants in his/her area that can directly help him/her stay motivated throughout the process, a Forum of users all around the U.S. to also provide advice via the platform, and a Help Center to answer any urgent questions.

Currently, the platform focuses on more basic skills. As the platform expands, however, it can add more skills that can help the target audience; for instance, research has indicated that training in professional cleaning, translation services, building maintenance, and/or computer graphic design are useful skills for immigrants in search of work (2). Other ways that the platform can expand: high-level users can upload their own videos (these videos will, of course, be screened for quality) to earn even more points; businesses can create videos under certain Pathways to market their products (i.e.: sponsored content); a partnership with sites such as YouTube, Khan Academy, or Vimeo; and partnerships with immigration advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union.

References:

  1. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/05/language-distance-the-reason-immigrants-have-trouble-assimilating/275561/
  2. http://www.philanthropyroundtable.org/topic/excellence_in_philanthropy/assimilating_the_new_american_immigrant
  3. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/opinion/sunday/roger-cohen-depression-and-an-immigrants-struggle-to-assimilate.html
  4. http://www.alternet.org/story/55015/assimilation_is_a_double-edged_sword_for_immigrants

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