Parent Toolkit’s New Recommendation Engine Helps Users Stay Engaged

AnalyticsMulti-Platform Web DesignContent Recommendation EnginesMobile ApplicationsWebsite Development

For over five years, Connections Media has worked closely with Parent Toolkit — a product of NBC News’ Education Nation sponsored by Pearson Education — and helped establish it as the go-to resource to help parents monitor the needs and achievements of their children in and out of the classroom.

In 2013, we created, a two-time Webby award winning digital resource site to help parents and teachers navigate the academic and personal success of students. 2014 brought the accompanying Parent Toolkit phone app putting these same helpful tips in the hands of parents and teachers.

The Parent Toolkit team is always producing fresh and interesting original content for its community of users, helpfully categorized into key topics and grade levels. The goal is to continuously service compelling, informative content that draws visitors deeper into the site and extends the time spent engaging with the content they discover. For example, if a visitor is reading about helping their child build a strong vocabulary, they may also be interested in learning about the importance of kids reading genres beyond fiction.

Case Study: Parent Toolkit (short)


Our goal was to create a tool that suggested related content on each detail page. The challenge was this: with more than 2,000 pieces of content — and 5 more added each week —  how can we automate this feature to truly deliver perfectly synced content recommendations to each visitor in real time?

How did we build a smarter recommendation engine?  We decided to look beyond the usual inputs websites use to make recommendations to users, most of which are only based on the given page a user is visiting at any time. We broadened our recommendation engine’s appetite, pulling in data we learned about that user’s entire session on the site beyond the current page. We built a tool that understands not only what content drives interest but what content registered engagement, and then engineered it to make recommendations driven by that bigger dataset. This tool not only tailors and customizes each visitor’s experience, but it also reduces the number of steps users need to find useful and meaningful information on the site.

The investment in this new recommendation engine as the centerpiece of the redesigned has already paid dividends: The client has more data and insight into the activity of their users, and engagement by those users is up nearly 20 percent! And for the technology powering this engine, we’re only scratching the surface of the intelligence we can apply to giving users a better experience and helping organizations inform and connect with visitors.