EdTech for Special Ed: Digitizing Functional Academics with SDES

Our experience with Uptech Studio has been nothing but exceptional. The entire team is not only invested in what we are creating, but they genuinely care. They took the time to learn about us, our program, what we want to accomplish and then most importantly, who we are designing this platform for. Their level of investment and understanding of our goals often led them to anticipate what we needed before we even asked for it. They created a detailed schedule and delivered the agreed upon features when they said they would. Having worked with another software company in the past, we can honestly say that the team at Uptech Studio goes above and beyond. From the beautiful, user-friendly interface, to the functionality of the digital platform, we couldn’t be happier!

Suzanne Fitzgerald, President & CEO


Specially Designed Education Services (SDES) is a pioneering company dedicated to providing an innovative program for special ed teachers and customized educational solutions for students with unique learning needs. With a mission to empower every learner, SDES focuses on creating inclusive, adaptive, and effective educational programs that cater to diverse learning styles and challenges.

  • Client: SDES Works
  • Industry: Ed Tech, Special Education
  • Services Provided: Product strategy, user research, user experience design, responsive web app development, backend development, infrastructure as code
  • Technologies and Integrations: NestJS API, Angular Web Application, AWS
  • Uptech Studio Team: 1 Product Manager, 1 User Experience Designer, 1 Full-stack Developer

The Challenge

SDES approached us with a critical mission: to transform their offline, paper-based Functional Academics program into a digital platform that would better serve Special Education teachers, aides, students, and parents. While the idea of leveraging technology to replace the inefficiencies of paper sounds straightforward, at Uptech Studio we understood that paper has its advantages and that special ed classrooms present unique challenges for integrating technology solutions.

We knew that to be successfully adopted by teachers, the software would have to make teachers’ lives easier and better and designed with the context of use in mind. Just “eliminating paper” wouldn’t be compelling in itself. 

Our Approach

To address these challenges, we focused on close collaboration with real users to deeply understand their needs throughout the design and development process:

  1. Discovery: The Uptech Studio team delved deep with the SDES team to understand the complexity of their existing products, the business goals they hoped to achieve by digitizing their tools, and the landscape of users.
  2. User Research & Persona Development. We continued by mapping out the relationships of everyone who touches (or is served by) the Functional Academics program. We interviewed a number of people and created personas for the key constituents. The primary focus was to understand the needs and goals of teachers, their aides, and administrators. We also considered the concerns of students & parents as served personas.
  3. Concept Testing: Before getting too far along with development, we created simple prototypes in Figma of some of the key software interactions so that we could get early feedback and identify gaps in our approach.
  4. Full-stack development with an iterative approach. Uptech Studio worked collaboratively with SDES to identify both the table stakes features (for example, administrative features to manage user accounts) and the highest impact areas of the software to build and release first (progress tracking and real-time reporting). We then built out the infrastructure, back-end services, and front-end UI to make it happen.
  5. Validation and refinement: As we added features, we piloted them with real users to understand and work out the kinks. No two special students, teachers, or classrooms are the same, so it was critical to validate that we had built in the right amount of power and flexibility into the system.

The Solution

Our solution for SDES included some key attributes:

  • A modern, scalable platform. We started the digital transformation of the Functional Academics program by focusing on just one area of the program, but knew that over time it was important to be scalable both in supporting additional capabilities and to handle the thousands of school districts serving millions of Special Ed students. 
  • A clear user interface. By working closely with the primary users (teachers) we ensured that the software was usable, useful, and a delight to use.
  • Secure data handling. Ensuring the security and privacy for minor students, including their sensitive health information, was of paramount importance throughout the project. 
  • Flexibility. If we designed and built a rigid system that didn’t accommodate the dynamic environment of the classroom and the differing needs and approaches of different teachers, teachers would ultimately revert back to the most flexible tool available to them: pen and paper.

The Results

SDES launched to about 20 beta customers mid semester, Spring 2024 and saw consistent engagement from that cohort of users for the remainder of the school year. They are currently incorporating the digital platform into their sales strategy and plan to pilot with a number of school districts in Fall 2024.


Our partnership with SDES exemplifies how innovative technology and user-focused design can transform educational experiences. By introducing a modern platform, staying laser focused on the user experience, and ensuring secure data management, we helped SDES achieve their mission of providing exceptional, personalized education to students with unique learning needs.

Looking to transform your educational platform, digitize your offline business, or just need help with solving complex problems with software? Contact us today to learn how Uptech Studio can help you achieve similar success.

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