Blue Apple

Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI), a non-profit organization, partnered with Mutually Human to build a new, custom web application designed to provide teachers inquiry-based projects and professional development to help facilitate authentic experiences with students!

Business Needs

Van Andel Institute (VAI) is an independent nonprofit organization committed to improving the health and enhancing the lives of current and future generations through biomedical research and education innovations. Van Andel Education Institute (VAEI), the education division of VAI, is dedicated to creating classrooms where curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking thrive. Van Andel Education Institute offers instructional tools that bring inquiry-based learning (IBL) to life and engage students in thinking. Inquiry-based projects have proven to be effective in the classroom. However, between creating all the lessons and buying all the materials, projects can be very challenging for teachers to create from scratch. VAEI’s goal is to help teachers who are seeking to bring inquiry-based learning into their classroom by making it easy to execute inquiry based projects. 


The team at Van Andel Education Institute issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) to create a web application called Blue Apple. Mutually Human was fortunate enough to be selected as the strategic partner. With a human-centered approach, Mutually Human focused on the business goals outlined by the VAEI team.
STEP 1: Free Consultation

VAEI wasn’t brand new to creating software, but Blue Apple was a brand new product they wanted to bring to life. The first step in the partnership was a Free Consultation, where Mutually Human worked with the VAEI team to expand on the goals they had established in the RFP for the project. Though a workshop, we gathered enough information to inform a custom plan and an estimate for the work needed.

STEP 2: Create a Custom Plan

Mutually Human guided VAEI by creating a plan for the Blue Apple software. Mutually Human worked closely with the VAEI team to prioritize the most impactful features and sketch out how the idea could come to life.

STEP 3: Build Software

Mutually Human designed and developed the Blue Apple custom web application using an iterative approach. With communication as a priority, Mutually Human met with VAIE each week to show the progress of the software, discussed the next priorities, and evaluate priorities. Each week, VAEI was able to provide feedback on the product to shape it into a tool they were confident would help teachers discover learning, think critically and creatively, and make a difference in their world.

STEP 4: Plan for the Future

Though research and piloting Blue Apple, VAEI and Mutually Human will use real-world feedback to identify areas of opportunity and prioritize work based on the value it can provide to teachers across the nation.

Blue Apple opened my students’ eyes to energy use, challenged them to present in front of decision makers, and encouraged them to design solutions to real world problems.

Solution and Results

Blue Apple is a custom web application designed to provide teachers inquiry-based projects and professional development to help facilitate authentic experiences with students! In under 3 months, VAEI and Mutually Human were able to build a fully functioning web application with a robust set of features. Van Andel Education Institute first launched Blue Apple to a pilot group of teachers. The pilot application includes 8 projects with step by step guides through each lesson with images, resources links and more. The initial release was given to a pilot group of teachers to test the full Blue Apple experience and provide feedback.

Based on pilot feedback, the app was revised to better meet the needs of teachers. In August, the full application, including a marketing site and store were released. 

Teachers can shop projects

Teachers like to explore and select projects that will fit their classroom. The Blue Apple shopping page allows teachers to view projects by grade and explore the details of each project.

Easy check out process

Teachers can complete their purchase with an easy and intuitive ecommerce experience. 

Project Library

A project library displays all the projects a teacher has purchased. 

Project Overview

Start the project with an overview of the lessons in the projects, view the materials needed, and check out all the online resources available. 

Easy to follow lessons

Each project guides teachers through step-by-step to make running a project simple. 

Great projects start with a great conversation.

Mutually Human continues to be a great software partner! In fact, they feel like an extension of our own team. They are great at listening and truely understanding our product and vision. I can depend on Mutually Human to collect, organize, and prioritize all our ideas. They are able to take our vision and ideas and bring them to life even better than we imagined.
Terra Tarango
Chief Education Officer/Director, Van Andel Education Institute