For those searching for ways to make learning easier, Grockit should be at the top of the list. The edtech company, which launched in 2007, has assisted more than 1 million students in preparing for various tests including the SAT, ACT, GMAT,GRE, and university admissions tests.
Grockit was started by Farb Nivi, a former Teacher of the Year by the Princeton Review and academic director for Kaplan. He also recently started Learnist, which allows people to curate anything on the web into an interactive, multi-media experience called a learn board.
Nivi answered some questions about Grockit and Learnist and how the sites have been helping students learn from each other:
How did the idea for Grockit first come about and what does the name mean?
The name is a reference to the word grok, which comes from the book Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. Robert defined the word as to know something so well, so intimately, that it becomes a part of you — you literally absorb something. I’m a fan of Heinlein’s literary themes — individual obligation to improving society, self-reliance and non-conformity. We hope to reflect these values in our company and through Grockit learning experiences.
The idea for Grockit came from my work in classrooms focusing on experimenting with social learning techniques I’d learned at the University of Michigan. I was having success, but realizing I wasn’t impacting everyone that I could reach via the web. I started thinking about ways to extend social learning outside of the classroom, and that was the beginning of Grockit and Learnist.
What has the response been like from students and instructors? Has there been more interest in a certain course, like the GRE, GMAT or SAT? If so, why do you think that is the case?
There’s broad interest for all of the tests you mentioned. Students study for these tests for varying lengths of time, and with different intensities, reflecting the stage of life for the typical learners studying for these tests. But, the important point is that people today have an expectation that when they need to study and learn that they turn to online resources and learn with their friends. That’s a seachange. The classroom-book-lecture model is all but dead.
For videos being uploaded by instructors – does the video have to pass a certain criteria? In other words, is the video approved first by Grockit personnel before it is uploaded?
For Grockit, yes. That’s a purchased curriculum that is baked into our app so that it can be cross-referenced with the rest of the learning experience. For Learnist, no, anyone can upload learnings using a friendly service like YouTube or Vimeo.
Give me a brief explanation of Learnist and what is its purpose? Will it collaborate with Grockit or will it be completely separate?
Learnist helps educators organize information from the web into sequenced boards that function similarly to lesson plans. With one click, users can incorporate videos, ebooks, slides, web content, audio clips, and more into simple curriculums in order to make learning more engaging and interesting. Educators have even used learn boards to teach common core standards. High School teacher, Amy Gallagher Critchett, for example, created a board on grammar. And math teacher Beth Barancik created this board on complex fractions. Learnist is under the Grockit umbrella, but stands on its own.
Briefly explain how your algorithms work and how they were created?
For test prep, we use adaptive learning algorithms similar to other online platforms. However, we have the added benefit of layering on usage-driven refinements that comes from having many, many people use and interact with our content.
How has the collaboration of students assisted in student learning?
We’ve done a lot of research into understanding how social learning creates results. We’ve discovered that students in our social learning experience study three times longer, answer two times more questions, and answer 10-20% more questions correctly (depending on the test). That’s a powerful benefit that translates directly into personal-best test scores and entering the colleges of their dreams. (The company has researched the impact on Grockit students.)
The students can collaborate – can the teachers collaborate with each other? And are teachers selected by Grockit for Grockit?
Grockit Tutors can work with each other and they are chosen by us.
What do you view as Grockit’s most important asset to a student’s ability to learn?
Social learning. It’s the basis of Grockit and Learnist and the core component of all of our products.
Follow Dustin Bass on Twitter @dbass_cmn