Recently, Cengage Learning partnered with LearnLaunch to host a higher education “pitch competition” in our Boston offices. The competition showcased many innovative edtech startups in Boston.
We spoke with one of the winners, Amit Mathew of Cram Fighter, to learn a bit more about his perspective on the current state of education and technology.
In your opinion, what’s the most pressing challenge or problem in education today? Why does this issue have personal relevance to you?
Say you’ve found the perfect textbook. It has clear, concise explanations. You find yourself understanding concepts that you struggled with before. The writing style is engaging. You even chuckle at some of the jokes the author put in the examples. Can technology improve this perfect textbook? Well, we could put the book on a tablet, so it’s more portable, searchable, and less costly to distribute. We could make it easy to change the font size so people of all ages can enjoy it. We can add a dictionary so it’s easy to look up unfamiliar words. That’s where we are today. Can we stop there? Do we even need all the extra technology? Isn’t the textbook itself good enough?
We have an entire generation of students that are going through school and will graduate in a difficult world where the jobs are scarce, the competition is fierce, and there’s more to learn than ever. Technology allows us to extract more value out of that textbook so we can increase each student’s efficiency. And that’s the challenge that’s exciting to me: figuring out how technology can augment educational content to maximize each student’s learning.
How can technology in general—and your solution in particular—help students to overcome this challenge?
At Cram Fighter, we’re using technology to augment educational content by creating web and mobile apps that help students build study plans around the resources they use. We purposely started in a very targeted area: medical students studying for board exams such as the USMLE and COMLEX. This is a market where students have to learn volumes of information in a very short amount of time, so time management is crucial. It’s a great testbed for the technology we built. Our solution uses information like the resources that the student is using, the number of hours they’re studying each day, and other inputs to generate a personalized, adaptable study plan consisting of a detailed daily to do list. It takes the average medical student hours to do something like this by hand. With Cram Fighter, the process takes just minutes.
The medical student market is just a first step for us though. We think the solution we’ve built is applicable to any type of learning, from college courses, where students are juggling multiple classes and exams, to MOOCs, where participants often don’t know how an online course will even fit into their busy schedule.
Through the process of developing this solution, what have you learned about student success? What tips would you give to students or others who wish to start on this same journey?
There’s a big trend in education where so much emphasis is being placed on learning something quickly. Bootcamps, code schools, and other types of crash courses tell you that you can learn a new career in just weeks. But we find that real learning happens when you take small, consistent steps over a long period of time. And that’s a belief that we incorporate into Cram Fighter, where we give positive reinforcement for starting preparation early and accomplishing a little each day.