During the Harvard seminar at Roosevelt Academy clickers
were mentioned as a suitable tool to create greater interaction
between teachers and students. These small devices give students
the chance to vote on questions or problems put forward by the
teacher. Google and Pearson, meanwhile, are building
their own social media augmented online learning environments
challenging the current market leader Blackboard.
Mobile and interactive
Now, a new innovation aims at redefining the very object
that was the carrier of knowledge for centuries: books. BenchPrep, a Chicago-based startup, licenses
academic textbooks from major publisher like McGraw Hill and
Princeton Review in order to turn them into interactive learning
courses based on smartphone and tablet devices.
The software offered by BenchPrep lets student read content,
take quizzes and have their learning process tracked and analyzed
by a diagnostic tool that points out weaknesses in a given subject.
Furthermore, students can interact with peers through live chats
asking questions on specific issues.
In this way, simple textbooks are turned into complete
interactive learning courses accessible anytime and anywhere. This
approach resembles an idea that is increasingly spreading among
academics: that in times of capacity shortages and rising demand for
education digital education might be a solution to maintain high
Competition for publishers?
The 7-month old BenchPrep startup, meanwhile, is faring quite
well with its new product. Having an existing user base of 200.000
members, it plans to massively expand its reach backed up by new
partners like McGraw Hill and Princeton Review.
These might need to watch for increased competition. BenchPrep's
CEO, Ashish Rangnekar, however disagrees with that statement saying
that "we're not competing for the same dollar. Licensing to
BenchPrep creates an incremental revenue channel that does not
cannibalize their book products."