Grockit teams with Facebook to deliver test prep

The continuing discussion on the effectiveness of internet instruction has one startup putting money behind its advocacy for online learning. Recently Grockit announced that the company raised a total of $24 million dollars to promote its online test-preparation program that incorporates social media into its delivery model.

Learning from students
It’s estimated that of the tens of thousands who take the SAT each year, half do not participate in test preparation other than the subject area instruction they receive in school. Grockit, a company that has been successful in India, is looking to offer online test preparation for many of the major achievement tests used to determine college acceptance and scholarships.

As one would expect, the program is online, but with a twist stemming from understanding what students want from computer assisted instruction.

Going social
The online study courses are highly social. Students studying a subject can interact with other students also working on the same subject by sharing strategies and collaborating to approach a difficult part of a subject or chatting about their learning.

The courses also work off of an algorithm that bases question difficulty on the student’s progress. The resulting selections of test questions allow for a student to correctly answer seven out of ten in order to head off a sense of defeat or one of false confidence. The more a student learns, the more difficult the mix of questions become, providing a challenge that is neither too hard nor too easy for the learner.

Grockit has partnered with Facebook to further incorporate a behavior most students use already. Grockit’s home page allows users to share their progress and hopefully some pride at their latest achievement.

Social media knack for niches
Several more established test preparation companies already have online programs, including Princeton Review, Kaplan and ETS. According to Grockit, their business plan is focused on the market of students who will take these tests, but don’t plan on using any of the better-known prep companies. This seems to be consistent with the present trend of social media platforms to innovate diagonally against competitors, carving out niches from underserved or new users. This year’s introduction of Google+, most often compared to Facebook, doesn’t seem to mind sharing users while it attracts a growing base of its own by offering services others don’t have or are not especially good at supporting.

Building upon a good foundation
This year, a well-publicized meta-study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education concluded that, “on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.” This finding turned many an assumption on its head and opened up a new approach to learning, one Grockit seems to have fully embraced. Learning, it seems, is best accomplished at a social level that incorporates, at least in part, students learning from other students.

This is a guest post by Lindsey Mac, who regularly writes for Professional Intern and other publications on topics such as education and technology. You can follow her on Twitter @HarperMac11.

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