Karan Goel of PrepMe on How Technology Affects Learning

Today, we have the CEO and Co-Founder of PrepMe Karan Goel.  PrepMe “is a premium test preparation company dedicated to bringing high-quality, customized learning to students across the world.”  Udemy is excited to hear his thoughts on education and technology.

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you came up with PrepMe?

We started PrepMe because we believed that students deserve to learn in a way that targets their individual needs rather than a one-size-fits-all approach that traditional classroom-only learning provides.  Furthermore, we believed that students deserved to have access to the top teachers and tutors regardless of where they lived and we felt that the internet was the only way to deliver that.

Furthermore, we felt that it was very important to work with educators.  Lots of startups in the education space take an extremely antagonistic view towards teachers and institutionalized learning.  We feel that this is misguided and quite unfortunate because everyone in education is here because we care about helping students learn – no one got into this industry because it pays so well.   We wanted to work with educators to learn how we can partner with them to help students learn.  This approach has yielded great success for us and we now work with hundreds of schools and school districts across the U.S.

2. The test preparatory industry is very competitive with several national players.  On the website you state that PrepMe differs because of its innovative adaptive learning technology, what makes PrepMe’s innovative adaptive learning technology different?

PrepMe was the first company to offer true adaptive learning in test preparation.  We focus at the skill level and don’t just tell a student “You need to improve your mathematics skills” but get right at the specific areas where the student needs to build proficiency.  We were also product focused from day one and decided to build an engineering team in Silicon Valley to ensure we could continue to attract and retain the best talent.

Since we launched on our own platform in 2005, almost all of our larger peers have tried to copy us.  We see that as a testament to the fact that adaptive learning is the way to go.  Additionally, as we have been using adaptive learning longer than any of our competitors and have tens of thousands of students worth of data, we are able to continually improve our algorithms and the underlying curriculum to offer a better learning experience.  PrepMe is the bespoke tailor of learning.

3.  On your website, PrepMe seeks to help students improve their test scores and improve their reading, writing and mathematical skills.  How do you think technology can be used to help students learn better?

PrepMe’s belief is that there are certain things technology can do better than humans can and there are things that humans can do better than technology can.  When it comes to personalization over a large number of students, PrepMe’s adaptive learning technology can rapidly identify each student’s areas for improvement and deliver targeted learning against those areas.  This maximizes the amount of improvement the student can achieve in a given amount of time as the student is not wasting time on areas that may be relevant to his classmates but not to him.  Furthermore, PrepMe’s in-depth reporting and analysis help improve actual in-class instruction by empowering teachers with data showing them general areas of need across their class.

Another way to look at it is that PrepMe does individual-level personalization for each student but simultaneously says to instructors “84% of your students are not proficient in the concept of Absolute Value.  Why don’t you review it in class?”  This leverages the best of both worlds by allowing teachers to make the most of their precious in-class time while allowing them to let PrepMe do the yeoman’s work of working with students on individual areas for improvement that the teacher may not have time to review with the entire class.

4.  What else can we expect from PrepMe in the future?

PrepMe is greatly expanding its set of courses to leverage the adaptive learning technology we’ve already built and spent countless hours perfecting.  You will see us continue to improve our core product while entering new curriculum areas and continuing to work with schools and school districts to understand how we can better support their needs in addition to those of their students.

5.  Finally, outside of PrepMe, what other innovations in educational technology personally excite you?

We think there are lots of fantastic innovations in education.  As the cost of hardware and broadband drops, we’ll see cheap, robust devices (whether those are tablets, laptops, etc.) in classrooms and in students hands across the world.  This will level the playing field and allow students everywhere to have access to top-quality learning materials.  The demand for a high-quality education continues to outpace the rate at which we can train high-quality instructors and technology solutions that combine easy-to-use, affordable hardware with great learning applications will allow us to continue to meet this growing demand.