We’re happy to have Rafael Corrales, cofounder and business leader of LearnBoost, with us. LearnBoost is a free online grade book and classroom management tool for teachers. Rafael has studied at the Harvard Business School and has a strong work history with technology companies. He is with us today to talk about his views on educational technology.
This is my second education company — my first was a tutoring business that I started when I was finishing up school at Georgia Tech. I’ve also worked in multiple roles at venture capital backed startups like HubSpot and RentJuice. Lastly, I’m a graduate of Harvard Business School.
I started working on LearnBoost at Harvard Business School. I did a lot of upfront customer development work by talking to teachers, administrators, and generally anyone that knew education and I asked them what their biggest problems were. And consistently the same answers kept coming up and it made me realize there was a real opportunity for LearnBoost’s free gradebook and lesson plan software to exist. Then when I would describe LearnBoost’s future product, teachers would tell me they were waiting for someone like me to come along.
Let’s not forget my co-founders, because they are amazing. Guillermo is our CTO and he’s a technical genius — you should see how fast he works and how well respected he is in the technical community. And then Thianh is a product manager who can really do anything the company needs, which is a huge asset when there is so much to do at a fast growing startup like LearnBoost.
2. What differentiates Learn Boost from other grade book software?
First, LearnBoost is completely free. Other gradebook options are either paid or have a mix of free and paid options. We didn’t feel it was right for teachers to have to pay for gradebook software, so it feels right that LearnBoost is 100% free for teachers.
Second, LearnBoost has a beautiful design and wonderful user experience. Everything has been optimized so that teachers save time while working in our beautiful product. One of my favorite examples is our attendance tab. While other gradebook options require teachers to mark each student’s name with present, absent, or tardy, we realized that most students are usually present. So our attendance tab assumes students are present, which means teachers only have to mark students tardy or absent. In a class of 30 students, that saves you time every day. And over the course of the year, that saves teachers hours per class.
Third, LearnBoost feels alive. That’s because of the real time technologies we’ve developed and open sourced. If anyone has ever used Quora, they’ll know what I’m talking about. That’s exactly what LearnBoost has pulled off and while it’s subtle, users love this part of LearnBoost as well.
Fourth, with LearnBoost teachers can do everything in one place. Now they don’t need to have a separate lesson plan software account, a separate calendar account, a separate gradebook account, and so on. Everything is integrated in one place, which is a tremendous value for teachers and schools.
3. The users are always important, especially for a product such as Learn Boost. How has feedback from teachers and other educational professionals changed Learn Boost?
There are too many things to list here! Teachers have been instrumental in the development of LearnBoost. We’re really a customer development focused company, which means that we listen to our users feedback on just about everything. Of course, the trick is deciding what is a feature that every teacher would love and what is a feature that would only be used by 5% of users. That’s the part that is tough to explain but that we’re very careful about.
That said, we love to cast a wide net with feedback and we listen to everything that comes our way. If teachers have more suggestions, they can always email firstname.lastname@example.org
LearnBoost’s business model is going to have a big impact on education. Our approach is a freemium business model for when we develop our solution targeted at schools, which means that any school can use our free version but schools can also upgrade for premium features. We’re expecting the vast majority of schools to use our free version, which is perfectly fine, and that means that most schools will be able to save up to 100% of their software technology costs every single year.
That’s a huge impact on education. Given that the student information system and learning management system markets are really big, we want to save schools hundreds of millions of dollars in the United States every single year.
5. Finally, what future trends in educational technology personally excite you?
I’m excited about how the internet is going to shrink a lot of bloated markets in education. You’re seeing this in the publishing space, you’re going to see it in the administrative software space with LearnBoost and other companies, and you’ll see it in online education with tutoring, test prep, and more.
The future is really bright and I’m excited about internet enabled innovation in education. Plus, there’s a lot of stuff that none of us can predict and I’m excited to see what future trends emerge in educational technology that we can’t possible foresee right now.