Mobile

Grockit steps beyond test prep with Learnist, bringing social learning to iPhone and iPad

Grockit has made a name for itself when it comes to social learning for online test preparation, but with Learnist the company is looking beyond just helping you with the SATs: Now you can learn almost anything with lessons prepared by teachers and experts using online media.

After launching Learnist on the web back in May for beta testers, today Grockit is releasing free Learnist iPhone and iPad apps, which will make the social learning service just about anywhere.

“I’ve been thinking in the past 12 months or so that everything you wanted to learn is online now,” Grockit founder and chief product officer Farbood Nivi told VentureBeat in an interview last week. “The problem now is how do you make sense of the endless amount of video content online.”

He’s aiming to solve that problem with Learnist, which at first glance looks a lot like like a Pinterest for online learning. The Learnist website shares Pinterest’s square image board design, but instead of a collection of your favorite LOLcats, you’re presented with an array of lessons across topics like technology, food and drinks, and education. About 50 percent of the site’s content is education (including all of Grockit’s test prep curriculum), while the other half consists of more informal how-to guides.

“Almost every single one of our boards is better and more engaging than any textbook out there,” Nivi said. While textbooks can only devote a few pages to a particular lesson, Learnist lessons have no page limit, and they can include just about any piece of media floating around the web.

Learnist is fun to explore on the web, but it’s even more engrossing on the iPad and iPhone. Much like Wikipedia, it’s easier to sit back, relax, and fall down a rabbit hole of lessons. In addition to just viewing lessons, the apps let you build your own and share lessons with others.

Nivi says Learnist is solving five problems of social learning: It’s curating content, so it’s far easier to find lessons than just searching on Google; since most lessons are created by experts and teachers, they know how to sequence content to make learning easier; it lets you create a learning map, which helps to coordinate exactly how you approach a topic; it offers assessments, to make sure you truly understand the material; and the site lets you social around any piece of information.

Since launching in May, Learnist has around 1,000 people who can create content, and they’ve added more than 20,000 different learning objects to the site. Nivi says a “small army” of teachers also created learning boards for all 7th to 12th grade core subjects. It’ll be interesting to see if teachers actually start recommending Learnist to their students for studying (and perhaps even having students create lesson boards of their own).

“Learnist is so much more the vision I had for social learning than test prep was,” Nivi said. “When we started [Grockit], it wasn’t possible to do Learnist … the tech wasn’t there, the content, computing power, net speed … none of those things were there. It’s only been in the past year that we’ve seen more [of those capabilities].”

San Francisco-based Grockit has raised around $25 million in funding so far from Atlas Venture, Benchmark Capital, Integral Capital Partners, and others.

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