First music, and now online education. Inspired by the success of Spotify, education technology startup, BenchPrep, has transformed into a subscription-based service.
Now, for $30 a month, you can access test prep (GRE, LSAT, SAT, and more) and a variety of courses on your laptop, smartphone or tablet device. The Chicago-based company, which launched in 2011, differs from a free online course service like Coursera, as its curriculum-based courses and test prep are supplemented by licensed textbook content from publishers, including McGraw Hill, O’Reilly Media, and Pearson.
BenchPrep will continue to offer its professional and certification courses on a per-course basis but has shifted to a subscription model for its courses tailored to high school, college, and grad students. As opposed to paying up to $100 for lifetime access to a single course, students can pay $30 a month to access hundreds of courses.
“This is more aligned to the education-as-a-service model,” said cofounder Ashish Rangnekar, meaning that users can dip in and out of learning at any time. Rangekar uses the example of a corporate finance student, who can go back and brush up on introductory finance in a few clicks.
According to Rangnekar, this has disruptive potential and may be an alternative to traditional higher education. “But in the near term, we see this as a complementary tool.” BenchPrep says it wants to replace basic entry-level college courses, so universities can focus on advanced or research-driven courses.
In the future, BenchPrep will expand its focus to tuition so students can get the extra help they need. It’s no surprise given that the competition, Course Hero, recently acquired Cardinal Scholars, a tutoring service. The startup is also investigating ways to use data and analytics to pinpoint gaps in users’ education and bring personalization to the learning experience. Read more about this trend here.
BenchPrep is used by 275,000 students. After raising a $6 million round from NEA and Revolution Ventures, it entered the lucrative textbook market and expanded its range of courses to include information technology, medicine, healthcare, finance, and insurance education. By the end of the year, it will add another 500 courses.