When Apple announced the iPad in 2010, some people mocked it, some couldn’t understand why anyone would need it, and many Apple fans ran to the stores to stand in line for it (much like they did today for the new iPhone).
But it also opened up new opportunities in education. Less expensive and complex to use than desktops or laptops, but with large enough screens and interactive abilities thanks to the touch screens, iPads and other tablets have been the talk of the education circles since the beginning. Two companies, Score Beyond and Nearpod, which recently graduated from StartX’s accelerator program, are working to change learning and teaching through tablets.
Every year, high school students spend millions on college entrance test prep, mostly in the form of brick-sized paper books and costly classes and tutors within travel distance. But ScoreBeyond is taking on that market with its iPad apps, currently offering the equivalent of SAT and ACT prep books (and lessons).
There’s a dedicated iPad app available for each of those tests. Both apps come with assessment tests, personalized content, and “daily workout” exercises. For $4.99 and $9.99 per month for the SAT and ACT tests, respectively, students can upgrade to a premium version with additional materials and features, including 1,000 additional questions, unlimited daily practice, and twice as many vocabulary words as the free editions of the apps.
Recently the startup added video chat tutoring to its apps. For about $45 per hour, students can take a tutoring lesson over video chat with one of ScoreBeyond’s tutors. The company has been hiring local college students that it vets for skills and prior tutoring experience. Students can also provide feedback on their tutors, both for quality control as well as to help ScoreBeyond best match students up with tutors. To illustrate, if Bob and Suzy both really liked two of the same tutors, a third tutor Bob likes could be a good match for Suzy.
Although only about 10 percent of ScoreBeyond’s students are signed up for video-chat tutoring, founder and chief executive Emrecan Dogan says all students who have signed up and still using the service, and many are pre-paying for multiple sessions in one shot.
The startup plans to add tests such as high school Advanced Placement tests for high schoolers and SAT subject tests.
ScoreBeyond competes with the many other iOS apps for SAT and ACT prep. The company was founded in 2012.
Nearpod is also turning the tablet into a multifaceted teaching tool. Teachers can create a variety of interactive materials, including slideshows, quizzes, essay prompts, and interactive diagrams.
Teachers can also monitor their students’ work through the teacher app. Not only does it serve up reports on performance and trends, but it also provides that information in real time, enabling teachers catch troublesome questions right away.
Although most teachers already have materials they’ve developed on their own that they digitize with Nearpod, the startup has also built a marketplace of content. Along with a fair amount of free materials, it also contain premium content, some of it teacher-generated. Nearpod invites teachers with high-quality content to contribute it to the store, giving them $2,000 up front instead of paying them later.
While the app itself is free, some premium features aren’t. When a class has 30 and more students, for instance, teachers will have to pay.
Nearpod has a few peers in the space, including Top Hat and Socrative.
Nearpod is available on iOS, Android, the Web, and as a Chrome app. The company is profitable, with $2 million in revenue so far this year. It raised $1.5 million in seed funding in March 2013 from NewSchools Venture Fund, Clarence So, and Sina Shekou.