New technology applications are emerging in social networks that may one day put an end to the tree killing paper used in school texts and paper notebooks. Students already have access to digital networks that assist with their academics in addition to their social lives. About 150,000 people are taking advantage of the services of a company called BenchPrep. In addition to digitizing test prep materials, they are also giving students online access to study aids and virtual study groups.
BenchPrep is a Chicago-based startup that is backed by Lightbank, a company that was founded by the discount buying site Groupon). Lightbank provides seed funding to startups located in the Chicago area. They plan to give out $10 million every year for the next decade.
BenchPrep gives students the ability to ask questions of other people studying similar material. BenchPrep includes the ability to add notes or even append YouTube videos to various parts of the texts and share your additions with other learners.
“We take the flat content and enhance it by adding interaction and social conversations,” cofounder Ashish Rangenkar told Fast Company.
BenchPrep is also preparing leaderboards for practice tests by including interactive quizzes. The materials BenchPrep provides comes from established content providers like McGraw Hill and Wiley.
So far, BenchPrep offers 17 courses in test preparation. Users buy the individual courses and then access them via the company’s website or through a free app they can download to their smartphones or iPad.
About 100 more courses are in the pipeline, including some for professional certification and some for high school Advanced Placement classes. Eventually the company wants to provide as many as 10,000 courses.
“We want to capture the whole education lifecycle,” Rangenkar says. Things like test prep, study aids, and virtual groups, can benefit students from high school to graduate school, even professional training courses are well suited to this application.
The suite of tools offered by BenchPrep demonstrate that a paperless world is also a better world for learners.
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© 2011, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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