Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are the ultimate forms of procrastination. When I want to take a break from my studying—or postpone the start of my studying—I usually end up on one of the two websites, if not both. Yet while such websites hurt work efficiency, one new social network is aiming to actually help students to study.
In 2007, Farbood Nivi founded Grockit, a social network for learning. Now, more than four years later, Grockit is taking off and is primed to revolutionize the test-prep industry.
Farbood Nivi, a University of Michigan graduate, focused his studies on Organizational Psychology. After graduation, Nivi worked as a master teacher at Princeton review. In this role, Nivi developed course curriculum and trained other teachers for instruction/test-prep for the SAT, ACT, LSAT, GMAT, GRE, and MCAT. Nivi later went on to serve as a the academic director at Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions for the region of Southern California.
After several years of working in the test-prep and standardized test industry, Nivi decided that it was time for a change. In his view, the system in place—classroom based instruction—was not sufficient and was optimal only for the instructor. In order for students to achieve the highest possible test score, they would need personalized instruction. The former Teacher of the Princeton Review Teacher of the Year turned his passion for progressive teaching strategies into a solution, developing Grockit, an innovative test-prep service.
What Exactly is Grockit?
Grockit is an online test-prep service unlike any other, helping students study for the SAT, ACT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, and general K-12 education in an innovative way. As the company’s website states, Grockit is an “adaptive, personalized learning program distinguished by its unique social learning features that are proven to help people learn quickly and answer more questions correctly.”
While most test-prep services today function in the “one size fit all” manner, Grockit does the complete opposite, developing personalized study plans and learning experiences for each of its users. Using a similar algorithm to the one that Google uses to determine search results, Grockit’s software presents questions based upon each individual user’s strengths and weaknesses. Say you are studying for the math portion of your SAT. You successfully complete multiple algebra problems. Grockit will respond by offering more complicated algebra problems. If you happen to struggle with geometry, Grockit will, in turn, present easier geometry problems. This same algorithm allows users to track their progress over time.
Moreover, Grockit is centered on a socialized learning experience. Taking an idea from the history books, Nivi frequently references the one-room schoolhouse model in interviews. As Nivi notes, back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, twelve grades of students were frequently taught in a single classroom. As a result, students—not the teacher—did most of the instruction. A senior would teach a junior, who would, in turn, teach a sophomore and so on. Nivi believes that such a peer-based learning experience is far more successful than the now commonplace model, as students learn not only from receiving instruction, but also from giving it. As such, Grockit is centered on a peer-to-peer model. Users can see and communicate with others studying for the same exam. In doing so, they can share their experiences—their successes and their failures. In doing so, students learn from each other.
For those students who fear that they cannot learn merely through peer-to-peer interactions, Grockit also offers other modes of instruction. Video explanations of questions and links to other instructional videos are built in to Grockit’s interface. The company provides more formal, yet still personalized, test-prep courses for a reasonable fee, as well. (A premium membership costs $29.99 per month and tutors’ fees vary.) For the relatively miniscule cost—some SAT tutors can cost over $100.00 per session—Grockit will provide live, online tutoring sessions with expert instructors.
Learning Can be Fun
Grockit is unique in one other way as well: the website tries to make learning fun. The software allows students to play “games” or complete “challenges,” with each “game” or “challenge” targeting a specific area of the curriculum or set of skills. While students are still answering practice questions, they are doing so in the form of a game. “Badges” and “experience points” are rewarded based upon a student’s success in the game. Grockit games can be completed in two modes: single-player and multi-player.
So far, Grockit has proven to be successful. After only a few years of operation, Grockit has allowed students to vastly improve their SAT scores and has helped them to gain acceptance into top universities.
Nivi and other Grockit personnel recognize, however, that it is nearly impossible fro Grockit to compete with expensive, highly qualified and experienced tutors. A student who spends one hour per week with a $200.00 per hour math SAT tutor will almost definitely have more success on the exam than a student who spends one hour per week completing Grockit’s math SAT questions. However, Grockit is not trying to compete with expensive tutors. Rather, as Grockit’s chief executive, Roy Gilbert, stated in a recent interview, “We’re never going to compete with $1,000-an-hour tutors in Manhattan…Our biggest competitor is doing nothing.”
This past October, Grockit announced that it had raised over $7 million in venture capital. Since its founding four years ago, Grockit has now raised a total of $24 million. With the new capital from investors such as GSV Capital and NewSchools Venture Fund, Grockit is primed to grow and really make its mark on the test-prep scene in the near future.