Education Meets Mobile

Posted on: February 2, 2010
Posted in Mobile

I love teaching and coaching, and occasionally I teach the GMAT to prospective b-schoolers. Recently I went into the iTunes app store to check whether any GMAT specific apps existed. Here’s what I found:

About 30 GMAT apps – most sketchy. A few free, most sub $5, one for $20

Only reputable company is Veritas. Their app is free.

Guess who’s missing… Kaplan, Princeton Review, Manhattan GMAT, Knewton

ALL of the major test prep firms missing. In 2010. Even Knewton, which is a super innovative company and a model for web-based education. Knewton could have an incredible app tying in to their user accounts. They already deliver 100% of their curriculum via the internet. They could push new sets of problems based on the user profile… the possibilities are endless.

In order to progress, education must proliferate into our everyday lives. Our everyday lives are increasingly based around mobile technology. As a user, if I read the NYTimes app on the subway, I’d be very likely to spend a 15 minute commute doing GMAT problems.

The average prospective b-schooler is around 25 years old. This is the “tech crowd”. I am confident WAY over half of this demographic own a smart-phone – iPhones and blackberries in particular. In New York it’s basically 100%.

Clearly it’s not an economic decision for these companies? Their content is ready to go. Hiring an app developer to create a good user interface would cost peanuts. Do the apps need to make sense economically (from a sales perspective)? Not really – this is all about creating a better customer experience and differentiating (test prep is a hyper competitive space). Strategically, this should be a tool to build the business.

So why is it that education related companies lag so far behind when it comes to technology adoption? Where are the Kaplans of the world? I believe it’s a relative discomfort with technology combined with a real glacial approach to change and innovation. Technology and education disciplines historically haven’t mixed, and it’s rare for employees of these companies to have domain knowledge in both. I see this changing in the years ahead.

Btw this post is confined to a narrow test prep discussion but is meant to be more provocative about education at-large.

It will be interesting to see how the iPad impacts the education vertical. As a consumption platform, the device is perfect for dynamic content. It’s not unreasonable to consider a case 5 years out (3?) where every college student is given an iPad-like device or is forced to buy one. The *hundreds* of dollars I used to spend on lugging around textbooks would be history. E-books would net a huge savings.

Back to the GMAT, I checked out a few of the apps, and pasted a screen shot from one of them at top. I don’t even want to name the app because I don’t want to embarrass them and I think they mean well (I sure am a sucker for education) but the content was pretty bad.

One of the questions was to find the perimeter of a polygon – see top picture. All of the sides were labeled. I am sorry but anyone in 3rd grade can add the 4 numbers in the diagram to get 33! …this is NOT a GMAT problem and the app serves very little purpose to anyone, especially at $9.99

Hey Knewton and Manhattan GMAT (now part of Kaplan) – mobile is yours to own, go differentiate!

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