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Waterloo startup offers mobile micro-courses

Waterloo startup offers mobile micro-courses

Posted by PanamericanWorld on February 15, 2017

With the backing of a $1.2-million investment from a local investor, Tushar Singh wants to help students get "better marks in minutes" by using his mobile platform for quick lessons and quizzes.

Singh is the founder and chief executive officer of Minute School, which launched two mobile apps last week to help Grade 9 students prepare for standardized tests in academic and applied math. These will be the only two high school subjects covered by the Waterloo startup, which will focus on university courses from now on.

Singh says the initial focus on Grade 9 math will help a lot of students, and provides the basic pattern for the design of lessons and quizzes for the university level material that is on the way.

"So it is a good fit for us," he says.

Working out of space in the Distillery Labs at 181 King St. S., in the former Brick Brewing building, the startup has six full-time employees and is hiring.

Singh notes many university students never complete their degrees. At the same time, almost all of them carry smartphones. Minute School is designed to be at the intersection of those two trends.

"I looked at them (students) and said: 'There is an opportunity here to provide study tools and micro-courses in a format that really adapts to the students,'" Singh says.

"It sits alongside their current education techniques and can do that at a price point that won't make them sweat."

The Grade 9 math apps can be used for free. But there will be modest fees for the university materials. After downloading the app, users purchase in-app currency for unlocking lessons and quizzes.

A lesson/lecture will cost five to10 cents, depending on the length. The lessons run from 30 seconds to three minutes. You can watch the lesson as many times as you want for seven days after it is unlocked.

A quiz will cost 15 to 25 cents, and will be unlocked for one day. Each time you repeat the quiz, it will have fresh material, though. The questions are dynamically generated.

Because Minute School is a mobile app, students can watch lessons and do quizzes while riding the bus, grabbing lunch or during study sessions before exams. An entire course on the platform can be completed in two to four hours.

"So as you go progressively through the material a course will be between $5 and $10," Singh says.

The back-end software analyzes the users' quiz scores, and highlights areas of weakness.

"All of that is driven by a deep-learning system, which is essentially artificial intelligence," Singh says. "We are patent pending on our component there, how they interact and produce results for the students."

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