Textbook manufacturing giant Pearson launched an online game service Wednesday that's tailored to help high school students who are struggling in math with an emphasis in pointing them toward STEM-oriented careers.
Kind of a social network for math learning, Alleyoop combines video tutoring with online practice problems to give students constant feedback on how they're performing. If a student is struggling with proportions, for example, the system will automatically ask students if they want to practice precursors, such as fractions. Patrick Supanc, president of Alleyoop, says the personalization was designed to be like Web applications students frequently use.
"Deep analytics and tailored guidance has been a big part of consumer-driver technologies, but it hasn't reached that level of personalization like you see with programs like Spotify or sites like Amazon in the education space," he says. "A lot of education technology is out there, but a lot of that technology is built for teachers to use with students, not for students to use by themselves."
Supanc says the program's pay structure was designed to imitate Zynga's Farmville model—users can play for free and can access most of the site's features for free; people who really like the service can buy online currency, called "Yoops," to pay for premium content, such as college entrance counseling or live online tutoring.
"We wanted to make it as accessible to students as possible because math is such a massive problem for students around the country," he says. "You can use the service and do a lot of things, but if you want to do something special or more accelerated, there's a way to purchase additional currency."
In fact, everything on the site uses Yoops, which students can earn for free by completing certain "missions." The missions are designed to show students different sides of math they may not have thought about before. For example, a student can earn Yoops by watching a video about how a roller coaster is designed.
"It puts STEM subjects into context," he says. "We show them how math can be relevant to their life in an engaging and indirect way."