Create and provide the world’s most effective learning experience, accessible to all.
This is the promise of Up Learn, a growing educational start up driven by the belief that every child can learn whatever we have to teach them, if only we could get the teaching right. It reminds me of a point I made at the bottom of this post.
Cognitive science forms the bedrock of its instructional approach, and machine learning adaptive algorithms personalise the experience to each student.
I know, everyone’s promising computers will change everything, but I’m writing about this, in part, because having met and supported more edu-entrepreneurs than I can now recall, two things about this one stood out.
The first was just how far its co-founders had come in terms of reviewing material from the literature of cognitive science, applying it to their service, and writing it up into an internal summary that would give Craig Barton a run for his money.
The second was their promise of an A or A* to every student who used their service, or they would return the money of anyone who paid; they were backing themselves to get this right in a way I haven’t seen from others.
For now, Up Learn funds its research by providing an alternative to expensive one-one tuition for students studying A Levels. Video explanations are scripted in full, and lessons are driven by a careful selection of questions before, during and after, based on principles from cognitive science and other research into educational video design. Explanations are then recorded and animated by a professional team.
In its first year of operation, 95% of students who took its pilot Economics course achieved an A or A* in their final exam. Despite this, the team somehow decided the videos weren’t good enough (?!) and so redesigned the course from scratch. Last year, 100% achieved an A or A*.
To date, over 20,000 students have signed up to the platform, and this forms the other part of the reason I’m writing about this: a couple of weeks ago I joined Up Learn as their Director of Education, and we’re trying to find really, really, really good lesson designers to create content for new A Level subjects, and it’s not easy. I’m hoping you might know someone who’ll be interested, and point them our way.
You don’t get the day to day hustle and bustle of a lively school environment, but what you do get is the chance to sit for hours on end, uninterrupted, super-deep in thought about the best possible way to sequence and communicate your subject’s content; then, best of all, you get to roll it out to thousands of students and have intelligent deep-learning analytics tell you what’s working, and what isn’t, so you know exactly what needs to be improved. I love it, but it’s probably not for everyone; this one’s a job that will probably best suit someone you know who massively loves their subject, and spends forever learning more, and thinking about the minutia of how to teach it. They may even live as a bit of a tortured soul where they see students not getting the top grades as resulting from their failure to teach well enough; if only they had more time to plan…
From all this work, we’re hoping to eventually derive some general principles of instruction that can be applied by teachers of all subjects, and all ages, in all classrooms, up and down the country, so it will probably also suit someone who values scale of impact over proximity to impact.
We’re prioritising chemistry, biology and psychology for now, but would still be keen to hear from teachers and tutors of other subjects.
Please, if you know any great teachers who you think would love to do this, ask them to take a look and get in touch.