Fascinated with social learning as a field of study since he was an undergraduate at Michigan, Farb Nivi has been on a course of learning for his current role ever since those early days. Later, when he was a teacher at the Princeton Review, Farb found great success by creating social learning in physical rooms. He was even named National Teacher of the Year (by the Princeton Review in 2001). Nonetheless, after nearly a decade of teaching at The Princeton Review and Kaplan, Farb realized that he was only reaching students with socioeconomic advantages. “Like most Americans, my
concerns about the educational crisis in America prompted me to act,” he say. “I started to teach through video courses online in 2007, and web-based social learning features started evolving within my circle of collaborators very quickly. That was really the start of Grockit.” What exactly is Grockit? Find out in this in-depth look at what Grockit literally means, and what one college student said when he stopped Farb on a campus sidewalk after seeing the Grockit logo on his sweatshirt.
Victor: What does the name mean?
Farb: The name is a reference to the word grok, which comes from the book Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein who is considered amongst the greatest science fiction writers of all time. Robert defined the word as to know something so well, so intimately, that it becomes a part of you—you literally absorb something. As a teacher, you can have no higher aspiration than to inspire content mastery. I’m a fan of Heinlein’s literary themes—individual obligation to improving society, self-reliance and non-conformity. I hope you can see these values in our company and Grockit learning experiences.
Victor: What is it? Who created it?
Farb: Grockit is a social learning company. Grockit.com is a place for people to learn and prepare for college admissions exams and other high-stakes tests. Grockit’s learning framework—our social learning and adaptive learning technology—is used by partners for a number of purposes, including remediation, student learning evaluation, teaching almost any kind of material. At the core of the experience is the acknowledgement that people learn in different ways, but social learning, which hasn’t really been addressed in online learning, is really powerful and scalable thanks to digital media and social networking.
Victor: What does it do and what are some benefits?
Farb: The way students have studied for standardized tests hasn’t changed much in decades, but the way they communicate and play has—with Facebook, IM, social games, etc.
Grockit gives students a way to:
Practice questions online based on their needs
Work together with their peers
Ask questions of each other
Earn badges as they progress
Watch videos and lessons
As for benefits, we’ve done a lot of research into understanding how social learning creates results. We’ve discovered that students in our social learning experience study longer, answer more questions, and get more questions correct. That’s a powerful benefit that translates directly into personal-best test scores and entering the colleges of their dreams.
Victor: How is it unique and who are your competitors?
Farb: Grockit is the fastest growing online test prep service for students seeking to get their best potential score on the GMAT, SAT, ACT, GRE, and other tests required for college admissions. 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.
Right now, there are a number of adaptive learning platform companies focused on partnering with universities. We are helping learners through universities, individual learners, online schools, charter schools, virtual schools and non-profits.
Victor: Where did it originate and where can you get it now?
Farb: Grockit was founded in 2007 and you can find out more at http://www.grockit.com.
Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?
Farb: There are several products and pricing bundles available at https://grockit.com/learn_more. There are plenty of discount codes on the Internet as well. In general terms, Grockit costs about $30/month, and tutoring costs about $50/session. Video courses and annual subscriptions are typically priced at about $100.
Farb: You can see more at Grockit.com.
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for? Who is it not for?
Farb: Grockit is made for anyone preparing for college and graduate schools admissions tests, but it’s used by anyone who wants to learn more about a particular subject. Grockit/answers is a great example of a teacher’s tool—it allows people to share video content and provision questions like a quiz, mapped to specific moments in a video.
Victor: Your thoughts on education these days?
Farb: Education in America is at a transitional point where there is a critical mass of teachers, students, politicians, companies and investors focused on creating change. Change in regulation, policy and funding is going to happen, probably after the next Presidential election. But, businesses and technology innovation are creating more possibilities every single day. I’m excited that cognition is an emphasis of R&D investment and entrepreneurialism. This is why we partnered with Startup Weekend and the Gates Foundation to create Startup Weekend.edu.
Victor: How does Grockit address some of your concerns about education?
Farb: Grockit is a one-for-one business because we—our whole company, our investors— are concerned with access to education. We have provided five community-oriented non-profits with over $100,000 of free Grockit services targeting some of the most under-resourced areas of America. My concern, our shared concern, is that a great college admissions test score can be the gating factor in seeking a promising future with financial freedoms and happiness derived from a college education. Our K-12 product, Grockit Academy, is donated to a non-profit every time anyone buys a Grockit product. Grockit Academy will help more grade 7-9 students stay on college track, get better test scores and join the ranks of college entrants.
One more thing, we’re excited about the potential for social learning in instructional design. Our research illustrating the efficacy and efficiencies of social learning is startling. If instructional design were adopted widely today, next year, 85,000 more students would score high enough to be eligible for college. Over ten years, 850,000 would be college bound, necessitating the creation of nearly a dozen more Universities the size of the University of Michigan. That would certainly boost our economy and transform our society—changing America’s overall education rates, employment levels, even impacting the total numbers of citizens living under the poverty rate.
Farb: As I mentioned, I created a partnership with Startup Weekend and the Gates Foundation to create Startup Weekend.edu. In October we held a Startup Weekend at Georgetown’s Business School—Georgetown has purchased Grockit for their students and alumni. Before the event, I was walking across the campus, and a student stopped me, asked me about my sweatshirt, asked me if I worked at Grockit. He wasn’t attending the event, he just wanted to thank me for Grockit—he credited Grockit with helping him get into Georgetown. I was so humbled and thankful for that moment.
Victor: What else can you tell educators and other leaders in and around education about the value of Grockit?
Farb: Grockit works because it solves for student engagement.
Victor: What makes you say that?
Farb: Anyone in education understands that engagement is the key to student communication and learning. Grockit works because of the human interaction—they stay, they learn because of the social learning from other students and tutors. Social learning is an old model of instruction that we moved away from during the 20th Century in a attempt to mass produce educated people in a process that has not scaled and sustained the way we hoped.
Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of EdTech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: victor@VictorRivero.com