As schools across the country celebrate the end of a school year filled with compromises and disappointments, now is the time for parents, students and the education technology industry to ask the frequent graduation question: What have we learned ? As an entrepreneur who started school in India and completed a medical residency in the US, I have come to know that many American families see education as a service. Parents pay tuition or taxes, and in return they expect schools to guide students from kindergarten to the ultimate rewards of college and career. I’ve also seen a difference between students who pass college because that’s what they expect and those who build and execute a plan who use college education as an opportunity to start their career. have both higher costs and greater rewards.
When preparing for the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE), I borrowed thousands of dollars to pay for preparation materials that weren’t very helpful. Many of my colleagues feel the same way, so I wrote 200 pages of case-based scenarios to help students prepare for USMLE. I sent instructions to several publishers, and when they told me to come back when I finished my medical training, I decided to put the material online myself. I took UWorld out of my dorm room, and by the end of my residency, the company had made about $250,000. Today, after kicking off growth since day one, I can say that UWorld has helped millions of users across the globe prepare for important exams including the SAT and ACT.
Of course over the past year, fewer students have taken the path that started with those exams. With some 400,000 students choosing not to enroll in college in 2020, a section of parents and students has spent the past year bemoaning what they’re not getting from schools and colleges. Meanwhile, others have achieved their academic goals despite the limitations of distance and hybrid learning by treating their families like a startup: a small group of people with shared goals and the need to come up with innovative solutions to age-old problems.
The rise of learning groups built around an instructor hired by a small group of families is a great example of moving beyond the service model to a more entrepreneurial approach. Pods are seeking funding through foundations, donations, and fundraising sites like GoFundMe.
Like startups, teams have flexibility that comes with a small size. A group leader with four students has the time and freedom to explore more novel learning methods than a teacher trying to keep 30 students still during Zoom class.
Not all of these approaches will succeed, but as anyone who has started a company knows, you often learn more from failure than from success. For students in study groups, the lack of a large peer group can be an educational advantage. Surrounded by a few people they trust, they have more freedom to learn the essential business lesson: “Fail fast, learn faster.”
Even as students across the country return to the classroom full-time alongside their teachers and peers, families can and should provide their children with the fundamentals they need to navigate. educate themselves in the same way that startup CEOs direct their startups. Students, like entrepreneurs, require only a few key factors to succeed: a quiet space to work, equipment, and a reliable internet connection. Students today also need online learning materials, and I have found that the most effective of these is…
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