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Start Your Business Success Stories

Gamification Is Essential for Tutoring Entrepreneur

college preparation, SAT, GMAT
Credit: College campus image via Shutterstock

Entrepreneur: Kate McKeon
Business name: Prepwise
Years in business: 1
Website address: www.Prepwise.com

Prepwise offers GMAT and SAT prep as well as consulting on business school applications and career decisions. Based in New York City, Prepwise offers private and semi-private lessons to local clients, as well as online courses to students around the world. Kate McKeon, Prewise’s founder, tells us about why she started her company and what technology she’s relying on now.

What problem were you hoping to solve with your business?

For many students applying to undergraduate programs and business school, studying for the SAT and GMAT is painful and time consuming. Our goal is to make the SAT and GMAT less painful and maximize student results quickly. Students hate to study and tend to procrastinate or resort to rote memorization so they can avoid the challenge of deep learning. Unfortunately this often results in under-performing on the test and failing to gain admission to their school of choice. Our company seeks to understand the student wholly so we can deliver the best possible preparation for both the short term: best performance on the test and the long term: successfully transitioning to college and career.

Could your business have existed 20 years ago?

On the surface, the core business of tutoring did exist 20 years ago. But what the past few years have allowed us to do is develop targeted technology to deliver the education even more precisely. We are even building mobile, social games that take the pressure off of preparation by allowing tutors and students to interact more casually. New technology and improved access to existing technologies allow us to study student reactions to the way we teach in a way we could only intuit before. This is pushing us to test new methods and theories for teacher-student interaction so we can serve students even more profoundly.

What technology (or technologies) has most made your business possible?

We use online platforms such as Google Hangouts, Skype, SyncPad and Elluminate to teach students worldwide. We also use cutting edge research from studies of human cognition, involving methods such as fMRI and blood chemical analysis: dopamine, cortisol, and glucose responses, to determine how we build our mobile games so that the games will be fun to play and educate the student at the same time.

Kate McKeon

What technology can’t you live without?

We can't live without mobile gaming platforms. Right now we are building a vocabulary game that will allow students to expand their vocabulary without even realizing they are learning. 

If you could hire one extra person right now, what would you have them do?

It would be great to add an internal operational person, Talent Support. This person would support our teachers and visiting masters, the professors, scientists, artists and remarkable field experts who work with us on temporary assignments. Talent Support would be the extra personal touch to make their lives easier.

What technology do you wish existed that doesn’t?

A better in-field diagnostics for how a student's cognitive response systems are working. It would be great to have a way to see how a student's brain is responding to the lesson in real time. It would allow us to blend the benefits of teacher intuition with the hard science of student response.

What app are you relying on most right now?

I seem to use Fancy Hands more than anything else. Fancy Hands is a mobile app plus service. I ask them to do low level research, book appointments and handle simple things than can be done remotely.

What technology do you think is most over-rated?

Any technology for the sake of technology, aka technology without a clear plan. I am really disappointed with most of the iPad or laptop in classroom rollouts that seem so popular. While access to the Internet can be powerful, without the right guidance, it is easy for student discovery to get mired in junk. Blocking access to all but a few sites is also unproductive. Kids are naturally pushing bounds. At least one kid will hack the block and share that hack with other kids - as recently happened in LA. The hacker did something productive (in terms of learning) but the other kids will just follow and won't get anything productive.

Rather than restricting access, the devices should come with incentives to use them for positive educational purposes. A device in the classroom for the sake of giving out devices is just adding weight to book bags and creating chaos in the classroom. A device for the purpose of pushing research requirements and creating more accountable students with a plan to implement accordingly could be good tech.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Jeanette Mulvey

Jeanette has been writing about business for more than 20 years. She has written about every kind of entrepreneur from hardware store owners to fashion designers. Previously she was a manager of internal communications for Home Depot. Her journalism career began in local newspapers. She has a degree in American Studies from Rutgers University. Follow her on Twitter @jeanettebnd.