Making Students Smarter with Knewton

This article was written by Phineas Upham

Knewton was founded in 2008 by Jose Ferreira, who came from Kaplan before that. Ferreira wanted to begin a company based around the concept of “adaptive learning,” or learning that uses computers as interactive teaching tools.

Knewton is technology platform, not an app itself. The difference is in the details. Where an application has pre-defined goals in mind (IE, getting students to learn or to read from a certain text book), a platform is focused on providing a tool set for students to grow with. Knewton’s tools track student performance, and provide a real-time analysis of a student’s behavior and learning. Knewton uses computer interactions to try and pinpoint a student’s strengths, tagging these concepts with very specific language to help staff make recommendations based on those findings.

With the Knewton platform, staff can build applications to analyze all sorts of data. For the student, that means a digital course that is specifically tailored to fit their skills. Knewton relies on data it gets from other students to run comparisons. These comparisons don’t rank students, they tell staff what the student knows and how the student learns. Applications built with Knewton can then take the next step of making course recommendations for that student. This gives traditionally troubled students a chance to catch up, while still identifying and working on their strengths.

Knewton can bring big benefits besides finding a student’s strengths. It can use its anonymized data to mine for specific teaching techniques that have benefits across the board. Knewton also tells teachers how a class is performing as a whole, which empowers lecturers to challenge students accordingly.

About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phineas Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phineas on his Twitter page.

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