How We Operate Has Changed. It’s Time Our Schools Did Too

Ever dreamed of unlimited vacation pay? Companies like Netflix and Social Strata have been doing it for years (along with 1% of U.S. businesses).

Yet workers haven’t been abusing these policies; they’ve been able to remain very punctual with deadlines and conscientious on maintaining the balance between life and work. Even amidst all the autonomy, these people are able to remain focus despite all the distractions and still help their companies thrive. (As Rob Lewis pointed out, Netflix attracted 800,000 subscribers in 6 months.)

This changing structure reflects a change in the way we think and operate. We are more used to having several things on our minds and constantly fighting off distractions.

Internet-blocking software, such as Freedom for Mac, is getting more and more popular with people that want to get stuff done. Yet the group most vulnerable and wired to procrastination is trying to thrive in a system that seems bent on using their learning style as a constraint, not an advantage.

If businesses are focusing so hard on making sure that their workers get the most out of life and work, shouldn’t schools—who are actually getting paid to teach—adapt and play to the strengths of the connected generation of students?

Here’s an example: Professor’s office hours don’t nearly come in as handy anymore. Somewhere between the culture of procrastination and (as a result) the long lines near exam time, office hours just became less convenient and less valuable. Instead, the last minute third-party services are crushing it by promoting to last-minute studiers, typically offering practice exams and case studies the weekend before a major school exam.

Tutors are also in heavy demand. They’re great accountability partners to keep students progressing. However, tutors can be a costly solution and they require regular work, which means more adjustment in habits on the student’s part.

Tutors simply haven’t yet adapted to the procrastination culture. Their advice isn’t as available, convenient or immediate as students would prefer. They’re still very effective: 35 to 40 hours of tutoring a year helped public school students move up one entire letter grade. Granted, this was using a spaced learning method and the material is often a bit easier to pick up in elementary school than university.

One of my professors was in the middle of commending Notewagon one class. (As Knowlton Thomas reported, they’ve closed a $1 million funding round.) She then discussed her dilemma: she thought it was a great idea to solve this gaping problem, but she was under pressure to help the school is take serious action against it.

As schools start digging their trenches, they may be met by a force that could be considered yet another, possibly less controversial, adversary. Or, perhaps this force is a prototype of the school system’s future.

Last week, Donny Ouyang—the mind behind Kinkarso—teamed up with entrepreneurs Vishnu Hari and Kiarash Kiazand to launch Rayku, a p2p academic site connects expert tutors with students over the internet on the fly.

Ouyang explains the problem and his team’s solution:

“Apart from the obvious inconveniences, a scheduled hour-long session is inefficient. If a student has more than an hour’s worth of questions, too bad. If less, boredom takes over. With on-demand tutoring that’s available anywhere, students will approach tutoring in a ‘learning mode’ and is in a unique teach-able mindset. We think that this is much more efficient, and in addition to the cost-savings that online tutoring provides, a logical advancement in education.”

Rayku has just launched in beta, is looking for Series A funding, and has reportedly seen some solid engagement from students (in the beta test, each student was said to spend around 25 minutes on the site). As of now, Rayku focuses on helping students out with their math problems; in the future, they plan to expand into science, economics, English, and other areas of study.

They’re also considering launching into helping students take their LSATs, GMATs, GREs, and other grad school entrance exams. Ultimately, they hope to expand beyond formal education, and grow into the ultimate resource for everything including financial support, video game help, and tech advice.

The whiteboard feature their team has developed sets Rayku apart from the rest of the pack. It’s a feature that allows you to use your cursor and draw your problems out on a whiteboard, which can be seen by your tutor as well. It’s a much easier way to (literally) illustrate your problem and hopefully clear up some things that words can’t describe as easily.

Rayku is a flexible and convenient educational tool, accessible right when we have a question while we are doing homework or studying. Naturally, students pay tutors per question; Rayku makes money by taking a commission on each transaction from student to tutor.

Like the music industry before iTunes, and the movie industry before NetFlix, the formal education system is starting to really feel the effects of sharing, collaboration, and advancing technology.

Like Apple’s case study in Green County and iTunes U, Rayku is one part of what the formal education structure needs; it is a service that makes use of technology and actually caters to the strengths of students and the way we do things.

(Note: This article focused mostly on having tech adapt to humans. As we’ve seen, humans adapt to tech as well; that’s the reason we’re so distracted! Most procrastination definitely does diminish our ability to focus. If you’re struggling to get it back, check out the Pomodoro technique. Similarly, check out this article on making your goals inevitable. I’m hoping schools start recommending these tools and systems to students soon.)