The rise of the remote instruction has made many parents aware (and irritated) of the Zoom school’s shortcomings, but for Letha McLaren, COVID-19 brought an epiphany: the importance of a headset.
McLaren’s son, who deals with executive dysfunction, was able to focus better through the screen because he wore a headset that blocked out some other noise. With the device, he could hear what the teacher was saying at all times and, even better, he was more attentive to pay attention. McLaren, meanwhile, learned what his son, an A-grade student, responds best to.
The broader conclusion for McLaren was that traditional classrooms do not cater to all students due to differences in learning and thinking. So she joined a longtime friend Suchi Deshpande to help a market of parents who were in a similar boat trying to find a better format to educate their children. Learning is a personalized learning platform that connects neurodiverse students, who have conditions such as ADHD or dyslexia, with experts to identify strengths and weaknesses.
Personalized learning has long had a halo around it. After all, an adaptive curriculum that changes based on a student’s emotional or educational state seems pretty sensible. Why not adapt student-by-student learning instead of applying the same curriculum to everyone in a class? The easy answer, of course, is that the latter is easier to scale, and the former takes more money and time from end users.
Startups like Learnfully, along with wayfinder and Tightly, are entering the market with new approaches to what it means to prioritize a student’s emotions when personalizing education. While consumers and venture capitalists certainly understand the vitality of personalized education like never before, these startups are facing the long-standing challenges of true integration.
Closing the feedback loop
Innovating traditional learning often requires supplemental services for students outside the classroom. McLaren explained that Learnfully is focusing less on the “what” of learning and more on the “how”.
“Students may struggle with math, but it’s because they don’t understand the building blocks that allow them to do some math programs — and so we really focus on the foundation, which often comes down to literacy.” The co-founder said the “educational therapy” approach helps Learnfully differentiate itself from classic tutoring platforms like Wyzant — part of the reason it was able to to close a $1.25 million seed round a few weeks ago.