How we chose the best online content partners for Brain Chase

online learning

Online learning is a disruptive innovation that is transforming the way the world learns. Professor Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School, along with co-authors Michael B. Horn and Curtis Johnson, made that claim in 2008 when they first published the best-selling book Disrupting Class. Many reacted with skepticism initially, but with the passage of time, the authors’ claim is proving true.

The reason online learning is such a compelling force is that technology makes it possible to personalize instruction for each learner, tailoring the content and pace to individual needs. Plus, it brings access to educational experiences that were previously out of reach—broader libraries of books, vast menus of courses, geographically borderless access to experts. And online learning can be just plain fun! Many online modules are more like games than like textbooks. The graphics, music, videos, and interaction certainly are a bright contrast to a boring textbook or lecture.

When we set out to find the best online reading and math content for Season One of Brain Chase, which begins June 30th at 9am Eastern, we had several criteria in mind:

  • Breadth of content. We needed to partner with online-content companies that had a broad enough range of math and reading content to meet the needs of everyone from 2nd graders who are a year or two behind to 8th and 9th graders who are several years ahead. We love ST Math, for example, but it only serves up to 6th grade.
  • Effectiveness of content. Brain Chase is fun and games, but the learning part is serious, and we mean business. We needed content that will boost our participants forward academically and generate real results. We eliminated several possibilities based on the reviews they received in the EdSurge EdTech Index and on the Common Sense Media platform. We also searched the Blended Learning Universe (BLU) to see what programs schools are using.
  • Engagement factor. This is the subjective part, but among the most important! What’s fun? What will children and teens love and want to stick with? What will keep everyone’s attention for the full six weeks? We tried out each top contender and were ruthless about cutting those that felt monotonous.

In the end we settled on two online-content providers that are great fits for Brain Chase. The math provider is Khan Academy, a nonprofit with the mission of bringing a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere. Khan reaches about 10 million students per month with math lessons that range from 1+1 all the way to Calculus. In 2010, Bill Gates endorsed the Khan Academy, calling it “unbelievable” and saying “I’ve been using Khan with my kids.” We’re excited about how Khan Academy uses energy points to track student effort, and we’ll use that measure throughout Brain Chase. Thank you to Sal Khan and his team for sharing this free resource with the world.

For reading, we chose the myON reader, a service that personalizes reading for students by recommending books based on their reading level, interests, and ratings on books they’ve read. Brain Chasers will need to log 15 minutes of active reading per day on the myON site, and with myON’s broad library of over 5,000 digital books, we believe everyone will find just the one to hold their attention on a lazy summer day.

Khan Academy and myON are our two online-content partners for Season One. We’re excited to work with them and to bring them to our students this summer.