TheLearningPoint, a self funded venture was recently started by Prashant Bhattacharji. Prashant had a desire to do work that reduces the cost of education as well as expands the reach of educational infrastructure. What started as a project in mid-2010 aims to become a large scale repository of tutorials, automated tests, visualizations and graphics for students. Presently they offer online tutorials and tests for a large number of topics under mathematics, physics, computer science, electrical engineering and recently they have started a small English grammar section as well.
Prashant considers every kind of educational website or course page on the Internet as its competitor. This includes university course pages, programming blogs, question-answer forums like Stack-Overflow etc. With the help of Google Analytics and after scanning the expectations of students on several educational blogs and forums, TheLearningPoint was created.
TheLearningPoint aims to create a working model of tutorial-documents and automated quizzes and thereby enable "resource reuse". What that means is they want to help the reuse of notes made by a student or a quiz/test conducted by a professor, which can be useful for hundreds or thousands of students in the future if recorded properly, instead of ending up in the dustbin.
TheLearningPoint has an edge over competition due to the following reasons:
- It acts as a single point reference that has critical mass of information across different subjects all on a single platform.
- It provides visualizations of information. Uses HTML5 to present information graphically.
- As content created on the site is by students, there is better appeal to other students.
- The student crowd-sourcing model gives them an in-depth "long-tail" coverage of specialized topics which is often not covered properly in other places. What this means is, that they manage to cover even less-popular and somewhat-obscure subtopics from various subjects. For instance, a lot of the Linear Algebra hits they get, are from people looking for the "Cayley Hamilton" theorem (a less common topic).
- The increasing popularity of video based courses from online educational websites like Udacity, Coursera etc. actually sends a lot of traffic to TheLearningPoint. Online learners scour the web for handouts and tutorials in PDF and document format, to supplement their understanding of video lectures.
Prashant says TheLearningPoint has mostly been a "garage" project. He coordinates his activities entirely in the virtual space and has started paying his full attention to the platform only since the last four months. And his efforts are already bearing fruit, as the site is getting good number of hits and gaining popularity. He operates either from Hyderabad or Meerut (his hometown) and says running an office in the ‘virtual space’ without fulltime employees has its own challenges and limitations.
The entire study material has been compiled by tapping best students interns from the top colleges of India, for instance the computer whiz-kids from IIIT Hyderabad, open source and robotics enthusiasts from IIT Kharagpur and Physics Olympiad winners from IIT Bombay and many more. These students who work as interns are given a decent stipend and have to submit a cover letter to measure their area of interest. They are then checked thoroughly for their online presence and their resumes are completely scrutinized by the founder before allotting them a job for a stipulated time period. Prashant mentions that Internshala has been a great help to them in reaching out to large community of talented UG and PG students.
Building a much larger user base is first on its list of ‘to-do’ items and monetization of TheLearningPoint is an important piece of the puzzle that is still to be resolved. The next task for Prashant is a complete turnaround of the site’s UI/UX needs, to revamp it thoroughly and redesign it to convert the site from a ‘project’ to a professional product. Prashant’s belief in computer graphics and simulations stems from the fact that an image is worth a thousand words and an animated visualization is possibly worth a million words. Which is quite true, if we draw an analogy on how we started learning in our formative years while in pre-school.
Prashant is an electrical engineer from IIT Kharagpur and started his venture after spending time with Lehman India, Microsoft and a data science startup Factual.com. While monetization is a concern, TheLearningPoint has the potential to become an important resource for the student community. StudentStory’s best wishes are with him for the future.
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