I had the opportunity to talk with Dror Ben-Naim, founder and CEO of Smart Sparrow, originally started in Sydney, Australia, has now relocated headquarters to San Francisco this month, and announced a $10 million round of funding led by London-based Yellow Brick Capital. This investment will help Smart Sparrow fuel its expansion into the US and meet the increasing demand among the United States’ higher education faculty for rich, interactive and adaptive content that still allows academia to maintain control over their online teaching.
Ben-Naim started out as a Physics tutor during his undergrad program because he loved science and he loved teaching science. What he didn’t love was that it was still being taught in probably the same way that Sir Isaac Newton learned physics over 350 years ago. Focused on quantum mechanics, which is difficult to explain on paper but easy to understand through experiments and hands online interactive simulations, Dror built his own gamified platform for learning providing a rich and adaptive environment for his students.
Instant demand from other professors indicated that Ben-Naim had touched on where academia was wanting for their students as they moved into this digital age of learning. Most professors wanted to teach online but were unhappy with the available tools that offered a limited experience, took away their control over the learning objects and provided very little feedback on student understanding and achievement.
In 2011, Smart Sparrow received their first round of funding and were on the way to creating a truly adaptive platform for students and professors. Smart Sparrow defines its adaptive eLearning as “a new learning and teaching medium that uses an Intelligent Tutoring System to adapt online learning to the student’s level of knowledge. Adaptive eLearning provides students with customized educational content and the unique feedback that they need, when they need it.”
Ben-Naim quickly found that professors did not want to use an LMS or online learning platform in which they had to give up personalizing the learning for their students. This newly created video describes how Smart Sparrow created a platform so that educators can create, deploy, analyze and share their own intelligent courseware.
The authoring tool is intuitive, with the ability to add text, images, video and widgets to a lesson. The difference is Smart Sparrow has an adaptivity author- allowing professors to set the rules and create pathways for students as to how they flow through the lesson. Smart Sparrow Adaptivity Model has two elements – adaptive feedback and adaptive pathways. The authoring tools let teachers create both. It also provides the prof the opportunity to work with developers to create online simulations that give the students rich, hands online learning experiences.
Smart Sparrow is competency based and is a collaborative tool for academia. Subscription accounts are available for individual professors for anywhere from one class to campus wide deployment. These options have allowed professors to use it according to their needs, as either a blended learning tool for certain concepts to putting full courses online. The Smart Sparrow team is growing and getting ready to expand their reach and their message that tech should empower teachers not limit them.