Learning Technology Start-up Grows from U-M Incubator

University of Michigan spinoff LectureTools Inc. today announced the release of its first product, a web-based application designed to improve student interaction and retention in large lectures.
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Ann Arbor – The software, LectureTools, began as a research project under Dr. Perry Samson, Professor at the University of Michigan, and soon became a grassroots effort amongst students. The company later earned grants from the National Science Foundation and utilized resources from the TechArb, an incubator space provided by the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship. The University’s Office of Technology Transfer recently help the group bring the technology to the marketplace. Incorporated in 2010, the company now employs 10 in their downtown Ann Arbor office.

“With support and funds from the University of Michigan and the National Science Foundation we were able to seek out and organize students from all backgrounds to kick-start this company,” said director of sales and marketing and co-founder Jason Aubrey. “Now we hope to not only retain our existing talent, but also to acquire new talent and grow our team.”

The incubator program, also known as the “TechArb”, provided a workspace for the LectureTools team over the course of the past year. The free office space encourages student entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. LectureTools made a transition into a new office of its own this summer.

“We’re extremely dedicated to building a positive and creative work culture,” said lead engineer and co-founder Kiran Jagadeesh. “We pride ourselves on building an environment where all individuals within the company are empowered to think big.”

LectureTools can attribute much of its current success in launching a commercial product to the research version from U-M. A U-M Center for Research on Learning and Teaching study found that the original version significantly increased student engagement and attentiveness while reinforcing interactive and reflective pedagogy.

“The key is to engage students through their laptops or cellphones, so they don’t drift off onto social networking sites,” said Perry Samson, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences. “We’ve shown this is possible using LectureTools.”

The application allows instructors to make their lectures more engaging by facilitating interaction with students. Instructors present students with interactive activities, which students can respond to using either their laptop or cellphone. Students can relay comprehension concerns about particular slides to their instructor, or submit specific questions digitally for instructors and teaching assistants to view and answer in real-time. Answered questions become anonymously visible to every student in the class, and are saved so they can be reviewed later.

Students can type notes associated with instructor’s lecture slides and quickly bookmark or access slides they found confusing or important for later review. Together, these features create a comprehensive learning environment and a central location for students to access all of their study materials so that they stay organized and engaged while learning from their peer’s questions and answers.

LectureTools is hiring in the areas of engineering, design, sales, and marketing. For more information on job opportunities at LectureTools go to http://www.lecturetools.com/learning-technology-careers

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