This interview is part of our new AI in Education series, where we interview the world's top thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between AI and education.
In this interview, we speak with Scott Lee, Founder of Gooroo, to understand how his company is using AI to transform education, and what the future of the education sector holds.
1. What’s the story behind Gooroo? Why and how did you begin?
SL: The idea of Gooroo actually started while I was in college. I faced the exact problem many of our parents face: finding the perfect tutor.
After my sophomore year at Columbia University, I took a break to enlist in the South Korean army. While serving as a Sergeant and Squad leader was an invaluable experience, it also meant that I was away from the classroom for two years. After serving, I came back to Columbia and realized that I needed help staying on top of my school work. However, I wasn’t able to find a quality tutor for the courses that I was struggling with. So, Gooroo was born.
I realized that every child learns differently, and today’s education system cannot accommodate each student’s individual learning struggles. I envisioned Gooroo as a supplement to traditional learning in a school setting, where tutors personalize their lessons to best suit a child’s needs. I, therefore, founded Gooroo with the mission to foster excitement about learning, develop well-rounded students, and equip them to succeed by providing customized tutoring sessions, personalized matching of student and tutor, and continuous feedback for parents or caregivers.
2. Please describe your use case and how Gooroo uses Artificial Intelligence:
SL: Fundamentally, Gooroo is building a product to promote personalized learning and help our students learn better. AI just happens to be one of the tools we use to accomplish this.
Our strategy for personalized learning starts with collecting educational data points about our students.
- Before every session, we administer a diagnostic test to gain a basic understanding of the student’s knowledge level.
- After each session, we collect feedback from tutors to reinforce our understanding.
- We also send out post-diagnostic tests to assess the student’s learning results over time and compare them with previous test results.
Through the diagnostic tests and feedback from different Gooroo tutors on various subjects, we are able to portray every student’s unique learning persona. With all the insights from the data, AI comes into play in the following ways:
- Matching: This is our first step towards personalized learning. We use AI to pair students with tutors not only experienced in teaching their level but also able to connect with them in terms of teaching styles, educational background, personal interests, and more.
- Managing tutor inventory: We factor tutor activity into the matching algorithm to prevent our tutor inventory from idling. AI helps us balance the inventory automatically and keep every tutor happy and active on the platform.
- Providing personalized content and curricula: Our next big initiative is to produce our own content (practice questions, mock tests, curricula, etc.) for students to use after each session to enhance learning. Based on each student’s learning profile, we are able to customize content in a way that puts more weight in the subject areas they are struggling with, and sets the difficulty level to be what works best for them to improve.
And all this is a continuing process – the more data we collect over time, the more accurate our algorithms and recommendations will be. We see retention as the key to keeping this cycle running with new data constantly flowing into our models. Our pivot to the membership model allows us to encourage a regular learning habit. In the meantime, we go the extra mile in our customer service after each session to ensure a great experience for every customer.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has Gooroo done for them?
SL: It’s always exciting to hear all of our student success stories, and knowing how each student is growing. Many of our parents tell me about how great their tutor match is, and how we’re different from other services they’ve used. Gooroo is different simply because we care more about our students, parents, and tutors.
One of our students, Maddie, started with Gooroo because she needed help with math tutoring for middle school entrance exams. Our platform assessed Maddie’s learning style, interests, availability, and subject needs to match her with her Gooroo, Lisa.
While Lisa did help Maddie to get into a great school, I want to highlight their relationship because it goes far beyond tutoring. While reviewing the session feedback, we saw that Lisa saw that Maddie wasn’t as excited for one of her sessions. So, instead of going with her initial lesson plan for math calculations, Lisa decided to adapt to integrate math through an activity. “Lisa and I did something a little bit different today. I helped her plan out a garden she was planning on planting. Together, we determined plot sizes and fencing prices based on real measurements and guidelines.”
Even though Maddie has advanced into the middle school and no longer needs test prep tutoring, she and Lisa still frequently chat. Maddie’s mom recently told me that Maddie wanted to video chat Lisa “just because she missed her.” What differentiates Gooroo is that there’s always the human-aspect that works in conjunction with the technology we implement.
*Names have been changed for the privacy of our students and Gooroos*