This post is part of our new Future of Education series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Ashish Rangnekar, Co-founder and CEO, BenchPrep.
1. What’s the history of BenchPrep? Where and how did you begin?
AR: I started BenchPrep in 2009 when I was preparing for the GMAT in New York City and had a revelation. I called my friend Ujjwal Gupta to vent about how difficult it was to find time to study while working a full-time job, and how I was forced to lug around heavy test prep textbooks everywhere I went to take advantage of any free time. This annoying inconvenience led me to ask Ujjwal, “Why isn’t there a better way to study on the go?”
We decided to develop a mobile app for GMAT prep; this was the first ever test prep app of any kind for the iPhone. More than 1,000 test takers purchased the app in the first month (an “aha!” moment), which helped them immediately realize there were likely many more people who could benefit from an interactive, personalized learning experience on their mobile devices.
One mobile app led to 100+ apps and an omni-channel, enterprise-level SaaS learning platform that BenchPrep now offers today. BenchPrep has helped several credentialing bodies and test publishers develop digital learning programs that deliver an exceptional, unmatched experience to learners. Through industry-leading partnerships with the world’s leading education and training organizations, BenchPrep has helped more than 3 million learners and continues to be at the forefront of technological innovation and improving learning outcomes.
Organizations are now starting to realize that the needs of today’s learners have changed. They need personalization, gamification, and real-time omni-channel access to learning content. BenchPrep is helping these organizations digitally transform their approach to learning and training to align their methods and systems to today’s learner and drive more successful outcomes.
2. What specific problem does BenchPrep solve? How do you solve it?
AR: BenchPrep solves for the disconnect between how learning content is typically packaged vs. how learners can best absorb material. BenchPrep accelerates success by putting the learner experience first and is proven to be the only comprehensive learning success platform on the market. Our platform caters to the needs of learners with an adaptive, bite-sized learning experience that drives deeper engagement, better learner readiness, and higher pass rates. More specifically, it delivers an omni-channel experience that enables studying to occur anywhere, anytime. Our personalized approach to learning allows for learner-specific remediation by highlighting areas of weakness for the user to ensure they put more focus on those specific lessons and topics. In addition, the gamification element to the platform engages users in a fun-filled way and makes learning more enjoyable with friendly competitions and self-assessments.
3. What’s the future of education?
Prediction #1: Professional credentialing matters – With more jobs requiring specialized training and requisite degrees/certifications than ever before, we will start to see professional credentialing have higher currency in the workforce. Traditional college programs will become less desirable because rather than spending $150,000 on a degree that has an indirect path to employment, students will see credentialing and certifications as a better route to achieving professional success. These programs will start to overtake the undergraduate degree in importance, where many students are still unprepared to fill many of the open positions that are now available.
Prediction #2: Microlearning all the time – Rather than going through arduous courses that require months to complete, we’ll start to see microlearning get more entrenched in training programs. By breaking up courses and trainings into weekly or monthly requirements, administrators will recognize vast improvements in retention that lead to better results.
Prediction #3: Prioritizing long-term knowledge retention – Just wanting learners to pass a course and then be done with it will feel like ancient history. We will start evaluating a course’s impact based on how those who take it perform the following 6-12 months, measuring knowledge retention over a period of time. KPIs will shift from focusing exclusively on pass rates to combining that metric with knowledge retention.
4. What are the top 3 technologies trends you’re seeing in education?
Trend #1: Death of the LMS as an all-encompassing learning solution – Organizations will start to realize the benefits of prioritizing the learning experience in addition to the process and management of learning-related activities.
Trend #2: Interactive videos becoming the new normal – Video by itself isn't enough, now it will need to go a step further and be personalized and interactive. Videos will have various points that make the learner stop and complete an action before moving forward to the next section. Bite-sized content works best when applied to videos too.
Trend #3: Giving learners the push they need – We are beginning to recognize that expecting learners to study material without alerts or any other kind of push will result in less than favorable outcomes. Users now need alerts to remind them to log into learning platforms just like Facebook, LinkedIn, and other consumer apps drive logins through frequent alerts. Be proactive with encouraging users to learn and don’t expect them to do it on their own.
5. Why is the education industry ripe for disruption?
AR: As so many other industries were realizing the benefits of technology in the 90s and 00s, the education space was late to the game in adopting technology into everyday usage. We are now seeing a rapid increase in technology adoption that specifically caters to learning experiences. And it’s not just at the student level, but even more so in the work environment. One out of every three professionals requires a certification, and technologies like BenchPrep’s helps these workers not only achieve higher scores on the exams but also allows them to retain that knowledge and apply it every day so they perform even better in their roles.
About Ashish Rangnekar
Prior to co-founding BenchPrep, Ashish served as a strategy consultant at Capital One Financial where he focused on new business development and corporate strategy initiatives. Before that position, he gained a greater perspective into education as both a student and adjunct lecturer. In between teaching at City University of New York as an adjunct lecturer and being a graduate student studying Applied Mathematics, he learned what it takes to engage a learner. Those key learnings influenced BenchPrep’s design philosophy and led to the development of the first cross-platform exam prep app.
To date, more than 3 million learners have used BenchPrep to get their credentials, professional certifications, and occupational licenses. In 2016, the company served 1.3 million learners who collectively completed 45 million learning activities. BenchPrep’s success story has been recognized by industry peers both locally and across the globe.
Earlier this year, Ashish earned a position as a finalist for the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2017 Midwest Awards. Ashish has also been featured by Crain’s Chicago Business as one of their Tech 50 Visionaries and has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, TechCrunch, Publishers Weekly and Fast Company as a leading education innovator. He has written articles focusing on education technology for The Huffington Post and Wired. He is a mentor at TechStars NY, EDGE Edtech Accelerator and Founders Institute where he has provided coaching for various startups and entrepreneurs.
He holds a Master of Business Administration from the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, a Master of Science in applied mathematics from City University of New York, and a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai. He resides in Chicago with his wife.