Online Education

It’s well known that learning styles vary. Some people are self directed learners and can master the most difficult topic by reading a textbook. Others prefer lectures. Many still, are visual, and absorb the most information through watching a demonstration. BenchPrep, which already one of the most successful online education companies, today took a step toward serving this last group with the introduction of video courses.

The Chicago-based startup will begin with more than 40 video courses, consisting of more than 400 hours hours of math, science, business, and software training. Like the rest of its educational content, the new video lessons will be available on multiple devices and platforms as part of a single, all-you-can-eat subscription, including access via the Web, iPhone, iPad, Android, and Kindle. Across its entire platform, BenchPrep now offers more than 200 courses consisting of 25,000 lessons, 3,000 videos, and 40,000 assessment units, focused around the high school and college markets.

“Mobile video courses extend the classroom anytime, anywhere, to any device,” BenchPrep co-founder Ashish Rangnekar says. “Students can view a video as often as needed to learn the concepts – at home, in a library, late at night, in the morning, and anywhere in the world.”

BenchPrep’s addition of video follows a broader trend in the market, which currently sees 70 million Americans watching videos on their mobile devices, according to the company. Further, total consumption within the category is expected to grow 16-fold between 2012 and 2017.

To enter the category quickly, BenchPrep established a partnership with CompuWorks, NROC (National Repository of Online Courses), and other independent educators. The initial catalog will cover subjects like Microsoft Excel, Word, Outlook, Access, Sharepoint, Adobe Captivate, Managerial Accounting, Environmental Science, US History, and more. BenchPrep compensates its video instructors on a pay-per-view basis.

A study conducted by BenchPrep showed a 16 percent average score increase for students who watch a minimum of 60 percent of the video content in a course. “By putting a ‘face’ on traditional e-learning, students are more engaged resulting in higher utilization rates, improved retention, and greater comprehension,” CompuWorks CEO Andrew Wight.

The company tracks the number of times a student watches each video, on what device, and the order, as well as the answers they provide to respective assessments, calculating a level of confidence following each course. It then shares this data with teachers, parents, and students to illustrate concepts that the student is struggling with and suggest areas to dedicate additional time and effort.

BenchPrep has more than 400,000 registered users, a figure which it doubled in the last 10 months. Engagement has grown in parallel, with 70 percent of all users active on multiple devices, and the average student spending 2.5 hours per week consuming its Web content, and another 40 minutes per week on mobile.

BenchPrep has raised $8.2 million to date, including a $6 million Series B round in July 2012 led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) with participation from Revolution Ventures. The company is in a highly competitive space, with numerous equally well-funded and well-known challengers. Depending on subject matter, BenchPrep could run into Khan Academy, Udacity, Coursera, and others.

“We are an education distribution platform,” says Rangnekar. “We will take any type of content and bring it to life by making it online and mobile and offering it within our library to our audience. We started with just books and study guides. The next phase is video. Eventually we’ll enter audio and other interactive tools.”