BenchPrep Redefines Digital Education With All-You-Can-Eat Subscriptions

By Michael Carney , written on September 18, 2012

From The News Desk

If there’s one thing that’s become clear amid the current digital revolution it’s that consumers want access to their content anywhere, anytime, without rules or restrictions. Interactive learning platform BenchPrep is taking this lesson to heart with the release of its new all-you-can-eat service.

Beginning today, BenchPrep will offer a first-of-its-kind flat monthly subscription plan that allows students to consume an unlimited number and selection of educational courses from its digital content library.

The top tier $30 per month plan applies across devices, meaning these courses are available on computers as well as iOS and Android mobile devices. A limited Web-only plan priced at $20 per month prioritizes affordability over platform flexibility. Compared to the price of a tutor or supplementary study materials, the price of either would seem extremely reasonable.

“This isn’t just a pricing change,” says co-founder and CEO Ashish Rangnekar. “It’s a structural shift in how students think about using and owning digital content. It’s the next step in technology-based education innovation.”

Previously BenchPrep courses cost an average of $100 each, with most consumers purchasing two to three and studying each for an average of five to six months. Each course combines traditional ebooks with elements like video lectures, audio lectures, flashcards, question banks. With the new subscription strategy, the company hopes that  students can move frictionlessly between subjects, creating their own personalized learning programs.

A student taking an upper-level test prep or collegiate course for example, can easily go back to brush up on earlier subject matter without having to paying any extra. Taking this a step further, students can explore new subject categories while contemplating a university major, follow-on education paths, or a career change.

“Education is lagging so much that incremental change is not cutting it,” the CEO says. Digital education, meet more value that has ever been packed into a single product.

As individual users and those across the entire BenchPrep network progress through its courses, the company is able to collect loads of meaningful data to improve its personal recommendation engine. With rich analytics, the app also provides students with feedback on areas where they need the most help.

BenchPrep currently offers more than 200 unique courses ranging across high school, college, SAT, GRE, MCAT, professional certification, and civil service preparation. The company sources its content from top-tier publishers such as McGraw Hill, Princeton Review, Wiley, Pearson Education, O’Reilly, and Microsoft Publishing and is adding 50 new courses a month with the goal of exceeding 500 courses by the end of 2012.

In addition to growing its content library, the startup is working on several other ways to continue adding value. Tops among them is the forthcoming Kindle app which Rangnekar projects will be available in “approximately five to six weeks.” The team is contemplating a possible Windows Phone app as well.

The BenchPrep community currently consists of more than 275,000 students who average nine hours per month across 78 BenchPrep sessions. The new model also opens up an interesting opportunity to serve the institutional and enterprise markets such as universities and community colleges, public libraries, and corporations. BenchPrep can now offer these organizations (and their students or employees) a wide variety of courses under a single blanket pricing model. According to Rangnekar, the company is currently building its enterprise sales team and is working out its pricing model for this market.

BenchPrep closed a $6 million Series B round in July of this year led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) with participation from Revolution Ventures, bringing its total financing to $8.2 million. When BenchPrep set out on this mission, the company was focused on solving the needs of the students, rather than toeing the bureaucracies of academia. With its new pricing model, the startup is again breaking ground in the way digital education is delivered and consumed.