Arist: The Text Message Learning Platform
We help institutions and companies create and distribute text message courses.
Pitch us on your solution
“The #1 challenge for talent development is getting employees to make time for learning (LinkedIn 2019 Workplace Learning Report).” Traditional digital learning is completely broken. It’s time consuming, ineffective, and inaccessible. Online courses take on average 10k to create one hour of elearning, 50+ hours for users to complete one course, and courses have an average of 5% (or less) completion rates. Beyond corporate training, only 25% of the world can access high speed internet required for digital courses which means this broken digital education problem faces nonprofits trying to help as many learners as possible.
Unfortunately, most learning organizations, nonprofits, and HR heads have overlooked text message learning. Our text message learning platform helps employees come to work every day prepared. We also partner with nonprofits focused on career readiness for underserved high schoolers to teach them important job and life skills.
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What is the problem you are solving?
As mentioned earlier, only about 25% of the world has access to the high-bandwidth internet needed to engage in digital education. Meanwhile, 67% of people have a mobile phone and can learn over text message courses. Additionally, in more developed countries, just 41% of college graduates feel prepared to enter the workforce.
People who don’t have job readiness skills are unable to support their family, and thus engage in their economies. There are many contributing factors to this unpreparedness - whether these people are amidst an immigration crisis (and thus always on the go) or the effect of an unequal education system. With text message learning, any individual can become prepared by taking 5 minutes out of their day for just 15 days to learn an important skill.
Who are you serving?
We serve organizations and institutions of all sizes, as there are plenty of use cases for using Arist platform - from content reinforcement to sales training. With this in mind, we work with a broad range of organizations - from Fortune 500 companies to smaller consulting firms. We also work with nonprofits and schools to reach a greater audience using Arist - helping teens and adults of all backgrounds to learn subjects from Financial Literacy to Effective Communication.
With our 8-week Charter Program, we guide organizations and institutions from the discovery and pilot phase through implementation. This program helps us stay close to every type of organizations’ needs at each step. For example, a nonprofit in Kenya needed a way to help grow their client businesses in more rural areas, where they weren’t in constant contact with the population. With the three-phase structure of our charter program, we were able to guide them in translating some of our business courses into their language and fit their cultural contexts.
What is your solution?
Arist is the first text message learning platform. Inspired by research from UPenn and Stanford indicating that text message learning is remarkably accessible and effective, Arist helps leading companies and institutions create, deploy, and assess text message-based courses that dramatically improve learning and training. Per these studies alongside our own pilots, we learned that because we employ a spaced learning model, user retention of information is dramatically higher. Additionally, we apply microlearning which is 50% more effective and 17% more efficient than standard digital learning models.
For a simple breakdown of how Arist works, a user signs up for their course via their organization’s Arist container. Beyond Arist container access, we work with organizations to distribute Arist library course content, or use our guides to help them translate some of their content into text message courses.
Once the courses are uploaded onto the organization’s Arist platform, the user can choose what time of day to get their daily text (1200 characters each), as well as if they want to receive their course over Whatsapp, Messenger, or SMS. Our courses have completion rates of over 92%, and 95% of users open an Arist text within 3 minutes.
You can try a sample Arist course at lrn.st/trial, and learn more about the platform atwww.arist.co.
Select only the most relevant.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Boston, MA, USA
Our solution's stage of development:
Describe what makes your solution innovative.
Our platform revolutionizes digital education, by delivering subject information over text in a course format. Arist's long term vision is to provide education to the billions of people without access to adequate education, or even internet, around the world. Within 5 years, we hope to have deployed a million courses. This vision is bold because, on a global average, education is the best investment a middle class family will typically make. As Arist works to provide an adequate education to the entire world, we stimulate lower income communities by empowering them with education. The innovation of the method of delivery means that we can deploy courses for incredibly low costs, allowing for such radical transformation.
We're the first platform entirely focused on text message-based learning. Current substitutes include video and email-based learning platforms, and microlearning apps. There are many microlearning apps for K-12 and Workforce Ed, but many still face the issues that all microlearning apps face - completion rates for courses hover around 10-15% and employees do not download apps unless mandated. By meeting users where they are, texts are a distinctly powerful medium for engaging and reaching learners.
Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?
Our goal, or outcome, is to bring important knowledge to people no matter their circumstances. The outputs of this outcome include organizations and institutions of all types, who hold this important knowledge and aim to serve their own communities. Our main intervention is our platform, which services these organizations by making it very easy for them to distribute fully developed text message courses, and then organize and review user data simply. We've piloted Arist with over a dozen Fortune 500 companies and a few leading universities, with extraordinarily positive results thus far. For context, the Arist platform exited beta just a few months ago. We've also launched a white paper on text message learning, launched two versions of our corporate platform, and received the support of numerous learning leaders. We’re currently deploying Arist within GE, Becton Dickenson, Harvard Business Publishing, and PepsiCo. Two weeks ago, we began taking demo requests directly on our website from smaller organizations and learning designers, and have received one from 43 organizations (as of this writing) with no active marketing or promotion.
Arist is one of the first edtech companies to have access to WhatsApp's API, allowing us to deploy courses to over 1 billion WhatsApp users. Our inputs have changed over time We were also recently named one of FastCo's 2019 World-Changing Ideas.
Select the key characteristics of the population your solution serves.
In which countries do you currently operate?
In which countries will you be operating within the next year?
How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?
We are currently serving 800 employees in the US and Canada, plus 200 people between Mexico, Kenya, and Ghana nonprofit organizations focused on supporting less-resourced people in the workforce. We aim to partner with more nonprofits to reach over 5 million people in the next five years. In terms of corporate clients, we aim to serve 100,000 employees in one year and 10M in five years.
What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?
Arist's long term vision is to provide education to the billions of people without access to adequate education, or even internet, around the world. Within 5 years, we hope to have deployed a million courses. This vision is bold because, on a global average, education is the best investment a middle class family will typically make. As Arist works to provide an adequate education to the entire world, we stimulate lower income communities by empowering them with education. The innovation of the method of delivery means that we can deploy courses for incredibly low costs, allowing for such radical transformation.There should really be no barriers to learning, and we hope our platform is able to make that ideal a reality.
Due to the fact that it only takes seconds for organizations to white-label our platform, and 8 hours on average to create and upload a course from scratch, the potential population we can impact is extremely large .In one year, we should have over 100 organizations with their own containers, actively deploying courses to their employees and clients. In five years, we should have over 800 mid to large sized organizations signed onto Arist, using their own containers.
What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?
The largest barriers Arist face over the next five years include the distribution of text message based learning, technical and operational hurdles to delivering learning, and the widespread adoption of text message learning. Text message learning is a new concept, and many learning designers and educators need to accept the learning medium. Additionally, as with any technical tool that is planning on distributing to such a wide audience, the technical infrastructure needs to be able to handle such a large influx of users. Finally, for every few thousand courses deployed there will need to subsequently be customer service and on hand support, for everything from user errors to content writing help.
How are you planning to overcome these barriers?
For distribution, Arist is partnering with innovative organizations, schools, and nonprofits to have a wide reach. Millions of learners can be reached with a few partners, and the mechanisms that allow for signup make distributing content easy. For technical and operational hurdles, we have a system that auto-scales on AWS and a capacity through Twilio’s API that can handle millions of texts being distributed at once (a much lower bandwidth requirement than even a few hundred video courses. Finally, for the widespread adoption of text message learning we partner with top academic institutions and innovative learning organizations, spend a fair amount of time at conferences, on podcasts, and writing articles around why text message learning is so effective. We even launched the worlds first white paper on text message learning, referring to models in spaced learning and microlearning that show why text message courses are so effective.
If you selected “My solution is already being implemented in one or more of ServiceNow’s primary markets,” please provide an overview of your current activities in those markets.
Currently, corporations in all of the countries listed above (which include ServiceNow's primary market US/Canada) license and white-label our platform for their own use cases - either taking from our course library, or designing and distributing their own text message courses. Our activities with them mainly involve setting up their containers, helping with content development, and supporting their other technical needs.
If you selected “I am planning to expand my solution to one or more of ServiceNow’s primary markets,” please provide an overview of your expansion plans. What is the market opportunity for your business or product here?
We will be expanding into the countries listed above by continuing to do outreach and help organizations and institutions all over the world. We hope our partnerships with EdX, Youth For Human Rights International, and the United Nations will particularly help us reach many people in these countries very fast. The market opportunity in each country differs slightly, though primarily it is similar in that organizations want to train a workforce of people within their own company, or help reach people who don't have access to the training needed to be a competitive employee option or even a successful entrepreneur.
Select an option below:
If you selected Other for the organization question, please explain here.
How many people work on your solution team?
Three cofounders, one employee, outsourced technical team of 5 (Africave), an intern
For how many years have you been working on your solution?
Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?
Arist started after realizing there is a huge gap in access to education. Michael, our CEO, was previously running TILE when he was working with students in the conflict zone in Sana'a, Yemen. Michael realized that there was incredibly limited access to education, particularly because 25% of people globally have the broadband internet to host a MOOC. Our research and studies told us text messages were an effective and accessible form of teaching.
The members of our team had done international work and knew a more accessible type of education was needed; Ryan ran a public speaking company where he trained international business leaders and Maxine produced videos and delivered seminars to empower youth all over Latin America and in rural parts of the United States.
We invented the text message course and has launched a white paper digging into the studies around text messages and microlearning. We’ve spoken to hundreds of thought leaders, learning experts and designers, academics, EdTech CEOs, and thousands of learners. Creating our platform was fueled by the interest we got from large organizations, particularly as a tool for workforce training, course reinforcement and onboarding.
Since launching our platform in summer, we’ve presented at numerous learning conferences and to large organizations. We've found overwhelming interest our small team nearly couldn’t handle. A month ago we placed a demo request button on our website and we received requests from dozens of learning designers, custom learning solutions vendors, and others in the L+D space.
With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?
Youth for Human Rights International, and Cornerstone on Demand Foundation are both impact-partners of ours. We provide our platform (alongside distribution) and content development assistance free-of charge so that they can bring knowledge to their audiences more efficiently and effectively. We have many corporate clients, though they wouldn’t be considered partners because they pay.
What is your business model?
Arist works to empower employees and students, specifically those in underserved communities. These people have previously been excluded from the digital economy due to lack of access to the internet or cheap alternatives to traditional and institutional education. Domestically, this typically involves schools in underprivileged areas, and internationally this involves a much wider and less specific base of learners.
Arist is incredibly cheaper than alternatives to digital education, both to use and produce. Even for inexpensive online courses, the costs of production are usually high and the content creation process is arduous. Arist's ability to develop and deploy courses quickly and cheaply makes us able to and develop newer, more relevant content and move much faster than our competitors. The Arist Platform helps organizations upload and deploy content very quickly, as well as track analytics and interact with users very simply.
By serving many corporate clients, we are able to make sufficient revenue to be a viable company that can support our main goal: to bring knowledge to millions around the world regardless of normal barriers. Partnerships with large CSR departments and organizations, like Cornerstone On Demand Foundation or Youth For Human Rights International help us accomplish this.
The compilation of our analytics (response rates, course completion, etc.) across organizations we serve help us ensure we are truly impacting organizations positively.
What is your path to financial sustainability?
Arist generates revenue in two ways. For small and mid sized organizations, the platform is self-service and employees can start using it immediately. We charge companies $9,000 for our charter account program an onboarding to Arist's platform. Each employee of companies large and small pays $3 per user per month. Our average cost to deploy a course is around $0.30. We’re also launching a quickstart program, allowing F500s to use the platform company wide for 3 months as a pilot for $18,000.
Although we are starting with the domestic B2B market (easier to gather data and sell in bulk, especially since there is a high need for better corporate training courses), where we can tap into the $90 billion corporate training industry, we believe that the international and consumer markets will ultimately be our greatest revenue drivers, especially in developing countries like India where the [unmet] demand for e-learning options is incredibly high. For example, if we are able to get even 1% of India’s e-learning market to take a monthly Arist course, that would translate into ~$1 billion in annual revenue. We’ve received enormous outreach from India from organizations like the Indian Oil Company and KPMG India. These two companies alone would service 300k+ learners. Our team is working on being able to meet this demand.
This revenue helps us fund Arist Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Arist that gives nonprofits low/no cost use of our platform. Donations also help us make education and workforce training accessible to all.
Why are you applying to the Digital Workforce Challenge?
Our platform has promising learning statistics and company sign-on traction so far, and the technology itself is extremely scalable. While this is good for our potential growth and impact, we need to be able to meet the demand -- and do so quickly -- if we want to be a key player in this e-learning market for workforce education. In order to do this, we need liquid capital to hire technical talent, operational staff, and other key players for our team. Additionally, we need a sharp and well connected network to help us grow to be successful. ServiceNow clearly helps us overcome the barriers to meeting our potential scalability by giving us money to make an impact quickly. The skills-based mentorship will definitely contribute to that bright network of people that can really make all the difference in us succeeding.
What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?
If you selected Other, please explain here.
With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?
Potentially the United Nations and EdX. The United Nations could use our platform to streamline a lot of their useful content through their various nonprofit sectors, which we’ve already started to discuss doing. EdX has a tremendous amount of valuable content that they are looking to distribute in more innovative, efficient ways to Millenials, Gen Zers and even younger, and they have shown initial interest in Arist being that new method for them.
Helpful partners for us would be ones that already have a large workforce they serve, or a distributed workforce. Additionally, impact-focused organizations that have a large population that they serve could help us make impact thousands of lives by bringing them knowledge they may have no previously had, through text message courses.
- Maxine Anderson Co-Founder, Chief Impact Officer, Arist