Beagle Learning: Train & Measure Critical Thinking Skills
Beagle Learning help instructors train and quantify critical thinking and collaboration skills.
Beagle Learning helps higher education institutions train and quantify improvement in 21st-century skills, including critical thinking, problem solving, and interpersonal communication. No tests required. No curriculum changes or instructor retraining.
Rote content is no longer sufficient for lifetime success; students today need effective training and assessment of 21st century skills. 60% of managers to report that their new hires lack critical thinking skills, and there is a broad and growing distrust of the value of higher education. Students find themselves leaving school with substantial debt but few of the most important skills for today’s world.
Two major roadblocks have hindered past attempts to change classroom practice: 1) instructors have too little time to redesign curricula; 2) there is no trusted, quantitative measure of student improvement in 21st century skills.
Beagle provides higher education instructors with software to manage and track collaborative learning online. Instructors gather questions on their content, receive an automated summary of those questions, and choose which questions to answer or assign students to answer. By using natural language processing, we can give instructors actionable summaries of the kinds of question students are asking, and measure critical thinking by analyzing student questions.
Because Beagle doesn’t require curriculum changes and provides a class-by-class measure of student improvement, it can enable instructor adoption of collaborative and inquiry-based learning across higher education. The next generation of college graduates will be talented collaborative problem solvers ready to tackle the biggest real-world challenges or opportunities.
Where our solution team is headquartered or located:Phoenix, AZ, USA
The dimensions of the Challenge our solution addresses:
What makes our solution innovative:
Our natural language processing (NLP) techniques are an innovative approach to measuring critical thinking and collaboration. Rather than administering and grading a test, we simply let students ask and answer questions during a course, and analyze their actions afterwards. There is little existing research into using NLP strategies for analyzing student questions. We are currently doing original research to develop these methods.
In addition, our software is the first online learning tool that mixes the collaborative nature of discussion boards with the clear goal and structure of adaptive learning systems.
How technology is integral to our solution:
Technology is central to Beagle for two reasons:
It allows us to create automated, test-free measures of 21st-century skills using natural language process, and
It allows us to scale our solution up to online classes serving thousands.
In order to help instructors adopt student-led and collaborative learning methods, we need to help provide them feedback on their teaching and recommendations on how to best support their students. Without a technological backbone that could automate this kind of feedback, we would never be able to have the global impact we are hoping for.
Our solution goals over the next 12 months:
We are focusing on running pilot classes and perfecting our natural language processing systems. By December, 2018 we will run and collect data from 15 pilot classes and sign two letters of intent for purchase of our system. Using that data, we will complete a first design of our automated question scoring system (our Question Productivity Index, or QPI).
By July 2019, we will run an additional 30 classes, and directly compare our QPI to traditional critical thinking test scores in order to validate its use as a measure of critical thinking.
Our vision over the next three to five years to grow and scale our solution to affect the lives of more people:
Our vision is to develop the first online learning platform build for 21st-century skills training. We will grow our solution by licensing to universities and colleges across the United States and providing them valuable data on student performance. We will develop additional features to manage and measure other parts of collaborative learning processes, including peer assessment, library research, and metacognition.
Our promotional video:
The key characteristics of the populations who will benefit from our solution in the next 12 months:
The regions where we will be operating in the next 12 months:
The countries where we currently operate:
Where we plan to expand in the next 12 months:
How we will reach and retain our customers or beneficiaries:
Our initial instructor acquisition has come through conference tables, presentations, and our personal network. Future customer acquisition strategies include positioning Beagle as a thought leader and building new customer acquisition channels through partnerships.
Our thought-leader strategy will use blogging, search engine optimization, conferences, and workshops to position Beagle as a leading thinker in technology-supported teaching pedagogy. This will drive instructor awareness and adoption.
To build new acquisition channels, we will work with partners who create and sell curricula to use our modules, thereby getting our modules into the hands of many institutions without running lengthy sales processes.
How many people we are currently serving with our solution:
We have run 11 classes, and have 30 classes signed up for the next school year. These 41 classes span 12 schools. We are discipline agnostic.
During spring 2018 we had 130 monthly active users.
100% of our spring instructors:
- stated that students were more collaborative and involved than during previous courses.
- confirmed that students learned how to ask better questions during the course.
- are continuing with Beagle.
We work one-on-one to help them integrate collaborative learning into their curriculum. We also work with our partner institutions to help design initiatives for training and measuring skills critical for employability.
How many people we will be serving with our solution in the 12 months and the next 3 years:
By Summer, 2019, we expect to have served 65 classes and 2,500 student across 20 institutions. In three years, we expect to be serving over 100,000 students a year.
Evidence from our pilot classes shows that introducing collaborative learning into a classroom using Beagle can significantly increase engagement and enjoyment for students. Peer-reviewed literature shows that learning styles like ours increase traditional measures of content mastery and train critical thinking and collaboration. Our next step is to use existing critical thinking tests and feedback from employers to quantify this impact on student thinking and lifetime achievement.
How our solution team is organized:For-Profit
How many people work on our solution team:6
How many years we have been working on our solution:1-2 years
The skills our solution team has that will enable us to attract the different resources needed to succeed and make an impact:
Our team has experience in education, software development, UI/UX design, sales, digital marketing, and grant writing. Lindy and James have a collective 40 years of teaching experience. Turner and Calvin have experience developing software in technology startups, Carolyn is a digital marketing and sales expert, and Megan has a deep background in grant writing.
Collectively, we have spent the last 2 years researching and testing inquiry-based teaching methods. We have focused on understanding research-backed best practices and identifying the real-world roadblocks preventing adoption of these methods.
Our revenue model:
We use a freemium business model, and then upsell institutions to create high-value, high-impact partnerships.
Our software modules both save instructors time in their existing classrooms, and also train and measure specific 21st-century skills. We give the time-saving benefit to instructors for free, but limit the number of classes they can run, and the data analytics features available.
These instructors then help us pitch their technology purchasing office, department, or provost on the value of training and assessing 21st-century skills without curriculum changes or instructor retraining. The initial institutional purchase will likely cost $10 per student per semester, although we are still validating our price point.
This represents a $200 million addressable market in higher education. By using numerous strategies, including sharing RFPs across institutions and starting with small contract sizes, we can reduce the cost of institutional sales and expand quickly.
In future, we expect to build an additional revenue stream by helping match students with jobs.
Why we are applying to Solve:
We are looking for:
Support in selling and scaling our existing product - question gathering and analysis - through Solve’s and MIT’s network
Connections to funders who are interested in a bold vision for transforming higher education
Expertise with the needs and purchasing habits of our customers to help us more quickly refine our market entry point
Our goal is to transform higher education by helping support the training of 21st-century skill through inquiry-based models of learning. We’re aware that this is a big goal, and are working hard to find the most practical and scalable methods to achieve it.
The key barriers for our solution:
We have worked hard to understand how to make new teaching methods easily adoptable by instructors. In order to effectively scale our work we have to make sure our messaging clearly explains why our product is easy to start using. Without great messaging we will struggle to cross the gap between early adopters and the broader market.
Solve, with its institutional partners and connections to educational experts, can help us refine the explanation of our product, start discussions with new partners, and better understand the needs of stakeholders throughout the higher education system.
The types of connections and partnerships we would be most interested in if we became Solvers:
- Megan Allen Grants , Beagle Learning
- Carolyn Bickers Sales and Marketing Lead, Beagle Learning
- Turner Bohlen CEO, Beagle Learning
- Calvin Dunwoody Product Designer, Beagle Learning
- Lindy Elkins-Tanton Higher Ed Lead, Beagle Learning and Arizona State University
- Dr. James Tanton Partner Experience Lead, Beagle Learning