Online education has been around for more than three decades, but the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new phase of remote and innovative forms of learning for students.
Newton resident’s business, KaiPod Learning, is disrupting the traditional online learning model, providing in-person spaces for online and home-schooled students to do their work and receive help from learning coaches . The company is one of 32 semi-finalists for the $1 million Yass Prize that price innovation in education, selected from thousands of applicants.
“It’s really hard to personalize learning for everyone at the same pace, and online learning breaks those rules where anyone can get whatever room they want,” said Amar Kumar, Founder of KaiPod. .
Kaipod has seven learning centers across the country where students in grades 3 through 12 attending homeschool or online school can receive support, spend time with other students, and participate in enrichment activities.
Kumar came up with the idea for KaiPod after seven years working at Pearson Online Learning, where he observed the struggles online students face due to lack of socialization and academic support. He set out to create a business that connects students with support.
“Our vision is to create these learning hubs in every community where if you are an online teacher or looking for social enrichment, you can get academic support from our learning coaches,” Kumar said. “This is a complementary service to online learning.”
Students can attend hubs from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. two, three, or five times a week depending on their preference, according to KaiPod. website.
Kumar explained that the structure of the hub is different from the typical educational experience due to its personalized nature. Students and their parents can choose a program at any online school, then take classes and receive support at one of KaiPod’s learning centers.
There are currently 12 “learning centers” across the United States, including sites in Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The original location is in Newton Highlands. KaiPod currently has partnerships with 16 e-learning programs, a mutually beneficial relationship, according to Kumar.
“Every time one of their students has access to office space, that student is more likely to do better in online learning and they’re more likely to enjoy it,” he said.
Kumar said many of KaiPod’s learning coaches are former teachers who want to make a difference in education.
“We ask them why they started teaching [and] what do they like about teaching,” Kumar said. “And they’ll say something about ‘I want to personalize teaching for each child…I really want to see the sparkle in their eyes.'”
Although more students return to traditional in-person instruction, Kumar remains confident in KaiPod’s future.
“It’s very difficult for a service to work for every child,” Kumar said. “As more and more parents take charge of their child’s education, more and more of them are looking for various options, and they will be looking for a variety of alternatives to sort of organize their learning in a modular way. “