The increasing expectations of a global society demand that our learners be highly proficient in Math. However, I am realistic and understand this subject does not come naturally for many of our young and adult learners including myself. Having said that, in this post I will introduce to you Outwhiz a new kind of Software as a Service (SaaS) product that aims to bridge the learning gap by motivating our students. Outwhiz is one of several products in the already crowded drill-based software industry.
For a quick Outwhiz overview from a kid’s point of view, please watch the video below.
One of the distinct features of this service is that it only focuses on two subjects English and Math. However, in this post, I will only address the Math feature. The learning goals here are simple; motivate learners to learn Math through a series of carefully scaffolded exercises based on their prior knowledge. The later as mentioned by Gagne, et al. (2005), help learners acquire “verbal information, intellectual skills, cognitive strategies, attitudes, and motor skills” (p. 17). All of which are essential to the construct of meaning when studying Math. Furthermore, the developers intent is to address the individual needs of elementary and middle school learners through a self-paced curriculum based on the current Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative (Outwhiz, 2016).
Above all, this service can help educators by reducing their workload, eliminating the use of worksheets, time spent grading, and to provide seamless feedback to the learner. Outwhiz can be used on their website (web-based) and through mobile device apps that are platform agnostic. They currently have apps for Android and iOS devices. Meaning learners can start working on an assignment on the website and then move onto an iPad or another mobile device to complete their work. Although Outwhiz advertises themselves as a free service, they are actually a freemium service. The later is a classification for websites, apps or software you can use for free but with certain features removed or crippled until the user upgrades to a paid version or have access to a corporate account.
To learn more about the analytics feature, please watch the video below.
Moreover, there is not a specific set of skills needed to use this service other than basic knowledge of the assigned Math topic. After a brief formative assessment when the service is first used, the website (app) adapts the learning experience based on the assessment results. Therefore, it is essential that learners have a desire to succeed and stick through with the assigned topics. Outwhiz (2016) recommends that students set aside 10 to 30 minutes daily to perform their practice exercises.
Once students complete an assignment, they are rewarded with a badge and the opportunity to level up as an incentive to solve more complex problems. Admittedly this serves to entice the learner to try harder and to achieve the goals assigned by a parent or educator. There are three ways students are motivated. First by competing with other users and trying to get higher on the leaderboards (win gift cards), second by unlocking badges they can show to their peers and third through the competitive spirit of the learning environment. The rewards offered by Outwhiz can be earned through points or by purchasing coins when using the paid version of the service. After using this software, students are expected to have a better understanding of basic Math concepts; further increasing their readiness for their in-state assessment.
When it comes to learning styles, Outwhiz addresses learner’s preferences through an adaptative platform that changes with the learner. As argued by Newton (2015), “Learning Styles do not work, yet the current research literature is full of papers which advocate their use” (p. 5). I agree with this statement based on my experience and the fact that all learners are different. What might work with one child might not work for the next. Thus, Outwhiz provides a viable solution that serves as a compromise to meet the needs of those learners needing support with their Math coursework. I would certainly recommend this service to students, parents, educators and even adults needing to refresh their basic Math skills.
Pricing Plans: Freemium / Paid Subscription
Audience: Parents / Students / Educators / Schools / Tutoring Center
Category: Personalized Learning
Subjects: English / Math