Learnist: What if Wikipedia and Pinterest Had a Baby?

Learnist, a new educational tool, is betting that there exist more people with the hunger to teach others than there are classrooms in the country to accommodate them — and the venture is aiming to draw those wannabe teachers to harness their enthusiasm to create content.

As Jessica Van Sack writes for BizSmart, Learnist is looking to emulate image-heavy tech darling Pinterest to add something new to education. But where users of Pinterest would find a user-submitted link, picture or video, those who click sections of Learnist will find a learning board which will serve as a thorough, comprehensive overview of one particular topic.

The content is set up like a series of boards. Think of each pin as a Wikipedia topic, everything from how to perform CPR to all you need to know about English grammar, the LSAT and a tourist’s guide to Boston. Clicking on a pin brings open a learning board — which can include elements such as instructional videos, essays, illustrative games and audio clips that answer questions and expound on interesting (and not-so-interesting, depending on your tastes) topics.

Learnist also echoes Wikipedia, another popular internet cornerstone. Like the user-created encyclopedia, those who create Learnist learning boards are frequently driven by nothing more than their desire to share knowledge. And judging by the content already available on the site, the desire to share is strong. While still in the beta stage, Learnist is already boasting a library of boards that’s tens of thousands strong.

The number of authors drawn to Learnist can be partially attributed to the easy-to-use interface which can have people creating boards in minutes. The tools available also give creators a broad scope for their imagination. Boards consist of not just text like Wikipedia, but video, games and audio clips as well.

Learnist released new iOS apps for the iPhone and iPad on Thursday, both of which are user-friendly, attractive tools that allow for the best of what the Internet is supposed to do: make us smarter and more connected.
Learnist recently reached an education milestone, obtaining enough textbook materials in mathematics and English language arts to fulfill the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a series of national curriculum standards that 48 states have agreed to adopt.

This means that the site could some day complement or replace textbooks — and do it for free. That’s a bittersweet characteristic, as it is the one thing Van Sack views as the company’s Achilles’ Heel. Currently, Learnist is funded by grants from investors, but eventually will to have to find a way to generate revenue and profit in-house.

09 11, 2012
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