Three years after the initial launch of Socratic.org, the online learning community whose members have answered questions posed by over 15 million students to date, the Socratic app is now being introduced as an easy, fast way for high school students to discover how to complete their homework.
The app works by using a photograph of a homework question that is then put through Socratic's Artificial Intelligence engine, which searches the internet to match the user with the best and most appropriate resources to help.
The Socratic app launched on the Apple store this week and is currently only available for iOS. The app took the Socratic team three years to complete in an effort to discover how students learn online and where they most often have problems:
"We've made it our mission to make learning easier. The biggest obstacle for students searching for help online is knowing which question to ask," says Pedregal, CEO and Socratic founder, who is in this year's roster of Forbes "30 under 30" in Education. "A good tutor knows what students are really asking and shows them the right concepts to learn how to answer the questions. We designed Socratic to be like the best tutor. It understands the question and shows the fewest concepts required to solve their problems."
Once a photo of a homework question has been submitted to the app, help is given to the student in the form of several swipable pages including the best available content created by members of the Socratic community, in addition to videos, textbook citations, and web pages from other trustworthy sites.
Artificial intelligence included in the app allows it to "know" what the underlying concept of each question is even if the concept is not included within the actual question. Educator input was put to use during the training of the AI in order to ensure that it was accurate with its answers.
The app looks to offer students the ability to quickly complete their homework while at the same time learning the lessons meant to be taken away from the exercises.
A year of development was involved in the creation of the app, which included over a dozen teachers, hundreds of high school students, and over 150,000 users of the unbranded app Homework Genius that was created by the Socratic team.
"Finding content that's easy to use online is challenging because most educational content was created for use on laptops. We've seen students on iPhones hesitantly flip through 20 page pdfs, scan paragraphs that span multiple screens, and wait 30 seconds for pages to load. What students need to learn is intuitiveness and simplicity," says Bhansali.
The Socratic app will first focus on chemistry and will expand into the other sciences over the next few months. All other high school subjects will soon follow. While the app is currently only available in English, it is expected to roll out in additional languages soon. An Android version is also expected to be released as well.
"Just as much—if not more—learning takes place after a student leaves the classroom. We hope Socratic is students' ally to help them feel confident that they have learned what they need to," says Bhansali.