Platform Thinking in Education Technology

Online Platforms are radically transforming the way we travel, work and interact with each other. From Uber to the App Store to WhatsApp, platforms have completely changed the game, by allowing dynamic communities to connect with each other on a scale that even just a few years ago, would have been impossible.

This change has occurred so suddenly, that it’s bizarre to think that many of the world’s most popular platforms, used by billions of people, didn’t exist a few years ago. Smartphones and social networking have truly brought the idea of consumer software into the mainstream, by making it easier for both developers and consumers to build and distribute amazing products, leading to the already cliche-but-accurate phrase “there’s an app for that!”.

WhatsApp handles 42bn messages from 1bn users every day. With just 57 engineers. Welcome to the platform age

Separate Lives

The way I organise my day-to-day life has changed completely in the last 5 years, a thought that crystalised itself when I spent a week in London, almost entirely living off my iPhone. I booked accommodation on AirBnB, travelled on the tube with Apple Pay, communicated with my team on Slack and found my way around with CityMapper, without even opening my laptop, let alone a wallet or a map.

As a student, however, things really haven’t changed that much. I still attend lectures, copy notes down and get books from the library. Sure, education makes signs of advancement towards a digital future, but all in all it’s hard to escape the feeling that education technology is operating in a different century to consumer technology. In reality, it’s probably only a few years behind, but given how exponentially transformative those few years have been, to myself and many other students, the contrast is stark.

That’s what led us to create Synap in the first place. As true ‘children of the internet’, my co-founder, Omair Vaiyani and I wanted to create a platform that truly brought our student life into the social, digital and mobile age. We wanted to do something that most education technology companies seem to have given up on: building a platform that students actually use because they want to, not because they had to.

And that’s exactly what we did: Synap is an online platform that lets students and teachers create, practice and share short quizzes online, and uses intelligent algorithms to deliver a personalised learning experience for each student. Over the last few years, Synap has grown and evolved from a simple Wordpress plugin used by a handful of people at Leeds Medical School, to an intuitive and intelligent platform used by thousands of people all over the world across a huge range of fields.

it’s hard to escape the feeling that education technology is operating in a different century to consumer technology”

The Education Revolution

Synap has become a community of people teaching and learning from each other, by writing Multiple Choice Question quizzes. MCQs are the obvious choice for a social learning platform because they are short, bite-sized and inherently shareable — which is exactly what students today want — something they can accomplish and see measurable results from in just a few minutes a day, that fits into their schedule and doesn’t require them to be chained to a library desk for hours on end.

Now with the Synap Store, we’re going to take things to the next level. Synap has thrived so far on user generated content, which will always be a huge part of what we do. Providing the tools for students, teachers and tutors to create their own quizzes is what makes Synap unique, and it’s the same philosophy that allowed Omair and I do create Synap in the first place — the App Store allowed us and thousands of other independent developers to create and distribute a high quality product. The Synap Store complements that offering by also incentivising some of the world’s best education publishers to distribute their content to a large and engaged audience, as a paid subscription.

I can’t think of a better partner to launch the Synap Store with than Oxford University Press, arguably the most respected name in medical education, and the publishers behind the world-famous Clinical Handbook series. We’re thrilled to be launching the Store with over 3,000 medical MCQs taken from popular titles such as the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine, the Oxford Handbook of Medical Sciences and theOxford Handbook of Clinical Specialties, that cover key topics in the undergraduate medical curriculum. Next month, we’ll also be launching an exclusive range of content from OUP based on medical board exams such as the MRCP and MRCS.

Oxford University Press is delighted to be partnering with Synap to provide an exciting new platform to showcase our products. Our self-assessment content is already the cornerstone of a young medic’s revision, and our new collaboration will allow broader access to these high-quality resources through Synap’s innovative online study platform. — Sean Pidgeon, Medical Publishing Director, Oxford University Press

OUP’s content is widely seen as the most trusted in the world, with an inordinate amount of effort going into finding top experts to produce and review every question. Synap is increasingly seen as the world’s best platform for practicing quizzes, and we’ll soon be running a study with one of the UK’s leading medical schools to demonstrate how our unique algorithms help students learn more in less time. It’s not an exaggeration to say therefore that, what we’re launching today is the world’s best content, on the world’s best platform.

But don’t take my word for it! Go to the Synap Store and check it out for yourself, I’d love to know what you think. Get 20% off all products with the code SYNAP-BLOG

The Future

Over the coming months we’ll be looking to work with a select number of additional publishers to expand the range of content offered on the Store. If interested, I’d be delighted to hear from you.