San Diego Business Journal

CourseKey’s Learning Platform Gets Devices on Same Page

SOFTWARE: It Expands Learning Opportunities, Assists in Admin Tasks By Brad Graves Originally published July 28, 2016 at 2:43 p.m., updated July 28, 2016 at 2:43 p.m.


Luke Sophinos

— It’s been a busy two years for Luke Sophinos. The 21-year-old CEO has gotten a software business off to a very fast start. He has postponed his final coursework at San Diego State University. And he’s attracted attention from the foundation run by internet entrepreneur Peter Thiel. The upshot? A two-year, $100,000 Thiel Fellowship to help him build his young business, CourseKey Inc.

CourseKey lets students and professors interact in college settings, using the technology that each individual brings to the classroom — whether it’s a laptop computer, tablet, a smartphone running Android or a smartphone running iOS. “It’s going to work on anything a kid lugs to class,” Sophinos said.

The business got going at San Diego State. By now roughly 50 teachers and 10,000 students use the first commercial version of the software. The business plans to roll out a second version, with more functions and a cleaner user interface, on Aug. 25. That new version will serve 25 campuses and 40,000 to 50,000 students.

CourseKey lets a professor take roll quickly using technology similar to GPS. “We automate this administrative nightmare,” Sophinos said. With that task out of the way, the software gives professors another way to interact with students, and a way for students to communicate with the professor.

One of the software’s early adopters is Kevin Popovic, who lectures at San Diego State’s business school on the topics of creativity and innovation.

Popovic said CourseKey speeds daily administrative tasks such as taking roll

(a chore in 50-student classes) and compiling grades from quizzes. He also finds it a good teaching tool. Popovic said he will give students a brief interactive quiz at the start of a lecture to gauge how many have done the reading; knowing that, he will modify his lecture accordingly. Or he might give a quiz to spur classroom conversation, with results showing up on the screen in real time.

What’s more, students can use the software to communicate with one another, even across the room. No longer is a student’s peer group limited to those to the left and right, and in front and behind him, Popovic said.

Popovic said CourseKey complements other software he uses, the learning management system (or LMS) from Washington, D.C.-based Blackboard Inc.

Students pay for CourseKey as they would a textbook. The cost is $25 for the first class and $5 for each additional class. Professors get to use CourseKey for free.


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