A group of students are crossing state and national borders to improve the online schooling experience for their peers. Two of those students are from North Texas.
Elaine Yao, a senior at Lebanon Trail High School in Frisco, is one of six students who have come together to create edPal, a program designed to help students consolidate their virtual learning materials and to motivate them to keep learning.
“Unlike a paper assignment where maybe you could put everything into a binder, having online assignments is difficult,” Yao said, “because if they’re all in different platforms, there’s not really any way you can put it all in one place on one platform unless you try to download everything, which is why I think it’s so difficult for some students to actually be able keep track of all their assignments.”
Yao’s school uses Canvas, she said, but teachers also want students to download web extensions and use other programs like Flipgrid for learning.
The Frisco ISD student and edPal chief marketing officer, along with students from schools in Coppell, Virginia, Connecticut and Beijing, sees edPal as a program that takes the struggles they have personally experienced as online learners and produces solutions that can benefit multiple students. The product compatible with learning management systems like Google Classroom and Blackboard, includes tools like an agenda and e-binder for users.
Anish Devineni, a senior at Coppell High School and edPal’s chief technical officer, said teachers at his school use multiple websites and learning management systems to teach.
“Usually, this leads to people forgetting assignments, people losing track of things, because it’s just so hard to keep everything centralized, and it just leads to a lot of extra added stress that could be avoided so easily,” he said.
Adit Pareek, a high school student in Virginia and edPal’s CEO, said the group pinpointed problems they saw like lack of motivation and the wide disbursement of schoolwork across multiple platforms and looked at how to find a solution. The result is edPal.
“We all know all students learn differently, so we want to work towards every student’s preferences so that we can create an all-encompassing platform that sort of just takes the best from every other learning management system and just makes it into one centralized one,” Pareek said.
During the summer, the team pitched its product to a group of Silicon Valley investors and earned a $3,100 investment, Yao said. The team is also getting mentorship support from a company in California and a Kaplan representative.
The edPal team has another main goal tied to its product: inspiring motivation in its users. Rohit Gunda, a senior at a Connecticut high school and edPal’s chief financial officer, said he had been feeling unmotivated to study without the interactions that come with in-person schooling. He added that he has to work 10 times harder to learn the same amount of material that he would learn if he were in school.
“That’s why we feel that a feature for motivation is extremely important, and it could definitely differentiate us with any potential competitors,” Gunda said.
The team is looking to complete a prototype by late November. The product website includes a paid “premium” option for additional features, but Pareek said the free version of the product will include features that students need. He also said the goal is to keep the cost low.
“We’re students, and as students, we feel like it’s our duty to help other students out,” Pareek said. “Even though online school is less stressful, we still think we should actually be learning stuff during that time. We just want to roll this out and help as many students as we can.”