How to Increase Both A Course’s Profitability and Its Student Results: the Story of an EdTech platform that Helped Its Students Earn $2.5 Billion

Image commercially licensed from: https://unsplash.com/photos/three-men-laughing-while-looking-in-the-laptop-inside-room-XkKCui44iM0
Image commercially licensed from: https://unsplash.com/photos/three-men-laughing-while-looking-in-the-laptop-inside-room-XkKCui44iM0

The reasons behind poor student performance and completion rates in online schools have been discussed extensively in publications. Usually, methodologists and course creators recommend changing the way that material is presented— for example, splitting a long course into short modules— or implementing more regular feedback from educators. It is even said that “low profitability is normal.”

Dmitry Yurchenko, co-founder of AXL.tech, has different ideas. We spoke to Dmitry, whose IT platform for online schools has helped more than 4,000 schools earn more than $2.5 billion since 2017. AXL.tech has successfully found a unique, fast, and effective way to increase the profitability of courses and improve student results. 

At AXL.tech, students are not just seen as ways to make profit. Indeed, the platform is converting business ethics to high finance. To Dmitry, when you create an ethical business that cares about the success of its customers, your own personal chances of financial success are much greater.  

Dmitry, you ran ACCEL, an accelerator of online schools, from 2016-2020. How did you grow into founding an IT platform that helps thousands of such schools?

Speaking frankly, the path to ACCEL— the first online accelerator of online schools— was thorny and long. After a beautiful takeoff in 2016-2018, when we were the first and only players in the CIS market to make from a million dollars a month, we transitioned to a rapid fall in 2019 and a soft landing in 2020. The online business landed in the IT sphere; we have integrated learning technologies and key statistics into a system SaaS solution for online schools that now, according to many experts in the industry, surpasses all standard solutions both on the Russian and international market. In AXL.tech, we solved all the shortcomings of existing online platforms while also adding technology to achieve results and progress by students. This process is assisted with the use of artificial intelligence (AI), which helps students learn effectively. 

Back in 2017, online schools were faced for the first time with negative feedback from users who expressed that they had spent time and money without experiencing tangible results. We began to study the reasons for the drop in performance, motivation, and rollbacks in training. The research identified many psychological and technical factors, some of which were reflected by our colleagues in their publications. In this interview, I will intentionally voice only those discoveries and finds that you will not find anywhere else. 

In general, how does one measure the statistics of online courses effectiveness? 

After studying all of the sources available at that time, we found that none of the major online schools had shown long-term, systematic results from supporting students. Indeed, few seemed worried that the completion rate of many courses was in the range of 1-4%. We realized that we needed to look to where the training has the highest success rate in the world. As it turned out, such an educational platform was not a MOOC at all. No offline school could boast reliable statistics of completed courses in relation to the success of the student. Even the oldest and most modern business schools that have multiple MBA and EMBA programs “hack” with statistics. Previously, they measured the percentage of employed graduates in corporations and presented eminent graduate entrepreneurs. But during Covid, when many had to stop programs or go online, all statistics failed, and many business schools were unable to restore the usual scale of recruitment. 

Nevertheless, we found the most effective educational and training organization in the world, which has been showing steady results for more than 2+ million students for more than 70 years. 

What hinders learning? Why do people drop out of courses instead of completing them? 

Back in the 50s, studies in the field of education identified key methods to prevent hindrances in learning:

  • Limiting misunderstood or unknown words (ignorance can become a formidable obstacle on the path to gaining the desired learning result)
  • Preventing over-abstraction (unformed thoughts and blurred conclusions do not represent a substantive understanding of the subject of study)
  • Implementing a gradient (students can fall behind without a gradual increase in the level of difficulty only when the student is ready)

Think about how these golden rules are observed and maintained in the methodology of your own courses. 

If these key methods are implemented, the percentage of profitability in courses reaches 90%. Patented as a separate learning technology, we call this applied scholastics, and it can be implemented under license. Applied scholastics is already being used around the world, including in the United States and Mexico. 

Does the approach work in an online environment? Has your technology been to the test during the pandemic?

With the arrival of Covid, educational systems that relied on the inclusion of an in-person curator struggled to replace the role of such an important educational environment. 

Brilliant programmer Daniil Musatov (co-founder of AXL.tech) came up with a simple and effective solution to this problem— virtual classroom technology. 

Virtual classroom technology is online training in the format of a virtual classroom, which completely recreates the requirements of the process according to three golden rules: checking and tracking misunderstood words, making theoretical material more tangible, and observing the learning gradient using the measurement of relevant statistics. 

Do you have any recommendations for implementing the learning methods in courses?

To prevent students from falling behind due to misunderstood words, provide a glossary at the beginning of the course and explain each new term with alternate phrasing. 

It is very important for the course creator to understand that their grasp of the material and language used is very different from that of a beginner. Test material on real people and ask what words they don’t understand. This suggestion applies to everything from a webinar to a lesson in the course. 

To ensure that students have a firm, grounded understanding of concepts, have them make sketches during lessons. They can draw diagrams themselves as they understand ideas. This idea for giving “mass” to ideas originates from the process of having children draw pictures. Modeling from plasticine is good for kinesthetics. 

Build the course using the gradient method, ordering modules from simple to complex.

Study tech allows you to identify at what point the student begins to literally get bored— often manifested by yawning, laying on the table, or transitioning to other windows/chats. Educators can avoid these distractions while maintaining the speed of learning by noticing and reducing rather than speeding up the “degree of learning.” 

Another important point, also in the context of ethics and customer care: the incoming flow should be equal to the outgoing one. It is necessary that you, as a business owner or creator of training resources, not only give, but also receive. Students themselves need to invest as well. The rules of the educational business have already become axioms; there will be no result without involvement, and community works best. 

For example, increase student involvement by practicing student-teaching, cross-checking homework, and building a system of mentors and buddies. Likewise, internal rewards in the community and recognition and confirmation of results are helpful.

The technology has been tested and implemented with the statistics of 75 thousand successfully-completed complex courses, and the completion rate has risen from 25% to 80%. 

While you can always continue without implementing the criteria, doing so often manifests as selling courses without caring about student success. It comes down to the choice of the creator and reflects their ethics in business. Indeed, you can let your students lose track of the course, or you can give them the tools they need to succeed. 

(Ambassador)

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