CATAPULT TO SUCCESS: Betsy remembers way back when a generous uncle would (occasionally) give her a dollar for getting good grades. Now we do it online: Popular social studying network (not to be confused with social studies) OpenStudy recently debuted Catapult, an intermediary service that allows learners to define their own learning goals and rewards and have those rewards crowd-funded through the learner's social network for meeting those goals. It's still new; co-founder, Preetha Ram, says she was looking for ways to motivate online learners and others studying in non-traditional learning environments. "You need a whole lot of motivation when you're embarking on the journey by yourself," she says.
The goals and rewards need not be limited to kids or even online study programs. Adult learners might use Catapult to keep up their enthusiasm for say, working through an Artificial Intelligence program on Udacity. High schoolers might ask for concert tickets as a reward for maintaining a B+ average in a difficult writing course.
Ram admits "the jury is still out" on Catapult's effectiveness. This study from Harvard guru, Roland Fryer, crushed the idea that paying lower-income students to get good grades would promote their studying. Ram counters that learner-identified goals are not the same rewarding students for scoring high grades. What's more, Ram says, Catapult "keep(s) the whole family in the learning circle," which provides additional motivation and peer support beyond monetary awards.
The next phase for Catapult is further integration with OpenStudy, allowing learners to lean on the OpenStudy community to achieve their learning goals, and perhaps letting external sponsors propose some learning goals and rewards that participants can select. The service is currently available to US residents with a valid social security number, but Ram expects to offer it internationally within a month.