As the title suggests, we have changed the name of Mathnasium.online to Mathnasium@home.

After the first six months of the pilot, it became clear that the word “online” has a negative connotation to parents who have had a dismal experience with poorly-conceived online educational offerings that use canned videotaped presentations and automated “AI” worksheets in lieu of live human instruction.

Rather than focusing on the delivery method of online, we decided to change the name from Mathnasium.online to Mathnasium@home to emphasize that this was the same great experience that families were getting at the center with one-on-one live instruction. Mathnasium@home tells customers that it is a way for them to experience Mathnasium at home.

Please take a moment and watch the video above currently being used to explain the program to parents.

The Pilot

In the summer of 2017, we began marketing and offering Mathnasium@home to new students at six centers located in Central Florida (Broward County, Volusia, and Brandon) and one center in Little Rock, Arkansas. Mo Khalil has also been allowed to offer the same service to current students from any of his learning centers who were going to terminate their membership. Over almost a year, we have taught over 250 students with Mathnasium@home.

Our Learning Platform, Blackboard Ultra, worked well until January of 2018, when we started to experience technical issues with the platform at that time. We have been working closely with Blackboard Support to resolve the problems that we have been experiencing; unfortunately, they do continue to persist.

Our intention was to expand the pilot leading into this summer; however, until the issues with the platform are reliably resolved, or we switch to another vendor, we’ve decided to stop adding new centers to the pilot using Blackboard Ultra. I’m optimistic that Blackboard will correct the issue, but just in case they don’t, we are testing several other platforms that can also do the job.

One lesson from all this may be that we should use multiple platforms simultaneously that have the capabilities that we need, such as audio, video, shared whiteboard, ability to upload a digital “workbook”, and virtual break-out-rooms, and that allow us to teach multiple students simultaneously at a 4:1 ratio.  That way, if one system fails, we can easily migrate to another platform. The unique aspect of Mathanasium@home is not the technology; it’s our curriculum and delivery.

That said, here is what we have learned from this pilot so far:

  1. Education: Educationally, it is very effective. Parents and children love it, and math progress is on par with the Learning Center experience.
  2. Attrition: The length of stay is comparable to the center. Often, students cycle from center to @home and back to the center, resulting in a longer total length of stay. Mathnasium@home can be particularly effective in keeping students enrolled over the summer and during the year when other activities, like sports, make it hard to get to the center.
  3. Student Enrollment: We’ve seen no interruption to our brick-and-mortar business, as we’ve expanded our @home test audience.
  4. Hardware: We found that setting up the necessary hardware along with training experienced Mathnasium instructors on how to use this hardware was easier than anticipated and can be done in about a day. Hardware costs per station is about $1,300. Two stations (two instructors) can teach more than 40 additional students a week (6-8 students/session and 3-4 sessions a day).
  5. Teaching Environment: We’ve been experimenting with instructors working from home, the Learning Center, and in a centralized office. All options work well and present both advantages and disadvantages. Teachers working from home are a natural concern, and we think that they must be held to higher standards, such as a minimum age, a graduate degree or teaching certification, a separate dedicated room, and a recording camera for sessions.
  6. Marketing: Based on our experience so far, Mathnasium@home marketing has not generated a lot of new students (first-time Mathnasium students). We’ve found that many parents have had a negative experience with online education and are skeptical. Therefore, Center Directors are essential to the sale of the program as parents need reassurance that their child will be receiving the same quality of Mathnasium education as delivered in the center. They want the program to be directly associated with a live presence in their community rather than being handled through a remote call center.
  7. Ratios: As in the Learning Center, Mathnasium@home is delivered at a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio. This can be a problem in the beginning when there are only one or two students in the virtual room with the teacher.

Upcoming Pilots

As mentioned above, we’ve stopped expanding the pilot until we have a stable and reliable platform. We are planning the following strategic tests of new online teaching platforms:

Manhattan, NYC

Tammy and Marc Goldberg will test Jigsaw, a Blackboard alternative, to deliver Mathnasium@home to their students over the summer when they leave the city to go on vacation.

Canada

Nathan Windells will test BrainCert, another Blackboard alternate. Saskatchewan is a vast territory where traveling to the Learning Center is difficult, especially in the winter.

We are optimistic that this new approach will allow us to gather the requisite information more quickly, allowing for us to regain our footing and begin expanding the pilot once again.

– The Mathnasium@home team

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