18 Mar In Age of Increased online learning, IU Angel Network invests in personal assistant app “Boost”
The IU Angel Network has announced an investment in Boost, a mobile app that syncs with learning management systems to aid both students and teachers in a time of increased online learning. Like a virtual personal assistant, Boost sends due date reminders for unfinished projects, creates to-do lists, and encourages users with personalized positive feedback messages. With the current seed round of funding, Boost will add community features and widely market to university and K-12 schools helping students across the country complete their courses. Boost was founded by IU faculty member Ben Motz, Ph.D. and Hoosier technology leader Josh Owens.
Boost is the brainchild of Ben Motz, a faculty member in the IU Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and the Director of eLearning Research and Practice Lab, who is the company’s co-founder and Chief Research Officer. Having also earned his undergraduate and doctorate degrees at IU, Motz is no stranger to the limitations of traditional feedback in the classroom.
“Historically, if teachers wanted to know how their students were doing, they’d need to reflect on students’ performance on previous tests, homework, and classroom assessments, or they’d need to directly ask their students,” he said. “But these modes of evaluation are retroactive, and may be too little too late to support students who are having trouble staying engaged in the first place.” To solve this issue and utilize proactive practices, Motz considered email and texting, but eventually realized they would need to develop an app.
After testing the app with IU students over the past two years, the company has found amazing results. Data shows student users have seen a 5.7% increase in assignment submissions and 3.4% increase in their overall course grade. Most importantly, Boost leads to a 3% increase in the number of students who pass a class. Controlling for high-achieving student users, data showed a 15% increase in assignment submission and a 10% increase in course grade. Students are more likely to notice notifications that pop up on their phones as compared with other communications like emails, leading to these fantastic results.
This app is not just beneficial to students, though. Prior to the existence of Boost, some IU faculty members used other apps, one of which sends personalized text messages to students. The frustration with these other products, however, is that messages must still be manually crafted and scheduled, adding extra labor on the teacher’s end. With Boost, the app does all the work.
Josh Owens, co-founder and CEO of Boost, considers Boost a “critical personal assistant app.” Owens, a former IU Economics instructor at the O’Neill School of Public & Environmental Affairs, is excited by the potential of this company. “We are thrilled to have the IU Angel Network investment, alongside other investors, to help us bring our app to students widely across the country,” he said. “We will also be using the investment to bring new community features to the app that will help students succeed in every single one of their classes.”
Now that Boost has seen considerable success at IU in the last couple years, the company is ready to expand into a greater market. Currently, the app is compatible with Canvas, the learning management system (LMS) used by IU and widely across the country. As they look to expand, they see the potential for its use in K-12 schools and other universities, regardless of which LMS is used. Motz added, “By licensing the technology to a commercial venture, we hope to be broadly expanding the range of what’s possible with Boost.”
To help Boost realize its potential, the IU Angel Network has invested $110,000 in the company to help fund software development and sales and marketing. “Supporting companies like Boost, who are commercializing a university licensed product is a top priority for IU Ventures,” said Jason Whitney, Vice President of IU Ventures and Executive Director of IU Angel Network. “The added benefit here is that this product also contributes to the educational success of our students and eventually students throughout the nation.”
About IU Ventures
IU Ventures is a Code Section 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to empowering Indiana University faculty, alumni, and friends to support and invest in IU-affiliated innovation. Through the IU Philanthropic Venture Fund and the IU Angel Network, IU Ventures works to provide opportunities for individuals affiliated with IU to network with fellow entrepreneurs; build innovative new businesses; and support growing enterprises through donations, investments, time and talents.