Learnics was established in the fall of 2017 by Dr. Greg Cottrell, Dr. Doug Lare, & Karl Pietrzak. However, as with all ideas, there is much more to the story.
The Learnics journey really begins in the fall of 2012 when Greg Cottrell began his administrative career as an assistant principal. His school had recently adopted a 1:1 Chromebook initiative and to help keep students safe online, the district purchased an activity monitoring tool. The software would flag instances when learners were trying to access inappropriate websites and it was Greg's task to review the records of students who were flagged for their online behaviors. As he sifted through the data, Greg was amazed by how much information was being collected and it was not uncommon for a learner to have over 500-page views in one day. He knew that hidden somewhere in these hundreds of page views was extremely valuable information about student learning that was waiting to be discovered.
Greg was working on his doctoral dissertation at the time and discussed this idea with his advisor, Dr. Doug Lare. They both became extremely interested in understanding how educators could use this information in a similar manner to "big data", but with a focus on enhancing learning with the knowledge. Greg re-targeted his dissertation topic to focus on researching learning analytics. Doug served as Greg’s mentor through the dissertation process, with the goal of the research to provide teachers with specific and targeted data about how their students were using Chromebooks to complete project based learning assignments. Greg worked with a cohort of teachers to identify an assignment each wanted analytical data for and then manually processed the hundreds of page views for each student in order to identify online activity germane to the completed projects. He was able to share with the teachers how long each student spent working on an assignment, which primary resources they used, what Google searches they conducted, and illuminate online learning experiences that the teacher had previously been blind to. This data proved to be very impactful to the teachers and each noted several instructional design changes that needed to be made to assignments as a result of this process, but this was a very tedious exercise.
Greg's dissertation research showed that targeted data about student online learning had value, but the problem was that manual methods for sifting and sorting the data were not practical or scalable for continued use. To solve this problem, Greg and Doug teamed up with Karl Pietrzak, a highly skilled software engineer, and together formed Learnics. The first tool produced by the company is the Google Chrome extension Learnicsᴵᴸ (formerly known as the ThinkingApp), which allows students to record and submit their own learning data in real time. This puts the ownership of learning data back in the hands of the learner and allows teachers to gather deep insights into the digital learning process.
Development of our platform is ongoing and it would be great for you to be a part of our story!