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Expert TA Blog

Expert TA deal a STEM boost

Posted on November 21, 2012 by David Thomison

We cheer every time one of our portfolio companies achieves a significant milestone.

Expert TA, the Tulsa-based firm that provides online tools to improve teacher and teaching assistant effectiveness while making it easier for students to learn, has scored another A.

Expert TA recently announced a strategic partnership with OpenStax College, a nonprofit organization committed to virtually eliminating basic textbook costs. OpenStax College publishes open source high-quality learning materials, which are developed and peer-reviewed by educators to ensure they are readable, accurate and meet the scope and sequence requirements of college courses.

OpenStax College e-books are available at no charge. Printed texts cost about $40—significantly less than most textbooks—even those that are used.

Expert TA will supplement the OpenStax physics textbook with customizable homework and tutorials for introductory physics courses. Expert TA engages a cadre of teachers to develop problem sets for the Expert TA template.

The firm’s extensive problem library of originally written material for Physics I and Physics II classes are available to be used in conjunction with OpenStax’ introductory, algebra-based, two-semester college physics text. Additionally, Expert TA is expanding their current library with problem sets from OpenStax.

Expert TA saves professors time by uniquely automating partial credit grading of complex physics equations. “Two dynamics are in play in our partnership with OpenStax College,” says Dr. Jeremy Morton, president and CEO of Expert TA.

“The first is the escalating total cost of college education, which is four times more expensive than it was 30 years ago with costs increasing 2 to 4 percent more than inflation year after year. Textbooks can equal as much as 10 percent of that cost,” he says.

The second dynamic is the critical role of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) professionals in U.S. job creation and economic leadership. There are 2.9 STEM jobs for every one unemployed person today. There are 2.8 unemployed people for every one non-STEM job.

With initiatives like non-profit, non-partisan CEO-led Change the Equation (CTEq), increasing the number of STEM graduates is a priority of private and public sector. STEM fields are expected to add 2.7 million new jobs by 2018.

“This means that the United States will require a million more workers in STEM over the next decade if we are to maintain historical leadership in these fields,” Dr. Morton says. “That’s about a 33 percent increase over current rate of 3 million graduates per decade. This partnership between Expert TA and OpenStax College addresses both dynamics by offering free textbooks teamed with easy to use and adaptable problem sets and teaching aids.”

Expert TA’s products offer several terrific advantages to professors, teaching assistants (TAs), and students:

  • Partial credit grading on multi-part and multi-credit equations, frees up time that professors and TAs can spend with students;
  • Tools to help professors and TAs identify learning trends and to create appropriate homework assignments in minutes, which saves time and helps target the areas where students need focus, and;
  • Simulated guidance to help the student through the problem-solving process, which, along with greater professor and TA availability, can help improve their learning of complicated materials.

“Our materials help students gain true mastery of problem solving techniques,” says Dr. Morton. “That’s the kind of support they need to complete the rigorous coursework required in the STEM disciplines.”

More than 60 percent of the students who enter college today with the intention of majoring a STEM-field end up in a non-STEM field. According to the 2012 Invention Index by Lemelson-MIT, almost of the students surveyed said they weren't prepared at school to seek further education in these areas.

“Imagine if we can increase the number of STEM students who graduate by just 10 percent,” Dr. Morton says. “That could produce nearly 750,000 more STEM graduates in the next 10 years. That’s not all the way to 1 million, but it would be a huge improvement.”

In 2011, the Oklahoma Seed Capital Fund and Seed Step Angels co-invested in Expert TA. The firm also received a Technology Business Finance Program (TBFP) award in 2010.

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