Okay, listen up. Today’s lesson is mathematics. Now before you start groaning, take a look at this equation: As of today, 1.4 million students have engaged in 2 million discussions worldwide with more than 32,700 educators, which equals … what? Pathwright.
“People are taking tens of thousands of paths at any given time from thousands of teachers and hundreds of schools,” says Paul Johnson, who, with his twin brother, Mark, launched the platform, which is heading into its 10th year.
So what is Pathwright? Let’s now turn to an English lesson. “Path” … as in a trail one follows. “Wright” … as in a creator/maker, such as “playwright” or “wheelwright.”
Now onto the technology portion of today’s syllabus. In a nutshell, Pathwright helps educators create paths that lead a learner through new skills and knowledge. Perhaps you’ve taken one of those step-by-step certifications online, where you have to watch a video and answer a few questions before you’re allowed to, say, drive the company van.
Pathwright leans into “action” learning rather than what Paul calls the current education system’s model of “passive content consumption”— or, as a blog post says, “Netflix for education is the wrong idea.”
Krista King explains how she uses the platform to teach math: everything from middle school algebra and trigonometry up to college-level calculus.
While a lot of teaching has gone to Zoom, King uses Pathwright to direct her students through learning paths, where they scroll on a single page through math exercises and readings (think: textbook chapters) — all at their own pace, on their schedule.
They can reach out to her individually anytime for help and discuss questions with their classmates.
King, who began teaching math online, now boasts 237,000 subscribers on her free YouTube channel, but she also offers more robust, personal paths on Pathwright, where hundreds of students subscribe to her classes for a monthly fee.
Her students typically include people who need tutoring; people who simply want to learn math; and homeschoolers. (The Johnson twins were homeschooled.)
A path for a student to follow
“You’re really building a path for a student to follow and you’re hand-holding them through this entire journey,” she says, adding that she finds Pathwright’s learning process empowering — her word — for each student.
She and her husband, Michael, operate Krista King Math. They live outside of Indianapolis now, but lived in Greenville and met the Johnsons when the twins began developing the company that now employs 13 people, many of them professional educators.
At the time, she says, “We just had a smattering of materials and Pathwright really allowed us to pull it all together into a cohesive course.”
She joined Pathwright in 2013: “We started playing around with it and building the courses there and really fell in love with the platform and we’ve been with them ever since.”
Justin Hall, Pathwright’s Head of Culture, joined the Johnsons’ journey the year platform launched.
“Whether you’re in a business-training scenario, where you’re dealing one-on-one, or you’re lecturing to a hundred people, whatever your format is, we hope to build a platform that’s flexible enough to not have to make you work through how our platform works,” he says.
Other education applications, such as Moodle or Canvas — known as Learning Management Systems, or LMS — serve primarily as faculty/student administrative interfaces, the Johnsons and Hall say.
Why is that a problem? They point to the dozens of sidebar links on those platforms and Paul says all that clutter “creates a kind of intrinsic cognitive load that distracts the learner from learning.”
Mark adds: “We tend to get angry when we watch software get in people’s way.”
The company also didn’t want to get into what Paul calls an “arms race” with the Moodles and Canvases of the worldwide web — big players with big resources; Pathwright started with no venture capital and prides itself on building the company with customers as their “investors.”
So how does all this add up?
“Our mission at Pathwright is to multiply the impact that teachers make on the world,” Paul says. “They have more influences on more people over time than anybody.”
While Pathwright’s timing appears ideal because of the need for online learning, the Johnsons and Hall don’t think in-person schooling will be supplanted anytime soon.
But as Paul says: “Just with the way technology has evolved, society itself is desperately needing more path-makers out there.”
A syllabus for all of us
In addition to my work with the Upstate Business Journal, I’m an adjunct professor at Converse University in Spartanburg. I asked the Pathwright guys if they would build one of my courses into their platform.
In 22 minutes, Christian Shockley, Pathwright’s Head of Education Labs, or EdLabs, emailed a link to a working template for an entire semester. As a Luddite (look it up, people!), I told him it would take me forever to do what he did.
“I think once a person gets the vision for how to translate existing educational materials into Pathwright, they do it pretty quickly, too. And they usually say it’s fun,” says Shockley, who joined the company eight years ago and brings his formal academic training in … poetry.
Calling himself an “educator teaching educators” the best way to teach online, he mentions how much he enjoys working off of a syllabus, like the one I sent him: seven pages of mostly higher-ed boilerplate, but with some content students need to know.
Of his A-plus work for me, he says, “I thought that might be another example of turning certain documents that end up unread into something a little more interactive and communal.”
The price of a good education
The Johnsons point out that individual instructors who subscribe to Pathwright can earn their living from their student subscriptions — as Krista King does.
While the platform may appear pricey, Pathwright has offered some $180,000 in scholarships to help teachers get started. Here’s the platform’s current pricing:
Starter: for first-timers
$99 per month, which includes, among other features:
- One staff member/teacher/instructor using the platform
- Teach up to 1,000 members (or students)
- Create unlimited courses
- Sell course subscriptions
Essentials: for launching a full online school & community.
$199 per month, with Core features, plus several others, such as:
- Five staff members
- Use your domain name
- Integrate with 2,000+ apps
Complete: All the tools you need in one platform.
$499 per month, which includes Essentials and Core features+
- 20 staff members, plus priority email support + live demos
- Offer multiple subscription plans
- Course certificates
- Unlimited cohorts per course