Learning Games Studios is aiming to improve the availability and effectiveness of adult education programs by producing a mobile app focused on engaging users – no matter where they are and whenever they’re ready to learn.
There are about 25 million people in the United States with limited English skills, 36 million with insufficient literacy skills and about 70 million who don’t have proper numeracy skills. The most widespread programs are government run, but they reach only 4 million people. Within those 4 million, about one-third drop out for various reasons and another one-third have such bad experiences they don’t retain much information.
“The government spends $2 billion on these programs, yet they hardly reach the market that needs them the most,” said Ira Sockowitz, founder and CEO of Learning Games Studios, who was interviewed as part of a new economy business profile series done this fall by UW-Madison students.
It’s a space where the company has found room to play.
“It’s a severely underserved market,” Sockowitz explained. “Our educational games are built on evidence from our research partners, so our games are shown to be successful in giving these adults the knowledge and skills they need to live and thrive.”
The company take evidence-based research and puts it at scale, meaning it can get products to large numbers of users. The research comes from organizations such as the UW-Madison Games + Learning + Society Center and MIT’s Education Arcade, which have shown learning games should be engaging and personalized so people can learn at their own pace while increasing achievement.
“Learning Games Studios is not a gaming company that makes educational games,” Sockowitz said. “This is an education based company that is making educational mobile games.”
Sockowitz described the main purpose of the games to be to improve the English, literacy and numeracy skills of adults in America who would otherwise not be able to do so. Once they have skills, adults stand to be equipped to find a better job, to improve the same skills in their children and to make better lives for themselves.
Learning Games Studios sets itself apart from the competition by stressing it is a mobile-first operation. In order to get the product to the largest number of people, the company has settled on mobile technology. Mobile helps to save money by decreasing the expenses of a classroom-only model, and it’s shown to be more effective based on evidence from the UW-Madison and MIT research centers.
“The idea of having a mobile app is to allow our users the opportunity to learn and practice anywhere,” Sockowitz said. “That way they may be more motivated to play our games versus something like Candy Crush.”
Learning Games Studios hopes to raise $750,000 and pitched to investors during the Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium, Nov. 16-17 in Madison. If it attracts investors, it will put that money towards improving its core English skills product followed by improving adjacent products such as numeracy and literacy skill building games. Sockowitz said the company will also use money to increase go-to-market efforts.
In the future, Learning Games Studios aims to expand to topics such as networking and improving communication skills.
–By Claire Duncan
Duncan is a student in the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communications.