TC50: Grockit, The Multiplayer Learning Game That's Better Than Any Practice Test

Grockit, the mysterious online learning site that has been operating in stealth for the past year and has raised a total of over $10 million, has finally revealed itself to the public, and it doesn’t disappoint. The site calls itself a “Massively Multi Player Online Learning Game”, taking gaming concepts that have made World of Warcraft a massive hit and applying it to what amounts to an online SAT study group.

After logging in, users are presented with a list of active classrooms, each of which consists of less than a half dozen students. Once the session begins, the students are presented with a question along with a set of possible answers. Students can use an embedded chat box to debate on the possible choices, and can also leave comments beneath individual answer choices. After choosing an answer, Grockit highlights the correct one and an explanation detailing why it was the right choice.

As the sessions progress, students can award each other with “Grockit Points” for participating, which allow them to increase their Grockit rank (up to a level 10 blackbelt). The company says this leveling system gives users an incentive to play smart, and play often, and has worked well during its beta testing.

Grockit has the potential to be a huge hit – every year, millions of students spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on expensive prep classes for standardized tests like the SAT and the GMAT. Grockit may not be a replacement for these classes, but it’s a powerful tool nonetheless. Some of the panelists questioned the site’s virality, wondering why anyone would play this learning game in the first place. But they seem to forget just how far many students will go to ensure their success, buying handheld quizzing devices, test books, and the aforementioned prep courses. If Grockit can prove that it genuinely helps its students learn (and I think it will), then it should have no problem finding an audience.

Grockit originally launched in 2006, as an online video prep course for standardized tests. In 2007 the company abandoned the model and began developing the product that launched today.

The newest incarnation of Grockit launched at TechCrunch50 during the Games session. You can watch a video of its presentation here.

Expert Panelists

Robert Scoble – There are two kinds of gamers – World of Warcraft gamers play for hours on end. On other hand, me and my wife like to learn stuff we want to win play stuff and get out. This looks like lots of commitment, have to set up game time, then return to the site later…

Grockit – You can start a game instantly, just play for five questions.. As far as game mechanics are concerned… We want to give experts some recognition they can work towards

Robert Scoble – Are you going to partner with some of the book companies (SAT, GMAT, etc?)

Grockit – We aren’t affiliated with the tests, we created the site on our own. We could get in a situation where we license a bunch of questions from the College Board etc.. Eventually we’ll release an open platform so you can make what you want…

Robert Scoble – do you have a mobile client?

Grockit – We’ve got an iPhone preson we’re going to get on board, working toward it.

Sheryl Sandberg – Where do you think most of the content would come from? What about users?

Grockit – Once we vet the system and it’s scalable we’ll open it up. We already have it in there, just have to skin it.

Robert Scoble – Can you put media into the answers? For instance with a language?

Grockit – Any of the answer choices could be push or pull (can do media)

What’s the distribution model?

Grockit – Create sessions with your friends, there’s motivation for experts in system to get people in

Joi Ito – how do you invite people?

Grockit – Load Gmail account, or Facebook friends)

Joi Ito – seems like a new idea, so if I got an email that says let’s play SAT toeghetr, I think t doesn’t feel very viral..

Robert Scoble – That’s why I was wondering about ties to books. This would be good to study from the book.

Grockit – I guess the best way to think about it is study groups. If you get one of these people, it’s pretty natural to get friends in there.

Bradley Horowitz – At first I thought this was like Tom Sawyer’s multiplayer fence painting . But I could see this as a great virtual tool. How do you see this as it comes up against yahoo answers?

Grockit – Everything in game is archived, will be available for offline viewing..

Bradley Horowitz – Is it by search engines?

Grockit – Probably for free content, when you create your content that will be your choice.

Robert Scoble – Can i play all the way through, do i become credible source if I’m right?

Grockit – As you earn experience points you level up.