Querium: Revolutionizing Learning with Artificial Intelligence

Kent Fuka | Founder & CEO, | Patti Smith | Co-founder & CMO | Querium [ Insights Success ]

In recent years, the emergence of Artificial Intelligence has opened up new vistas in almost every sphere of our lives including education. These technological wonders have given wings to the world of education to fly higher and explore newer horizons of success. It has made its way to the classrooms near you to make learning more interesting, personalized, and full of amazement for the learners.

Querium brings in such a Virtual Tutor, which employs AI technology to mimic the skills of great tutors and teachers. Founded in January 2013 in Austin, TX, Querium helps teens and adult learners to master critical STEM skills, enabling them to achieve their college and career goals. StepWise Virtual Tutor, the key technology of the company provides students with low-cost, 24*7 access to the STEM training needed to succeed in their course and beyond.

The Dynamic Duo of Querium

Lack of math competence is an epidemic in the US.  Success in Algebra is generally considered to be an important benchmark to academic success in high school and college, yet a large number of students are socially promoted into higher math levels, leaving them unprepared and likely to fail in future math or science courses.

Across the U.S., students admitted in developmental math courses in community colleges due to their lack of math skills, have less than a 10% chance of finishing their degrees.

Kent Fuka, the CEO and Founder of the company along with Co-Founder, Patti Smith, designed Querium to help tackle this problem.

Earlier, Kent was the Chairman and CFO of Austin-based educational publisher Thinkwell. Prior to Thinkwell, Kent was an early employee or founding employee of three VC-backed startup companies that went on to have successful IPOs followed by acquisition, including Tivoli Systems. Kent was also a founding employee of Convex Computer Corp where he was Director of Product Planning responsible for defining next-generation computer architecture.

Patti Smith has more than 20 years of experience of driving educational product strategy and marketing solutions that address emerging technologies and market demands.

The Technology that Makes Querium Unique

Querium’s key technology is StepWise Virtual Tutor, a SaaS-based tutoring system.  StepWise uses an AI expert system to help students master mathematics.

Within StepWise, students solve problems by submitting each step for evaluation; the AI engine immediately tells students if their step is correct or incorrect.

If students request hints, StepWise informs them why the step is wrong or suggests what to do next. Students may also ask to be shown turn-by-turn instructions to complete the solution at any point while solving a problem.

A key differentiator for StepWise is that students are not required to follow a given path in order for their steps to be understood. StepWise encodes multiple methods and associated rules for problem solving and error analysis, including techniques at different levels of expertise. As long as the step is mathematically valid, StepWise will accept the step and allow the student to move forward.

Whenever students make errors, regardless of whether the error comes from a new skill, a skill that should have been mastered previously, or a careless mistake, StepWise analyzes errors and coaches students back on the path to successfully complete the assignment.

Exciting Opportunities and Strategic Challenges

Some of the most exciting innovations in EdTech are in the use of data to improve student success.  While good teachers have always been adept at reading their students’ visible cues, the insights they can gain from learning analytics tools allow them to intervene more quickly and accurately.  A proliferation of mobile and online games and activities in the market has been designed to engage students, improve learning outcomes, and generate data for teachers.  The use of AI for personalized learning is another especially exciting area of opportunity because of its ability to provide incredibly detailed, individualized feedback to students at their moment of confusion and share that information with teachers.

Some of the challenges in the EdTech industry include the sheer number of new companies competing in an already crowded space, data integration, and pricing.  It is difficult for a startup to break through the noise of so many competing products to get the attention of teachers, and it’s hard for teachers to fully evaluate software products without testing them with students which can be time consuming and counter-productive.  Then, when teachers implement products from multiple companies, they must access student performance data across different platforms, each with their own learning curve for the teacher. And EdTech companies must battle through the downward pressure from schools on pricing, making it tough to achieve profitability.

The Client-Friendly Approach of Querium

Querium licenses its technology to publishers and other online content providers to integrate into their solutions.  Because of the technical challenges of developing both in-house expertise in AI and math pedagogy to deliver a single product, it is more cost effective for the channel partners to work with Querium than to build their own in-house AI group to develop a virtual math tutor like StepWise. As for schools and teachers, the company has minimized the time and effort for teachers to implement our products: no additional set-up or provisioning of students, no classroom instructors in the use of the products.

Future Endeavor

The AI technology in Querium StepWise can extend to support other multi-step problems that students face every day in classes and careers. There is an exciting range of additional STEM subject areas that Querium can expand StepWise to handle in the future, ranging from technical education for auto repair and allied health fields up through quantum physics and biochemistry.