For many students, the idea of researching a concept and fully mastering all it entails is daunting. Citelighter hopes to change that.
We recently chatted with Saad Alam and Lee Jokl, co-founders of Citelighter for our EdTech Interview series. Read about their thoughts on the future of edtech in the interview below.
What is Citelighter?
Both: Citelighter is an intuitive online research platform that enables students and professionals to quickly find and record facts, automatically cite sources, and write better papers/documents. Citelighter is also incredibly useful for individuals doing more basic research like preparing to purchase a car, planning a trip, preparing for an interview, etc.
The Citelighter Knowledge Base is also a great resource for finding unique and useful facts, curated by our Knowledge Experts on thousands of different topics.
Tell us about the inspiration behind Citelighter’s founding.
Saad: I had a family member that, as a freshman in college, told me he was planning on dropping out because he was having a difficult time keeping his grades up and managing his time. This is a kid that got a 1400+ on his SATs and is from a family that places incredible emphasis on education. After working with my family member to help him through the end of the semester, I realized that the way he was performing research was incredibly inefficient and made it very difficult to focus on the important aspects of the research process (i.e. the learning and analysis of the topic) because of all the tedium around trying to organize and properly cite the information he’d found.
After thinking about this issue and sensing an opportunity, Lee and I looked for better ways to make the research and learning process more efficient. When we didn’t find anything that met students’ needs in our surveys, we started outlining what a better solution would look like and ultimately we launched Citelighter.
What is the most important lesson you learned when building Citelighter?
Both: Always seek feedback from and actively listen to your core users (teachers and students). It’s easy to assume you know what the best addition to the product is, but if you don’t validate it first and aren’t willing to admit you’re wrong, it can lead to a lot of wasted time and money. Fortunately, this is something we learned early on and have done our best to avoid this mistake.
What advice would you give to educators new to edtech?
Both: Make sure you are solving a real problem, not one that you think is there. Spend as much time as you can with your target demographic in the classroom and understand their workflow. To do this, you need to really care about the problem you are solving. Second, make sure understand how you are going to go from a “cool tool” into a business.
What new technology or trend in education are you most excited about?
Both: There are a lot of companies that we admire who are creating businesses that disrupt markets by cutting into traditional costs like Straighterline and Boundless, but we are kind of obsessed with Knewton. The promise it offers to unlocking the underlying thought processes that drive learning is so exciting.
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