Author’s Note: This is the final in our five-piece series profiling the Winter 2014 cohort companies at the Velocity accelerator program. Check out our profiles of GroomHQ, Drifter Events, GearBrake and Million Dollar Scholar.
A little over a year ago, when his 25-year-old daughter was in nursing school, Tony Leonard founded nurseVersity, an online test-prep program for nursing students.
Nursing school is expensive, and the fail rate for the NCLEX, the professional credentialing nursing exam, is exceptionally high. According to the National Council of State Boards for Nursing, in 2013, 30 percent of people failed their boards. That number doubled for people taking the exams the second or third time.
An 80 means you get certification; a 79 means you fail. Then you have to wait to take the next scheduled test and pony up another $200 or more for the test itself, maybe shell out even more for a test-prep program this time.
That’s a lot of wasted time and money.
There are other test-prep programs — the old faithfuls like Kaplan and Princeton — but according to Leonard, the programs are segmented, they don’t adapt to your personal skills and often require in-person classes. Most importantly, they don’t give you a running, accurate read on your progress.
NurseVersity does: It tracks your progress and lets you know how close you are to that magic, passing grade of 80. Not just overall, but segmented into tiny slices of knowledge, so you know exactly what kinds of questions or what kinds of topics throw you off your game. Then the program dynamically adapts and recognizes what you need work on, pushing those topics and questions more aggressively.
In real time, you can compare your scores with other nurseVersity users and filter this data by school, state, and exam month.
This is what was needed by Leonard’s daughter, who was studying to become an RN, as well as his friend, Christy Lopp, who is studying to become a nurse practitioner.
While Lopp still is working toward becoming an NP, she also has teamed up with Leonard and his wife, Jodi, to help launch nurseVersity.
The Leonards took the idea on what they call the “dog and pony show,” visiting as many nursing programs as they could within a 100-mile radius and bribing students with beer and pizza to pick their brains about what kind of test prep they wanted.
Eventually they sourced about 100 students and recent graduates to help them write questions and create flash cards. A doctor, a nurse and Lopp review this crowd-sourced knowledge, but test-preppers too can rate the questions and include comments to flag less-than-helpful questions. Too many negative ratings automatically makes the question inactive.
Leonard created a beta test site up and signed up 530 students — most they met during the “dog and pony show” — to participate starting in January. Though the beta site isn’t pretty, the numbers are already pretty staggering. Students using the site 10 hours a week for six week have nearly a 100 percent pass rate.
Right now the site is in closed beta. Leonard is hoping for a March or April launch.
The site offers tests for nursing entrance exams, RN boards, LPN boards and nurse practitioner boards. The training lives in three apps on the site: 1) QBank, which is a mock exam; 2) digital flash cards, 3) and Video Assist, which includes hundreds of crowdsourced instructional videos.
Each app is available separately and comes with a free study calendar. Or you can buy the whole package together. Subscriptions come in 1-month or 6-month chunks, or as a “Till You Pass” option for around $300.
QBank (Question Bank) is multiple choice, just like the exam. You select the topic(s) and the number of questions, and the program grades and shows your results as soon as you’re finished. It then reviews each question, tells you the right answer and why that answer is the correct choice.
Flash cards via digital are the same as old-school flash cards made with index cars and markers. The flash cards run on the honor system: When you flip the card from question to answer, you self-report if you got it right.
All of these apps are tied to the study calendar, which provides several ways of deciding how to plan your studies. The program recognizes most nursing textbooks and the chapters within, so when your instructors assign reading, you can add it to your study calendar with a few clicks. The program also can help you plot out your review by spreading it out in appropriate chunks using a proprietary algorithm. Then it will populate your calendar with self-tests and flash cards to review each day. And there’s also the option to assign “off days” for a little break.
“Hopefully we’ll change nursing education,” said Tony.
“What’s next?” I asked.
“What do you think is next?” Tony countered.
“I think this would work for any standardized test.”