Pivot- A New Approach to Digital Learning

Pivot was born out of a need to bring a little humanity into the world of educational technology. It exists primarily for freelance teachers from all walks, from juggling to jazz piano, blackjack to bodybuilding, who have poured their heart and soul into sharing their craft by creating world-class videos and courses, but who are at their wits’ end trying to figure out how to keep new students engaged for long enough to get to the good stuff.

Learning a skill is really hard, especially if you’re new at it. It requires consistent effort over a long period of time through a seemingly endless quagmire of frustrations, mental exhaustion and self-doubt. The vast majority of online students fall off the learning curve within the first few weeks. Data reveal a jaw-dropping 90–97% attrition rate from online platforms. This is insane! These are people who have self-selected to learn a particular subject or skill, who have in many cases paid money for the privilege, and more than 90% of them churn! What gives??

The problem is not, for the most part, a lack of discipline or hunger on the part of the student. And it’s certainly not a lack of quality resources. This is the golden age of information after all, the best instruction on any subject imaginable is always just a few clicks away.

The problem is this- information is not transformation. And transformation, for most of us, especially in the earliest stages of acquiring a skill, requires being plugged into a socially cohesive learning environment. Despite being immersed in an ocean of social interaction, as soon as the excitement fades, most students’ aspirations wither as they invariably find themselves alone, floundering, and failing to execute.

My diagnosis? They fail because they were disconnected from the most critical source of human motivation- other people.

In the “real” world, when you join a running group and sign up for a race, or find a buddy to go to the gym with, or join a book club, or a band, or the local soccer team, some combination of social forces come into play that help propel you forward. You have face-to-face connections with people on a regular schedule. You don’t want to let them down. You see how well so-and-so did last week and strive to do the same or better next week. Plus, it’s fun!

Why does all of this kick into gear? Because you’re part of something bigger than just yourself. You’re plugged in.

In the digital world, it’s a bit different. It’s tempting to think that the social interactions in a digital learning environment are equivalent to the social fabric of a physical learning environment. They’re not. It may feel like you’re plugged in, but the fact is, the only thing (if anything) that actually knows what’s going on with you is a few lines of code programmed to send you an annoying message that you haven’t logged in in a while.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The essential social dynamics that motivate learning- support from a trusted teacher who’s invested in your success, encouragement from fellow travelers, accountability, modeling, celebration of success, feedback, friendly competition, to name but a few — all human drivers of motivation — are the beating heart of Pivot’s human-powered design. Our one-of-a-kind platform is built to leverage this motivational mojo and bring support and cohesion, not from an algorithm, but from actual people who care at exactly the times when it’s needed most.

The opportunities we have to enrich ourselves and the world around us come increasingly through some kind of digital media. The landscape is new, but people are still the same. We still need each other to challenge us to dig deep and to help us stay the course until we find our stride.