Education Startup Seeks To Reinvent eLearning

By Noelle Sciarini on May 2nd, 2014 / Comments

A former Ann Arbor startup is making waves in the city of Detroit. Ginkgotree is a technology company that allows teachers, professors, and other types of instructors to essentially create their own online teaching materials.

Founded by Scott Hasbrouck, Andrew Colchagoff and Lida Hasbrouck just a few years ago, Ginkgotree originally operated out of Ann Arbor’s Tech Brewery, where the trio spent months calling hundreds of people – publishers, college faculty, college students, and instructional designers – as they developed their approach to eLearning. The approach they came up with is changing the industry.

“We’re not the first team to think of this idea of assembling a collection of educational content from multiple sources,” Scott said. “We believe that now the timing is right, and our execution of a network of atomized content is right.”

Scott also spoke highly of Tech Brewery’s resources for new businesses, citing the company’s time there as crucial to getting in touch with Southeast Michigan’s network of founders.

“When you’re bootstrapping, working at home can get depressing… you’ll lose energy, and forget to celebrate the wins – which is absolutely necessary,” Scott said. “Starting a company is probably the hardest and most insane thing you can decide to do. You’ll need like-minded friends to survive.”

After a few years in Ann Arbor, the Ginkgotree team decided it was time to move to a space of their own, and they could think of no better place than right in the downtown area of Detroit.

“We felt as though Detroit offered a unique opportunity to shine – by leading a region to rebuild itself, rather than establishing ourselves in a spot with 1000 other startups,” Scott said.

The results have so far been positive for the company, with clients ranging from Blackboard to Spring Arbor University. Perhaps the most exciting feature of the company’s eLearning materials is its versatility.

“Individual instructors can choose to adopt Ginkgotree independently, or they can adopt it as part of a larger campus initiative, in place of just assigning a physical textbook,” Lida said.

The process begins by creating an account, after which the instructor can create “Bundles” of course content by selecting from available publisher content, inputting URLs for open online sources, and uploading their own files. Students can then log in to view the materials and interact with classmates.

“At any time, instructors can update course content and students can access and annotate their materials securely,” Lida said.

While creating these online materials, Ginkgotree continues to grow and develop its team of designers, coders and business partners.

“By far, the biggest challenge has been finding the right people to execute,” Scott said. “The only way to survive, is to find people with that magical ability that know how to pick the 3 or 4 wildly important details to focus on, out of the 1000 things they could be worried about. When you find someone who can do this, you hire them immediately, and never look back.”

For now, Scott and the rest of the team are confident in their product and look forward to what’s in store for Ginkgotree in the future.

“I’m excited for Ginkgotree to be an agent for change in the education space,” Lida said. “A company people rely on for meaningful innovation that improves the lives of educators and learners.”

For more information about Ginkgotree, visit their website or check out their blog.

About the Author

Noelle Sciarini

Noelle Sciarini is a recent graduate from Michigan State University. Now an Ann Arbor resident, she fills her spare time with reading, writing, and the occasional road race. Find her on Twitter: @NoelleSci.