Remember those programs at chain restaurants like Pizza Hut that bribed kids into doing well in school by offering a free pizza for every straight-A report card? Ntiedo Etuk does, and he’s looking to bring the concept into the digital sphere with DimensionU, a comprehensive student motivation system that wants to create the first form of “educational currency.”
DimensionU, previously called “Tabula Digita” before Mr. Etuk realized a highbrow Latin name wasn’t going to do his company any favors, is an educational platform for kids, parents and teachers that incentivizes learning by setting up a reward system that allows kids to earn prizes for learning accomplishments.
“When I started the company the idea was actually to focus on the real sort of consumer in education: the kid,” Mr. Etuk told Betabeat via phone. “We felt like a lot of the tools had been created to help the teacher do their job better, or to help the government figure out if teachers were doing their jobs well. But very little was focused on how kids interact with information.”
Mr. Etuk told Betabeat that DimensionU focuses on the “three biggest psychological levers for kids these days: games, what their friends are doing and getting stuff.” By streamlining those into one online tool, he wants DimensionU to be the first kid-centered platform that rewards learning.
DimensionU created online multiplayer games like “Halo, minus the violence” and Bejeweled to get kids interested in learning. His team began pushing the games into schools in mid-2007 in a bid to gain credibility. It appears that this idea worked, as DimensionU recently raised $1.65 from investors like Intel Capital and Ascend Venture Group.
With their newly-scored funding, the goal now is to pivot DimensionU into the consumer space.
“The idea is if you’re a kid playing a DimensionU game, you can request an education allowance from your parents. You can say, I’m working towards learning this, will you pledge? It’s completely scalable because it’s all completely dependent on the parent.”
Mr. Etuk says that with this method, DimensionU has officially “solved the Zynga problem for kids.” The problem with games like Farmville is that kids don’t have money to cough up for them. Mr. Etuk thinks that incorporating a learning element into the games will incentivize parents to provide their own money for kids to play.
“You can get your allowance for achieving those goals,” he said. “The money comes from the parents’ credit card, goes into your account, and then you can do two things: you can either buy the tangible goods you’re going after or the virtual items within the game.”
“We think we’re addressing the most important challenge in education,” he said. “One is to get the kids interested, and the other is getting them to learn.”
Mr. Etuk certainly knows a lot about education, though he doesn’t yet have any kids of his own. “I’m still working on the whole girlfriend thing,” he admitted.