LA-based education platform Numerade offers free online STEM bootcamps to help MS and HS students overcome COVID learning loss
Tim Newcomb | July 27, 2021
Summer is a time for students to explore personal interests, and for an expected 100,000 students, free STEM bootcamps will provide a chance to expand their understanding of everything from calculus to chemistry, biology to algebra.
For the second straight summer, Numerade is offering free summer bootcamp courses as a way to combat pandemic learning loss. The eight-week video-based online classes are geared toward middle and high school students, using a web-based virtual learning platform. There are 20 courses, offering access to some of the company’s more than 1 million short-form educational videos — created with input from over 1,000 educators — covering STEM courses as well as SAT and ACT test prep.
When students sign up for the free courses, they are placed into cohorts with other students. “They key to the learning process,” co-founder Nhon Ma says, “is the content created through educators and a sense of community with the students.” Students can interact with others in the same bootcamp via the online Discord server, ideally helping one another answer questions and discuss the content. Each week, students get a sequence of videos aligned to the curriculum, designed to be watched at their own time and pace. At the end of the week, quizzes track students’ understanding, and at the end of eight weeks, participants can earn a certificate of accomplishment for completing the course.
The rolling course offerings start every week, and Ma says students are encouraged to take multiple classes through the summer. Last summer, 30,000 students participated, and he’s expecting around 100,000 this year.
“We give encouragement and support and the resources students need for their grades and confidence to improve greatly,” Ma says. “There is a positive benefit that happens for the students and their community.”
The free summer program also serves as an introduction to Numerade and the $9.99-per-month subscription fee to access its entire library of content.
Founders Ma and Alex Lee, both from south central Los Angeles, started working together eight years ago, after scholarship opportunities allowed Ma to attend and graduate from Columbia University. He then worked in finance and served as a product lead for programmatic ad design at Google. It was there that Ma decided he wanted to instead focus on closing gaps in educational opportunities.
After first creating an online tutoring platform, the pair learned that students were routinely going back into recorded tutoring sessions to replay them multiple times. “What is foundational for the learning process, especially for STEM, is repetition,” Ma says. “Students need to get the reps in as much as they can, and in a safe space where they are not judged.” That insight led to Numerade, which launched in 2019, allowing students 24-7 access to the short-form video resources.
The free summer bootcamps started in 2020, and, “with learning loss accumulated, we felt a huge responsibility to help students close any learning gap as much as possible and get ahead,” Ma says.
The desire to build an interest in STEM led the company to focus videos on children as young as middle school. “If students don’t get the reinforcement and support they need in middle school, often they drop out of STEM entirely,” Ma says. “What we want is to make sure students have the confidence to continue on their journey.”
For the summer bootcamps, courses cover physics, math, chemistry and biology. Chemistry 101 offers an introduction to reactions, aqueous solutions, thermochemistry, electronic structure, the Periodic Table, chemical bonding and gases. Chemistry 102 covers liquids, solids, solutions, kinetics, chemical equilibrium, acids and bases, aqueous equilibria, thermodynamics, electrochemistry and nuclear chemistry.
The biology summer camp features understanding of cellular respiration and fermentation, the cell cycle and cellular reproduction, photosynthesis, cell signaling, gene expression and viruses.
The Physics 101 Mechanics course studies motion, energy, forces and momentum while Physics 102 Electricity and Magnetism creates a virtual lab to understand temperature, heat, electricity and magnetism. A Physics 103 course puts a focus on differing waves, whether mechanical, sound or light, and quantum mechanics.
Math courses range from algebra to precalculus and geometry to calculus, the most popular. The summer programs also include test prep for both the SAT and ACT.