CORALVILLE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) Whenever a story starts out with a reference to Mount Kilimanjaro, the story that follows never disappoints.
Four years after its launch, Higher Learning Technologies of Coralville has sharpened the process of mobile studying for critical exams.
"I was climbing Mt. Kilamanjaro and I saw that everyone there had smartphones and it made me realize that learning through these devices were much more than just learning through dental school or here in Eastern Iowa," said Alec Whitters.
At the time, Whitters was working through dental school when the old ways of studying met that new idea.
"While I was studying for my licensing exams, I found that every dental student had to buy 1,000 paper flashcards that cost $400 and that was insane," said Whitters.
Whitters eventually connected with Adam Keune and Ben O'Connor, the end result being the three men forming Higher Learning Technologies in 2012, a company that now operates out of Coralville and has about 50 employees.
HLT takes a primary focus on providing mobile studying apps for nursing, dental, business, military, professional and even college exam courses for the ACT and GRE.
Consider the previous quest of cracking open a study guide, taking a sample test and then checking the answers in the back of the book, HLT's apps operate along the user's timeframe to provide real-time feedback on study prep.
Adam Keune, co-founder and chief business development officer at HLT, was the business major who saw this as an opportunity worth looking closer at.
"Why can’t you use your phone?" Keune asked, rhetorically. "You can check social media. You can play games, why can’t you learn on it? That was really pretty early on when Alec starting developing it and it just made sense."
While the idea for Higher Learning Technologies came from inspiration, Whitters said the reality of launching it had more battles.
"I called up a variety of publishing companies and they told me it was a stupid idea so we set out to create it," said Whitters.
Keune took us through a tour of the nursing app.
"Students are able to go in here and what we really want them to be able to do is learn the way they want to learn," said Keune." Do they want to do practice questions? Tricks for learning different key things they need to learn? Or jump into practice questions here? Students can go through the categories they want or feel they need to study the most or they can use our system and simply hit 'quick start' and jump right in and start answering them. They can jump to reddest questions that they don't know and they really want to focus on. We want that student to jump right in and know if they got them right or wrong and why."
From an idea that took some nudging to the reality that students would rather study on their downtime, Whitters said getting the content into the aps is also extremely time-efficient.
"We take that (content) and we put it into our system and we’re able to rapidly produce an app and, once we have that content ready, it’s more or less a couple of minutes to launch it instead of millions of dollars and years to launch it," said Whitters.
In the four years since the launch, Higher Learning Technologies has earned numerous awards and recognition for its products and also its corporate culture. The office truly emits a younger vibe, between the coders, developers and strategists.
HLT's website (hltcorp.com) charts the growth in demand for its products, now up to 34 this year. HLT reports, in 2013, users answered 12 million practice questions from its products. For 2016, the estimate is for 225 million practice questions.
"It’s not just a paycheck but you can build something great and you can sit over in our customer service bay and see the hundreds of people corresponding with us and we’re helping fulfill their dreams," said Keune. "We’re talking to nurses who have failed their test 6 times and used our products and passed."