Sakai may soon see replacement through Kipin Hall
Kipin Hall, an online classroom management system that could soon replace Sakai, offers students something they are not used to — a system that is easy to use.
Recently launched at New York University, Kipin Hall aims to tackle the numerous inadequacies of existing online classroom supplements.
“We did an initial beta test with 2,000 students and 17 professors at NYU back in September,” said Abhinay Ashutosh, co-founder of Kipin Hall.
Ashutosh, a sophomore at NYU majoring in computer science, said NYU used Blackboard in the past.
“After piloting our platform, they decided to transition the Learning Center, the University’s tutoring and academic assistance department, as well as the School of Continuing and Professional Studies to Kipin Hall,” he said.
He credits his company’s focus on data as the driving force behind its adoption at NYU. He said professors were enamored with Kipin Hall’s dashboard, which enables them to gain a deeper insight into their class’s academic progress without having to do excessive testing.
Ashutosh said his goal is to provide students and teachers with data that allows them to learn to teach better.
Kipin Hall is not stopping at NYU — the startup has its eyes on Rutgers for immediate expansion.
Jeremy Nuñez, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said he was browsing CareerKnight during winter break when he came across an advertisement for Kipin Hall. He got in touch with one of the co-founders to learn more.
Nuñez is now the student ambassador responsible for bringing Kipin Hall to Rutgers.
“Right now, we’re technically still in a testing phase and making changes every day for users,” Nuñez said. “We’re still figuring out the best way to present this to professors.”
Kipin Hall differs from Sakai or eCollege because of its accessibility, Nuñez said.
“Kipin Hall is content-based and free of distractions,” Nuñez said. “It’s geared for academic life. You can make study groups and divide tasks up amongst members — it puts faces to the names in your classroom.”
Unlike Sakai or eCollege, Kipin Hall focuses heavily on its mobile experience, Ashutosh said. The team perceives smartphones as the preferred method of communication among most students, so he made Kipin Hall available on Android and iOS devices.
“Surprisingly, many students and professors really wanted to be able to access Kipin Hall on the go, so we designed and released native mobile apps,” Ashutosh said.
That does not mean that traditional web clients were neglected. Screenshots of the service in action on Kipin Hall’s website show a clear dedication to user interface design on all platforms.
Ashutosh said initial feedback led the company to implement numerous features, including announcements, sticky posts and polls.
Saikiran Yerram, co-founder of Kipin Hall, met Ashutosh at a “Tech@NYU” event and is an industry veteran with 15 years of experience working on startups.
“I had this idea of a higher education platform that collected data from students using very simple tools and be able to give a holistic view to professors,” Yerram said. “It didn’t end up materializing until I met Abhinay.”
Ashutosh said onboarding universities from the administrative level required a lengthy buying process that took more than a year.
“So instead we went with a bottom up approach, letting professors sign up for free,” Ashutosh said. “Soon we’ll be selling directly to students for $5 to $10 per semester, all classes included.”
Nuñez is currently organizing a research project with the Department of Economics to quantify the advantages of Kipin Hall.
“I’m going to see if we can do an experiment at Rutgers with a large class to compare Sakai, eCollege and Kipin Hall and then measure results,” he said.
It still remains to be seen whether Kipin Hall will slay the archaic giants that make up the online collaborative learning environment, but students can hope.