Led by UNC-Kenan Flagler MBA Susan Mahlburg, Durham-based startup DiffyQ strives to make teachers’ lives easier by providing data-driven insights that allow them to focus more on the needs of individual students.
Described as a platform “created by educators,” DiffyQ aims to offer an accessible solution to a pain point that other edtech platforms—which have predominantly been created by engineers—don’t have the capability to offer.
Yesterday, NC IDEA announced that DiffyQ was among 15 new recipients of its $10K MICRO grants to young startups looking to validate their concept.
DiffyQ was also accepted into the CED GRO Incubator’s Fall 2023 cohort, where Mahlburg and her team have spent 12 weeks learning important concepts and insights toward launching the startup’s growth. DiffyQ, among the rest of the cohort, will pitch at this year’s Demo Day on Nov. 16 at the Red Hat Tower in Raleigh, which you can register to attend here.
Founded in 2022—but originally conceived in 2017 as part of Mahlburg’s doctorate in education—DiffyQ’s analytics dashboard allows teachers to track student progress from daily assignments and activities and look at growth over time, increasing transparency for different learning methods for not only teachers and administrators but also, most importantly, for the students.
For educators, using an individualized learning model may be the best way to increase student engagement and performance, as it focuses more attention on individual students’ needs and learning styles. According to a 2019 study by Education Week, more than 20 percent of the surveyed educators regarded individualized learning as a “transformational way” to improve K-12 education.
However, the study also found that the optimistic take on individualized learning does not consistently align with current teaching practices and resources. It found that more than 60 percent of educators “rarely” use digital and adaptive software to create individualized profiles for students or create plans that will let students learn at their own pace—both of which are essential components of a digitally driven individualized learning model.
Balancing the individual and the whole
Through conversations with hundreds of teachers across the nation, Malburg found that most teachers lack the time and resources to track the performance of each individual students while, at the same time, maintaining a whole classroom and following a pre-determined curriculum.
With DiffyQ, not only will teachers be able to track the activities of each individual student in real time, but they will also be able to use that data to re-imagine future curriculums and teaching methods to help future students.
“I realized there was an opportunity to create a solution for all subject levels,” Mahlburg said. “I started thinking about what does performance assessment really look like, especially in subjects that aren’t as easily defined by quantitative metrics?”
Standardized testing can be a seemingly easy and objective solution to show a student’s growth, but studies have shown that they don’t accurately measure student learning and growth. DiffyQ’s platform will enable teachers to input quantitative assignment data while also being able to track social activities, such as if the student showed up to class or if they participated in group activities. This feature will be able to provide a more accurate assessment of a student’s performance and allows room for feedback from both the student and teacher if they felt the assessment needed more context.
But, with all these quantitative scores on top of assessing each student’s activities, teachers are still bombarded with disparate data points everyday. Mahlburg said that most of the time, by the time teachers are finished with checking off the boxes of each student, they most likely don’t know where to begin in terms of analyzing the data for patterns.
To combat this problem, DiffyQ’s dashboard uses prescriptive analytics—which use advanced tools to provide intelligent recommendations based on data—to highlight those patterns easily and efficiently. It will essentially take all the tedium and analysis parts that teachers don’t have time to do and put it into an easy-to-use dashboard, where it’s easily accessible and transparent for them, their teaching team and administrators.
“We really wanted to think about these big challenges of time and equity and how we could utilize technology to speed that along and create more of a holistic snapshot of student performance,” Mahlburg said.
Common prevailing education standards, such as Common Core State Standards, are already all up-to-date and loaded into the platform.
The dashboard allows teachers to sort what they can look at an individual and class-wide level, track performance across the standards themselves and dive into the learning tasks, which can help with reassessing future teaching methods and centralize on a more individualized level.
By providing proof throughout the year of student performance, Mahlburg said that the transparent analytics will facilitate conversations among the entire educational team at the school and cut back on tons of paperwork, since all of the evidence and feedback is in one place.
“The big question is usually “do my students understand the standard or was it something about the assignments?,” Mahlburg said. “These are conversations that teacher teams have when they need and look at data. DiffyQ can help to answer these questions by flagging certain key points and help teachers to think more critically about students’ time with individual-based learning.”
DiffyQ plans to offer a B2B SaaS model that will provide schools with a renewable site license for $2500, an incredibly cost effective alternative to other platforms that don’t provide the same insights, according to Mahlburg. They are currently offering early registration for their newly launched pilot program on their website.