If you’ve been to college or university, you’ll recognize the problem that Megan Cook is out to solve pretty much immediately.
Course syllabi, each drafted and distributed by individual professors and each with their own particular configuration. A complicated one might run up to 20 pages; others are just a formatting mess.
It is easy, in other words, to miss something consequential: a test, an assignment, a midterm. In a large course, or an online course, there might not be anyone to give you a reminder.
Cook has spent much of the last year attacking this problem through the development of Studentgizor.
“Basically when a student is enrolled in a class, you’re given an outline,” the Mount Saint Vincent University student told NEWS 95.7 last spring. At a basic function level, the app reads a picture of these outlines and compiles all of the information into a monthly template, or a digital organizer.
"It really is focusing on organization and structuring students so they can take the time and focus on their academic material,” she said at the time.
Half a year later, her vision for the service is growing and she’s now taking this idea from a side project into the realm of full-time entrepreneurship.
“Back then I basically just had a concept, some interest, and a couple ideas,” she tells HalifaxToday.ca. “Now, I’m an incorporated company, which feels amazing. I am securing funding to move into the development phase. I’ve met with post-secondary accessibility services within the government, and they’ve given me a lot of interest.”
It’s also allowed her the time to really flesh out what the app does, and who it is best designed for.
Cook is someone who has struggled through much of her life with ADHD that had gone undiagnosed, she says; her experience with that is what helped bring the idea about, and it has lent a sense of purpose to the project, above and beyond the surface-level goal of helping people be organized.
Now, in her mind, she wants the app to be seen as an assistive device for students with learning challenges — something that someone with ADHD, for instance, might rely on as a tool.
“Through me connecting and networking, I just found that there was such a need for people,” she says. “There’s really no service like this that they provide in schools, and I just found that so absurd.”
Online course portals remain generally unstandardized from school to school, and they often aren’t specifically designed for people with learning challenges. They might often be just one more thing for someone to lose track of.
Cook had left university once before, trying to navigate many of these barriers on her own; returning as a mature student made it clear to her how widespread this problem was.
“Experiencing it personally, I’ve always lent a helping hand, or wanted to enhance people’s lives, and for me dropping out of university was a really big confidence thing,” she says. “I felt really inadequate. I felt like a lot of people were judging me. So I think, through every experience I’ve had, it all came together, and I decided that this is where my heart lies.”
Her initial prediction last spring that the app would be ready for this fall proved a bit too tight of a timeline, she says; her target is now the back half of next year, in order to give her time to do it all properly.
She’s partnered with developers in the U.S. to bring the app to life, has run a GoFundMe to raise money, has met with accessibility services departments, and has been working to secure investment backing for the app.
“I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from academic professionals and post-secondary accessibility services,” she says. “A lot of times with post-secondary accessibility services, they talk to you at the beginning of the year and say ‘this is what you need to do,’ but often there’s no follow-up, and there’s really no tools in place to keep you organized, keep you on task. It was quite surprising. Very eye-opening.”
The business is now in a kind of final push stage. “I graduated on Thursday, so I have a lot of time,” she says, quite proudly. “So I have like, 100 per cent to put into this. … It’s my passion, and hopefully something I can work on full-time, forever. And it’s a bit of direction on where I’m going after I graduate, so I can’t complain.”