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Where in the world did TeachLearnRepeat come from?

A short conversation with Dan McAvinchey.

Here is short Q&A with Dan McAvinchey, the founder of, about the ideas and concepts that went into the initial development of the project.

Question: Where did the initial idea to start a project/company around the idea of education and e-learning come from?

Answer: It's not a coincidence that the idea for a site centered around questions and answers began with asking myself questions. I was thinking about how people learn things, and how easy it is to sit through a class or seminar and end up forgetting a good chunk of it after the sessions are over.

I thought, "What makes people retain knowledge? What makes people confident that the knowledge gained will stick with them? How can a company know that if they pay to send an employee to a seminar, that the employee paid attention, and got the most out of it?" I thought back to when I would be sent to corporate sponsored classes and come out after a week or two with a certificate of completion, and realizing that without any kind of assessment, no one really knew if I learned anything or not.

From there, I made the leap to, "What about internet-based software that helps people learn better, and that instructors could easily use to make instructional aids? If you had free, Internet-based software online that could help anyone with specialized knowledge to easily create a course, a test, a drill, a review or anything like that, it could be a cool supplement to something like Wikipedia, which is a large repository of knowledge, but, at its core, is just a reference, and doesn't necessarily help you to learn the material."

Question: You had some prior experience writing software to help youself learn, didn't you?

Answer: Yes, when I was at DePaul University in 1980, I was trying to learn Spanish vocabulary. I went into the computer lab and quickly wrote a BASIC program that would drill me on the words and conjugations that I needed to learn that week. I mused, "What if someone who didn't know how to program wanted to do the same thing? Back to paper flash cards? What if they could use a web site to quickly set up their own drill?"

Question: What made you think about expanding on that basic concept for TeachLearnRepeat?

Answer: I imagined there were already educational web sites that might let you put a drill or quiz together online, so I immediately broadened the concept of what became TeachLearnRepeat to be a collection of software tools (that ideally, would grow over time) to allow all kinds of people to learn more effectively, to retain their knowledge, to assess their progress, to review prior knowledge gained, etc.

I thought it would be great if people could even put together their own courses online, and maybe share them with others, even though I had no concept of how to even begin to develop courseware. The concept of sharing your work was kind of key to making the web site more compelling, as you could perhaps take advantage of work that others had done in the areas that you were looking to study. Once someone has built a drill for basic Spanish vocabulary, for example, that drill could be shared with anyone.

Question: How important was ease-of-use?

Answer: It was a top priority - I wanted to make the tools easy to use. Just as it was easy for millions of bloggers to set up blogs and begin writing and expressing themselves, I wanted to start with the idea that it should be pretty straightforward to set up a drill, a review, a course, an assessment, or anything like that. If you had to be a programmer to do it, it would defeat the purpose.

Also, I wasn't looking to create new methods of learning, merely add tools to aid in learning. If, in the process, I manage to find a new method of learning along the way, well, that would be great. I wasn't looking to create courses or seminars, merely to provide a tool, or suite of tools for others to do so. It probably has more to do with self-empowerment than anything else.

Question: So, now TeachLearnRepeat is online and ready to be used by lifelong learners worldwide?

Answer: Absolutely. The official opening date was September 1, 2011. The software development will never stop however - this project will never be finished. There is a lot of work to do at this point going forward, but the community of Members will have a lot to say about the direction the tools take in the future. © 2011