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Chris and Clare
This photo was taken before The Study Gurus existed!
Goodness how time flies!

We’ve been putting out a blog article every Monday since March the 8th 2010 (that’s 70 to date) yet it feels like The Study Gurus is still very much in its infancy.

As you may know if you’ve been a loyal subscriber for long enough, our first educational internet venture what not The Study Gurus, but a very home-made website called Sound Classroom.

The Beginnings

After finishing university [for the first time, it now turns out] a conversation got us thinking about our lives. At that stage neither one of us was keen on pursuing science as a career, but were determined to put our science knowledge to some use and hopefully help the high school students of today.

We decided to make recordings of us explaining scientific concepts to high school students in a way that was easy to understand. The idea was that we’d hopefully be more appealing to listen to than a decrepit, monotone science teacher (we’d had some of these…). Plus, we felt that listening to an audio is a much easier way of studying than the laborious task of working your way through a 4-inch thick text book.

“What a great idea” we thought!

There was however a slight obstacle…

We knew absolutely nothing about website creation or design, and had $0 to pay anyone who did.

Nonetheless we blundered along experimenting with code for the first time and eventually managed to put out something that vaguely resembled a website. It wasn’t flash.

But getting Sound Classroom off the ground was a great first venture. We learnt masses, made tonnes of mistakes, got a lot of bad writing out of the way, and got some really positive feedback about what we were doing.

It was clear after about six months or so however that Sound Classroom had a lot of elephant-sized obstacles ahead of it. Were we sticking to the high school curriculum accurately enough? Would we have to redo everything if/when it changed? And at the time writing, recording and editing one five minute dialogue took several hours, so the thought of have to re-record frequently made us want to cry.

And we realised, even though we had spent hundreds of hours on the website and recordings we were only helping a tiny fraction of high school students – Year 11’s taking general science.

We thought there must be something we can do that can help a greater number of students.

The Spark

At a café one day with a good mate who’d helped us a lot with Sound Classroom, we got talking about how the failure rate of high school seems to massively outweigh the number of kids who – there’s no nice way of saying this – were actually not bright.

Why were so many potentially bright students crapping out at school?

We then realised that, unless you’re lucky and ‘get’ school and studying all on your own, far too many kids just don’t understand how to study effectively.

“Yay!” we thought. We really do know how to study, and if we could teach high school students how to study we’d be doing something that any student at any level could benefit from.

It all sounded dandy until someone piped up with, “Do you think students are would actually use your site though?”.

Ahh… How many 14-18 year olds do you think would actively seek out resources that will help them study better? The only honest answer to that question is, not many, if any.

Slight problem there really. A potentially great idea with a completely disinterested readership. Excellent.

Our Solution

But then it dawned on us that there must be a great number of parents pulling their hair out because they can’t prise their teen off the PlayStation or off their cell phone to get them to study for more than 5 minutes.

And so we set about creating our second home-made website. This time with a bit more knowledge – in particular of what not to do – and a much better idea of how we could help more kiwi students reach their academic potential.

It’s now 70 weeks later, and the stuff in between you pretty much know.

The Gushy Part

What’s really great is that we love running this website more and more every week. With anything you enjoy it more as you get more competent.

Writing a ~1000 word article that wasn’t complete rubbish was a massive learning curve for us in the beginning. We hadn’t written anything that wasn’t a lab report or scientific thesis since seventh form English, so learning to write in a way that didn’t anaesthetise readers was most certainly a challenge.

And still every week we learn something. There’s never been a shortage of challenges. We can always count on there being a problem – with the website code, or there being a lack of creative insight between us for when designing our video packages, or a people problem.

But that’s probably what keeps us going. If everything was easy there would never be any excitement or any reward for overcoming a challenge.

The biggest reward we get from running The Study Gurus is by far the communication we have with you. The unsolicited emails we sometimes receive from parents who feel in more control of their teen’s success at high school provide all the motivation we need to keep writing each week.

We’re eternally grateful to all our readers – it’s wonderful to think that the idea we had about 18 months ago has actually helped the very people we wanted to help. The emails and comments we receive from you give us much joy, so thank you.

Here’s to the next 70 articles and to all the future communication we have with you!


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