Feb 05

ScholarLocker: The Inside Look of How One Student Project is Redefining the Student Experience

In a local pub in Coolidge Corner this past week, I had the pleasure to sit down with Kiran Agarwal-Harding. A fourth year medical student, Kiran is one of the founders of ScholarLocker, an educational resource that has transformed the way many medical students interact and utilize information.

The Big Idea: The Aha Moment that Set Things in Motion

Upon arriving to Harvard Medical School, Kiran formed a medical design group, as a forum to discuss ideas for how to better the medical field and their overall student experience. This group served as a catalyst in identifying unmet needs in medicine, and brainstorming potential solutions. After several meetings, Kiran and two other members of the group, Jay Reidler and David Mou, decided to build a product to address one of the main student needs they identified. As first year medical students, they noticed a distinct disconnect among the classes at the med school. What resulted was students of every intake were not communicating their past experiences and cross generational knowledge was being lost and re-replicated. As a result, each individual was suffering through similar issues that each medical student had to individually solve. Hurdles like finding and creating useful education resources, sharing lecture notes, and effectively supplementing their learning of many new and complicated topics from class. Kiran and the team sought to remove these stressful, time-consuming tasks by uniting the student body to share their experiences and support one and other.

ScholarLocker Takes a Giant Leap

As first year medical students, the founding team had a keen understanding of the lifecycle and hurdles ahead and thus in October 2010 built a free website, private to Harvard Medical students, to address these issues. In the site, students could share their resources, evaluate, and comment. Posts with the best and most relevant content would subsequently rise to the top. As it was a closed portal all the posts were relevant to the students needs and particular classes and experiences. Within two months of its launch, 90% of first and second year medical students had signed up and started using the product.

The advice forums were a huge pull to start, especially advice on the medical boards. With Harvard students typically scoring 20 points over the national average, the pressure to learn and succeed was always present. Soon, Amazon links for resources were added to the site. Then the site started to attract professors, faculty, and other medical school administrators. It quickly transformed to cover a wide range of topics that included global health and platforms to discuss potential medical innovations.

What is Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander: User Adoption Outside of Harvard

Quickly, the founding team was bombarded with requests from other medical schools to access ScholarLocker. The service that ScholarLocker was delivering was a universal need to all medical schools. Many other schools had tried to create their own internal system, but were unable to properly address all the student issues. Soon, med students from around the country were using ScholarLocker.

Similar to Quora, ScholarLocker established a burgeoning base of experts: seasoned doctors and faculty members who responded to student queries. The user base grew to 5,000 users and international schools also got involved. In total, 65 schools across the world are now using the product. The entire pre-med student lifecycle is being addressed and students from Boston to Singapore are able to collaborate, get the relevant answers to their questions, and access the needed discussions for their interests. This way a knowledge bank has been created enabling students and medical scholars to bridge geographical boundaries, learn and share. The service has empowered many to find better solutions, and improve their academic experience.

What the Future Holds: The Next Steps of Development

In a world full of forums and services, ScholarLocker strives to maintain its mission. Editors are working around the clock to ensure the integrity of the information posted on the website. In addition, the founders want to keep the site open source and a free resource for students. In the coming months the site will turn from private to public to enable doctors and doctors-in-training from around the world to share their needs and co-create innovative solutions that will change the world.

The need for a service like ScholarLocker transcends medical students and applies to many non-related disciplines and fields. If ScholarLocker is able to pinpoint the needs and lifecycles of other fields, the expansion and use of the service could be truly boundless.

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