Peter Poer

Using Values to Create Better Online Learning

If you’re a regular follower of our Team page — considering how good-looking we are, I wouldn’t blame you — you’ll probably notice that the Magoosh team has been expanding at a pretty rapid rate. As we grow, both in terms of products and people, it’s helpful for us to examine our practices and define what we do, why we do it, and how.

Today, we’ll talk about Magoosh content — every practice test, vocab quiz, and blog post that thousands of students rely on every day to study for exams. When it comes to content, here’s how we break it down:

What do we do?

Create consistently excellent academic content.

Why do we do it?

Because students all over the world depend on our product to get into the colleges and grad schools of their dreams. And because we’re a group of passionate educators determined to make Magoosh the best online education experience possible.

How do we create this maddeningly-good content?

By using our values.

By focusing on values, we don’t limit ourselves to one philosophy of education or another. On the content team, we gather ideas and inspiration from everywhere, and we weave our values into every decision we make and every test question we write. You’ll find Magoosh values at every step of the content creation process, from our teaching styles to specific practices. Here’s how.


Teaching & Our Values

As content creators we are also teachers — real people interacting with and influencing real students. That means before we dive into any kind of content creation we must first use our values to shape the way we communicate information. In the end, we should be able to look back and say three things:

1. We are great teachers
Great teachers make the difference between an amazing experience and a mediocre one. Our students like our teachers. Much of online learning is devoid of humanity: a robotic voice; a disembodied and personality-less narrator; no fun, no joy, no encouragement, and no help. Our products feature teachers and tutors who care, encourage, smile, and assist.

Our students enjoy learning from us because we are skilled educators who understand that motivation can be as important as knowledge and skills.

Supporting Values:

Friendly > Formal

Accessible > Exclusive

Passion > Balance

Wow > Profit

2. We do what works for students
Despite our excellent teachers, we don’t rely solely on their expertise. We use data to challenge traditional notions of what works, and we make sure that everything we do actually improves student learning.

Supporting Values:

Challenge > Comfort

Data > Intuition

Wow > Profit

Communication > Efficiency

3. We are students too
While the Magoosh team includes excellent teachers, engineers, and tutors, we don’t presume we know everything. We push outside our comfort zone to learn about new tests, new materials, and new methods. We develop interesting ideas and test them scientifically. Other education products are created, shipped, and finished. But we believe that our students have as much to teach us about our products as we have to teach them about their exams.

Supporting Values:

Done > Perfect

Learning > Knowing

Change > Status Quo

Data > Intuition


The Roadmap to Content Creation

When creating products for our students, we never make a move without some indication that it’s what students want and need. We validate each decision at every step, particularly seeking out ways to conduct fast, small-scale tests whenever possible.

At Magoosh, we follow the practice of creating “Minimum Viable Products” — products that are as small and easy-to-build as possible while still being useful and valuable to our students. We then follow an iterative product development process to refine and improve our product, making it increasingly valuable to students. This cycle applies when we’re doing something as substantial as a mobile app or as tiny as an email message.

Product Process

For this process to work, we have to collect and analyze tons of data. And we do!

We collect data on every lesson and question in Magoosh, as well as on all the features and products. Using item discrimination, we can tell if a question is problematic and fix it. By studying student feedback and the amount of times they “like” lessons, we can improve our courses so they have the biggest impact. And by analyzing the behaviors of students who have the largest score increases, we can help push students towards features that will grow their scores the fastest.

Every time you log into your Magoosh account, you should feel confident that you’re studying with the highest quality content out there, carefully written and selected to raise your scores. We work hard on our end to make sure the studying process is easy and enjoyable on yours. And any time you tell us we’ve eased your path to college or grad school, it reminds us why we do what we do.


Photo at top courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user BCDS. Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0.


  • Peter Poer

    Peter helps make sure Magoosh students have the best possible content. A proud Arizona Wildcat and Teach for America alum, he worked as an instructional coach before getting an MBA at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He is passionate about student achievement and educational equity. Also prime numbers. Peter enjoys cooking, running (slowly), and going to bed comically early.