Educators have long advocated for students to work on projects and assignments in teams, hoping cross-collaboration will help students pick up “real world” skills. But ask any student, or perhaps think back to your own experience: Is it always smooth sailing when it comes to group projects?
Omnipointment, a startup out of the Illinois Institute of Technology, has been studying collegiate and high school group projects using a human-centered design approach. One of the biggest complaints it has heard from students is the challenge in holding teammates accountable to do the fair share of their work. While teachers (rightly) recommend setting clear team expectations, this can be a tedious task in itself.
To this end, the startup recently launched a new platform called Charter. A mobile and desktop platform, Charter is an interface allowing teammates to set, agree on and track expectations. “We created Charter so that you can have great teammates and a smooth group experience by avoiding petty conflicts,” said Vinesh Kannan, co-founder of Omnipointment, in an interview with Chicago Inno.
The platform has designated sections to clarify the project objective, set expectations, define individual team roles and schedule team meetings. Students don’t need a separate login other than Google credentials and can easily invite each other to join a project. Instructors can also view progress of the project using a separate login, and provide feedback within the platform. Upcoming updates to the platform include “Milestones”, to track deliverables and provide feedback, according to Kannan.
Charter is part of Omnipointment’s larger mission to help college students manage their busy schedules more efficiently with a range of features to facilitate easy collaboration and teamwork. Kannan says that students at over 75 schools across the U.S. — including 8 paying clients — are using the platform in various projects.
Launched about two years ago, the startup has raised $25,000 as part of Omaha-based accelerator Straight Shot’s 2016 cohort and also presented at SXSW’s Student Startup Madness earlier this year. Kannan credits much of his early traction to resources provided by the Chicago-based Future Founders Foundation as well mentorship from Professor Nik Rokop at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business.
Along with his co-founder and fellow Illinois Tech computer science student Brendan Batliner, Kannan has unique insight into what it means to be a busy college student. This summer, not only did he work on building the best version of Charter with “hundreds of UX interviews,” but Kannan also taught code to incoming freshmen at the Illinois Tech-based Exelon Summer Institute. He regularly organizes hackathons for other Illinois Tech computer science students to gain exposure to industry. Outside of his campus involvement, Kannan has been hard at work building a unique civic tech platform at local meetup group Chi Hack Night, called Fantasy Civics (a fantasy football-like game for your local aldermen, or as described by Kannan, “a brainchild of ESPN and the Chicago Data Portal”).
For the fall, Omnipointment is looking for more educational institutions and student activity organizations to pilot its product.