UT-originated education platform Squarecap spreads nationally

Michelle Zhang

Squarecap, an online learning platform which started three years ago in a 120-student classroom at UT, is now changing the way students interact with teachers throughout the United States and even in Canada.

Founded by biology senior lecturer Sata Sathasivan and two other UT alumni, Squarecap is an online service that engages students in and outside of classrooms through interactive questions, targeted feedback, discussions and homework. Students and teachers can log in on any device connected to the Internet and synchronize records from Squarecap to Canvas.

Motivated by a desire to help students, Sathasivan said he is trying to address the inefficiency of large-classroom teaching.

“I have been working as a faculty [member] for the last 26 years, and I see lots of students who have dreams of becoming doctors or engineers or scientists, but half of them don’t make it,” Sathasivan said.  “When [a] teacher is teaching to 200 or 500 students, one method of teaching may not apply to everyone.”

To make their motto of “Everyone deserves a square cap” a reality, Squarecap features personalized learning, timely intervention and analytical tools for faculty to improve their teaching methods and pace. The service can also take attendance using GPS and provide feedback to students and faculties based on student performance.

John Newton, student affairs administrator for the University Leadership Network, said Squarecap provides teachers a better way to monitor student progress and problems than traditional methods such as exams and homework.

“It’s very convenient, it integrates very well with Canvas, it’s easy to use and it provides the exact information that I need,” said Newton, who teaches 500 first-year students each week.

Zili Peng, international relations and global studies junior, said Squarecap helps her a lot.

“It makes you actually participate in the class and answer questions, rather than randomly pushing buttons,” Peng said “It’s easier to get access to it since a smartphone would suffice. I would never forget my phone, while I always left my iClicker at home.”

Since its debut in 2013, Squarecap has now reached around 20,000 students nationwide and received its first institutional deal with the University of Denver. While expanding their service, the Squarecap team is now focusing on perfecting the product and keeping it cheap at the same time.

Sathasivan said Squarecap is also exploring online tutoring, which would allow former students to help current students online.