After my father died of a hospital-acquired condition, I started thinking about the problem of confident misinformation. It plagues industries, institutions and individuals, and is a leading cause of preventable harm. Especially so in healthcare, where well-intentioned human error is the cause of many avoidable deaths. This inspired me to design and develop SynApps for healthcare education.
Unlike conventional test prep products that use rote memorization techniques to aid short-term recall, SynApps is a user-adaptive test engine that measures confident knowledge, detects gaps and misinformation, and applies targeted remediation to strengthen a test taker’s command of any subject matter. A dashboard tracks progress against baselines, and indicates when the learner is ready to sit for the exam.
What makes this app special is the use of a metric rarely used in education: Confidence. SynApps not only asks you to choose an answer, it also captures the confidence level of your choice. Imagine what you can do with this! A learner who answers incorrectly with a high degree of confidence requires remediation of greater intensity than a learner who guesses wrong and has no confidence in their choice. After a couple of practice tests, SynApps knows where your weaknesses are. From then on, it drills you until your confident knowledge exceeds industry test plan baselines.
When asked to quickly describe SynApps, I’d say, “It’s Luminosity for test takers.”
To support the algorithm for this app, I created a new content tagging system I labeled SSC (Semantic, Syntactic, Computational). Content atomized and tagged in SSC allows the test engine to compile practice tests that target specific areas of confident misinformation and subject matter weakness. The adaptive testing provides the teaching, and the confidence level measures the depth of understanding.
It’s supported by cognitive science and is a new approach that goes beyond the linear test-as-teacher modality. Educators I showed it to were eager to use it, and a private equity firm bought it after it launched in late 2014.