Why we are betting on virtual study rooms to change the game for students

Tán Ho
Tán Ho
Co-founder, COO • Fiveable

Learn more about a few big announcements from our Fiveable team!

We have a few big announcements today. I'll explain lots more below, but I won't bury the headlines:

  1. We’ve updated the Fiveable vision + values.
  2. Our team will be 100% focused on improving the experience of virtual study rooms.
  3. Fiveable + Hours are merging under the Fiveable brand and Hours platform.
  4. Fiveable will not be creating new review content for the foreseeable future. We will not be teaching AP cram reviews this spring and will instead support student-led study groups.

A super relatable backstory

The Fiveable team is very similar to the students we serve. We take on a lot of initiatives and work incredibly hard to balance all of them. In high school we were the students that joined 10 clubs, had part-time jobs, played 3 sports, and still had time to take AP classes. It's no surprise we have found ourselves in a similar experience as we build Fiveable.

Our intentions are great; we want to do everything we can to help students. But our team is small and it's stretched us thin. It's hard to keep progressing in many lanes and instead, we can make a deeper impact if we just focus on the one platform that will truly be a game changer.

We took a pause and reflected on what was most important to achieve our goals. We spent time to figure out what impact matters the most to us and updated our mission, vision, and values. Then we looked at all the things we were doing and started to make some hard decisions to narrow down our list of active projects to only the most impactful ones that line up with our vision.

Moving forward, our team is focused on key projects that will have greater impact. This is how we always want to approach this work and honestly, we encourage you to take on this exercise too. Here are the decisions we made.

Updated vision + values

Vision

The Fiveable vision needs to reflect our ideology that change is necessary to create a more equitable future for students. This is how our work will create long lasting change for students.

Vision: Give students the power of community to be productive anywhere, anytime.

Why community?

We need an educational revolution. Our systems are not serving students' needs. We believe the most important work we can do is to build student-to-student communities that will allow young people to band together across geographies. That's how change will happen.

Why productivity?

We help students come together in study groups, clubs, and support networks. All of these spaces are focused on getting things done, but we also want to be mindful that productivity is a very capitalist concept. We want to help students rethink what it means to be productive. It's about channeling creativity, organizing for collective actions, learning new things, and practicing self-care. Be productive towards your goals, not anyone else's goals.

Values

We also made an update to our values because what we wrote a few years ago wasn't resonating with our updated vision. These four values better represent how we will work moving forward:

  • 💪🏽 Be relentless: This work is important. We have to work hard to overcome any challenges we face. We'll never give up in this pursuit of change for students.
  • 🤓 Stay curious: We are always asking questions, learning as much as possible, and experimenting with new solutions. We never know what might work until we try.
  • ✏️ Keep it simple: The problems are complex, but the solutions should be simple. Fiveable should make students' lives easier and simplicity in design will get us there.
  • 🫂 Take care: We practice self-care, support each other, and prioritize the safety and well-being of students on our platform.

100% focus on improving the experience of virtual study rooms

Our mission now is to build a platform that will help every student find and build learning communities. This is where we will put all of our resources.

We had to make some hard decisions to shift our focus here, like moving away from live streaming crams and writing study guides (more on that below). But this means we get to fully focus on making virtual study rooms an experience every student loves and can easily access.

Our vision is rooted in community, and study rooms nurture those connections. The roadmap we are crafting for 2022 will be focused on things like:

  • Improving the productivity workflow to help you achieve your goals
  • Making it simple and safe to find and join others
  • Exploring more communication features beyond chat
  • Enhancing the in-room experience with more customization
  • Enabling hosts to have more control and security over their rooms
  • ...and more!

We've just revamped our student feedback process to allow students to see and upvote each others’ ideas as well as get transparency on what we’re building next. You'll see lots of updates coming in the next few months, starting with task management improvements to help you stay organized.

Merging Fiveable + Hours

Another big decision we made is to merge Fiveable and Hours together under the Fiveable brand and Hours platform.

Because study rooms are now central to the Fiveable experience, it makes sense to sunset the Hours brand and make the Hours platform front and center. This way we aren't building two of everything.

Logo + colors

The Fiveable brand has years of history and trust attached to it and we want to take that into this next chapter. We'll be doing a lot more brand work in the coming months, but for now we are making a few key changes.

We're keeping our logos the same, but incorporating the Hours green as a shoutout to all the work the Hours team has done and what the platform means to our brand moving forward. The green is also slightly updated to a more accessible color.

Platform + Website

The Hours platform is becoming the central Fiveable platform. When you go to fiveable.me, you'll see an updated version of the Hours homepage and all of the study rooms happen on the Fiveable domain. Anytime you go to hours.zone, you'll be redirected to the Fiveable domain.

Any session links you have will be automatically redirected, so you won't have to do anything. You can still use the old links.

No new Fiveable content

The last (and probably biggest) decision we made is to stop creating study content to add to our library. Starting in January 2022, we will not be publishing any new study guides, streaming any new videos, or updating any past content.

We have focused ~70% of our energy in the last year on creating study guides, live streams, and building the product to support these experiences. It takes a lot of work and at the end of the day, there are now so many ways for students to get high quality, free content elsewhere on the web.

When we first started creating content and livestreaming reviews 4 years ago, there was a huge gap in accessible content available for students. A lot has changed since then. There are now infinite ways to find learning content free online, including free college courses through top universities or EdX. And then during 2020, the entire world turned to streaming video as a core element of the classroom.

We will work hard to connect students to the best free content on the internet from creators across the world. Study groups will always need content and we will continue to elevate resources to help students, even if we did not create it.

All past content will remain freely available

We're not taking anything down. 🙏🏽 You will always have access to our 5.5k resources for free, without an account. This includes all of our study guides, blogs, and past cram videos. This includes AP materials as well as our 12 part series on college applications and our 10 day crams for the ACT & SAT— All for free with no paywalls. This content will live at https://library.fiveable.me.

This library will remain frozen in place starting in January. There will not be any updates to the study materials. It will live on for you to access and maybe we will revisit it in the future, but for now it will stay as is.

And this spring, we will not have Fiveable teachers streaming AP cram reviews. We will be focused on helping thousands of students form and join cram study groups in spring 2022.  Our focus will be on creating study groups and spaces for students to work together. There will be plenty of rooms you can join to be surrounded by other crammers in any subject and we'll be working hard between now and then to make this an incredibly powerful experience.

Final thoughts

Our team is absolutely fired up about where we are headed. We know that change is never easy, but these changes will allow us to help millions of students around the world. With study groups, we can connect students by topic, vibe, language, or purpose. You can become more productive with your existing circle of friends or you can meet new people to study with. You'll be able to find support through Fiveable for any of your subjects, way beyond what we have added in our content library. There are already students using rooms in ways we never imagined. There are spaces to explore art and hobbies as well as hyper focus study rooms for pre-med students. And those new and creative ways that students are using rooms illustrates the point better than anything else we could say. We are driven to give young people the tools to build whatever you dream, rather than dictate what you should be spending your time on.

We've provided answers to some of your frequently asked questions in our Help Center. And if you have any thoughts, requests, or want to drop us a note about anything — open the chat bubble or shoot us an email at hi@fiveable.me.

As always, we're here for you.