5 Questions with Jennifer Gu, COO of IXL Learning

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On the remarkable 10th anniversary of IXL, we are lucky enough to be able to check in with Jennifer Gu, the COO of IXL. She joined IXL from Oracle, where she was a senior development manager. And if you’re not familiar with IXL, it’s an educational technology company that delivers an immersive learning experience—for all students, in all grades, across all subjects, including math, language arts, science, social studies and now Spanish.

Congratulations on celebrating your 10th anniversary! Take me back to the early founding days of IXL—why did you create IXL Learning and what have been the most rewarding experiences?
Paul Mishkin and I founded Quia in 1998, which later became IXL Learning, because we believed that technology could be useful in an educational setting. When we first started out, technology was new, and it wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today. We believed technology in the classroom could go beyond integrating hardware or converting offline content to digital to really advance education in a meaningful way. We wanted to transform the entire learning experience and build products that students and teachers would actually want to use everyday.
It’s been very rewarding to see how IXL is making a difference. Recently, I read a survey where a student told us how thankful they are for IXL. This student has seen improvements in their math and science grades and feels proud of these accomplishments. Every time they earn a new award, they feel motivated by their progress and want to study even harder. Stories like this inspire us on a daily basis and encourage us to see how we can take IXL to the next level.
What makes the IXL platform unique?

IXL’s platform is unique because it inspires the joy of discovery by capturing students’ innate desire to learn, sparking their curiosity, and building their confidence. Our product has been designed to provide a focused environment that doesn’t try to trick students into learning—there are no gimmicks, no cartoon characters—and we don’t disguise the educational experience. Instead, we present learning as it is and celebrate the excitement that comes with grasping a new concept, discovering an interesting topic, being rewarded for effort and mastering new skills. Because we take a more mature and respectful approach with our users, students feel empowered and are more motivated to use IXL on their own.

IXL is currently used by 6 million students around the world and by 1 in 9 U.S. students. In your view, how have you achieved this level of success?

With each new feature or product launch at IXL, we challenge ourselves to create things that nobody else could create, or have existed before. I believe this approach and commitment to making high-quality products, even if it takes more time, effort, or resources, has helped us be successful. For instance, when we released the IXL Continuous Diagnostic, we completely reimagined what people think diagnostic assessment is and what it can do. For educators, this meant creating a diagnostic that delivers up-to-date information, requires no class time, and offers actionable next steps for growth. And while traditional assessments are often seen as tools for educators, we wanted to change the way students experience testing and make something that would build their confidence and even be fun to use. By focusing on doing better, not more, we can create the most compelling learning experiences for teachers and students.

Last year, users saw new updates with the release of the IXL Continuous Diagnostic and IXL Spanish. What’s next for the company?

This past year was very exciting for us, but we have more new developments in the works! For example, we plan on expanding our world language offerings beyond IXL Spanish. In the coming months, we’ll also be releasing the IXL Continuous Diagnostic for English language arts. Lastly, we’re always actively working on updating our existing curriculum to add new content and provide an even more engaging learning experience.

Finally, with 10 years in the rear view mirror, look ahead 10 years. What do you see – not just for IXL but for EdTech in general?

We have lots of product ideas that we hope to launch, and we’re looking forward to growing our international presence as well. Over the next 10 years, I look forward to seeing IXL reach even more students and become a classroom essential that’s used by every teacher. We’ll be focused on creating additional products that directly impact teachers and make it easier for them to integrate technology into the classroom. With these tools, teachers will be able to deliver engaging learning experiences for their students.

When it comes to the edtech landscape, we’re living in a time where education is an area of focus and interest for many. While there are a lot of players in the education space—that focus on edtech, curriculum, school operations, teacher needs, pedagogy, policy—they are each making strides to bring about actual change and make education better with the help of technology. The next 10 years will be an exciting time to be in edtech! As education leaders and as a society, I hope we can deliver truly innovative solutions that will improve education and impart the best experiences for teachers and students.