RooClick bringing Silicon Valley flavor to Bourbon Capital

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Bardstown tech start-up looks to revolutionize video experience in education, retail

By Forrest Berkshire, Editor

Bardstown is a long way from Silicon Valley, but a local company is working on a technology it says could revolutionize the way people view, and interact, with online video.

“A CEO of a major corporation told us ‘I never would have expected to hear this come out of Kentucky and Bardstown in particular,’ ” said Chief Technology Officer John Selvage. “He said, ‘This is definitely some Silicon Valley stuff.’ ”

The company is RooClick, and its goal is to change the user experience of online video. The company has developed a proprietary video player that can lay interactive zones over a streaming video. The company is focusing the majority of its efforts to applying the technology to education.

An example RooClick CEO and principal investor D.L. Chowning used was a lesson about the solar system. A video could play introducing an overview of the sun and planets, but if a student wanted to learn more about Mars, she could click on it to jump to a webpage or other information about that specific planet. The technology is set up so that a teacher can utilize an existing video and design the interactive layer.

The platform also collects analytics that a teacher can then use to tweak a lesson or the reading level. The company also plans a centralized library, so when a teacher develops a lesson, others can download the existing lesson and then build off of it for another class.

Chowning said the company has been in contact with the state’s education department and was told the technology could be a “game changer” in how students learn.

There are two aspects to developing such a platform. There is the technical side of writing the code for the player that generates the interactive overlay. That is largely complete. But there is also the user experience. That includes designing it in a way that is conducive to student learning, as well as making an interface that is user-friendly enough for teachers to use.

The company is working with several teachers already and expanding to new districts, mostly in Kentucky. Chowning said teachers from Bardstown, Nelson County and Bethlehem have all contributed their expertise to the company as it develops.

“You’re talking about input from different people,” Chowning said. “We’ve tried to go to the top to get that input. We’ve got several meetings set up right behind each other now, trying to figure out exactly what everybody wants to improve it at every point.”

Bardstown Middle School teacher Mike Paul, who is also a Google Certified Innovator, has used the technology with his students.

“Students are highly engaged with videos and teachers can track that engagement in ways that weren’t possible before,” Paul said. “My students have used it and loved it and it will be a part of my instruction in the future.”

The technology has also come to the attention of the state’s education department.

“RooClick is a fantastic program created for teachers who want to use online content in their classrooms,” said Laura Raganas, a digital learning coach in the Office of Education Technology with the Kentucky Department of Education. “It allows the teacher to select a video, embed links to other content, personalize the experience to meet the students’ needs, and it provides analytics to the teachers. It’s definitely worth exploring!”

Chowning said the company’s goal is to offer educators more choices.

“We found out there’s only a certain amount of sites that most of these teachers use,” he said. “Less than 10.”

“Our goal is to make most of those happen through our site.”

The technology is done, he said. Now the challenge is getting teachers to use it.

“I think the biggest challenge we’ve had is people are afraid of the new,” said Jennifer Hardin, who runs operations for RooClick. “This completely revolutionizes the way video is used. The challenge I think we see is finding people willing to take the risk on that change.”

The company is certifying teachers now who can act as trainers for their peers.

“It will act like a chain reaction,” said Dustin Chowning, who handles marketing.

Beyond education

The company is focusing about 80 percent of its efforts toward education, but the interactive technology has potential in marketing as well.

Chowning said they have been in talks with entertainment giants like Warner Bros. and Sony as well as companies in the fashion industry.

The company’s player could revolutionize product placement. A user could be watching a music video and like the earrings of the star of the video. By clicking on the earrings the user could be taken directly to an e-commerce site to purchase the wares for herself.

“It used to be product placement was about psychology, that the idea was to create that impression in the consumer’s mind,” Selvage said. “We take that a step further. To use the grocery analogy, we put the candy on the bottom shelf. So now it’s accessible to the consumer directly, rather than creating that impression that they need to purchase it later.”

Dustin Chowning said fashion industry representatives have told them they still struggle with potential customers seeing a product on their website and being able to find it in order to purchase that item.

That concept of instantaneous, on-demand information is behind the name, RooClick, with the roo referring to a kangaroo and its pouch. The company’s motto is “See it. Click it. Get it.”

“The idea is whether you are looking at products or whether you are looking at information for education, you reach out and stick it in your pouch. Thus, the kangaroo.”