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About 11trees began life, in 2008, simply trying to put a dent in the mountain of paper (and time) that a year’s worth of writing, grading, and commenting creates.

The average teacher collects over 11 trees-worth of paper from their students in a single year: by asking students to write essays, by creating handouts and quizzes, through printing syllabi etc. (This is based on a ream of paper requiring 6% of a ‘standard’ tree and calculating out the numbers of pages generated by an average class etc.).

We created Annotate for Word (back then just for Windows) to help writing teachers more quickly manage grading and returning documents to students. So they could collect documents electronically, comment, and return.

We’ve focused on writing ever since, introducing a Legal Writing Edition of Annotate and the free Writers’ Toolkit for Word, which can replace an $80 writing handbook while giving students faster access to help on grammar, syntax, style, and formatting. We’ve broadened our solutions to cover Mac OSX – crucial in today’s world (have you used Windows 8?).

Thousands of teachers and students around the world use our solutions to work more efficiently. We like to think we’re helping them make a bigger impact through better writing, whether for school assignments or feedback for another writer.

In the Fall of 2013 we’re introducing our most impactful solution yet: Q for Research. Q is a customized add-in for Word (Windows and Mac) and Google Chrome that helps libraries bring their entire breadth of resources to students.

Q for Research also marks a turning point: 11trees is now laser-focused on creating solutions to help students learn more efficiently and more deeply. That may seem like an obvious statement, but the vast majority of eLearning solutions do not follow this approach. Most solutions are designed to help teachers (well, try to help them) do monotonous work more efficiently:

  • Distribute communications, including grades (grade books).
  • Automate class discussion (discussion boards).
  • Grade essays (Criterion from ETS and, to a lesser extent, our own Annotate for Word).
  • Manage course registration and financial aid etc. (SIS like Banner).

What tools exist to help students create better work? Very few.

And like any process, it’s far more effective to improve inputs rather than fix mistakes. Stay tuned…we’re in for a wild, disruptive ride.