Founder of Idaho Falls-based online courseware provider Stukent explains his mission
In 2007, Stuart Draper was a marketing student at Brigham Young University-Idaho, frustrated by the lack of coursework available for his interest in internet marketing.
Years later, after receiving his degree and building a successful digital marketing business, Draper, 35, returned to BYU-Idaho, this time as a professor. When he began to teach, he discovered that not much had changed in the depth or relevance of internet marketing coursework.
Discussions about his frustrations with his mentor, Kent Lundin, sparked an idea: to write his own digital marketing courses — living, digital textbooks that could reflect the ever-changing world of the internet and teach the skills required to be a marketing professional in that universe.
Draper founded Stukent in 2013. Six years later, the company based in Idaho Falls employs 65 people. Before the end of this year, Stukent will have supported more than 200,000 higher education and high school students, from more than 3,000 institutions in more than 40 countries.
Draper, founder and CEO of Stukent, was interviewed by the East Idaho Business Journal via email about the company’s mission.
East Idaho Business Journal: What exactly does Stukent provide? Can you give me a few examples of class topics?
Stuart Draper: We provide etextbooks (digital textbooks) and simulations that teach digital marketing subjects like online advertising, social media marketing and analytics. We brought to market the world’s first digital marketing simulation and built the world’s first social media marketing simulation. Stukent is like a publisher, but we call ourselves a courseware provider, because we do so much more than just textbooks, and we don’t do print since we update our books twice per year.
EIBJ: Why do students need online academic resources in general? How is learning online different from a classroom?
SD: With our platform, authors are able to update their content twice each year so it stays current with the industry. You can’t do that with print. Students need to be taught about what is happening in the industry now, not ten years ago. Our etextbooks allow students to learn beyond the textbook as we link to outside video content and blogs. Our approach is not meant to replace the classroom, but it enhances it. The text gives the students the theory. The simulation gives students hands-on learning. The combo gives the instructor the chance to have powerful teaching moments in the classroom.
EIBJ: When you started, how did you know this business would be successful?
SD: I teamed up with the (Research and Business Development Center) and BYU-Idaho students. We called over 100 schools in 2012 and 2013. Most schools didn’t teach digital marketing. The ones that did were unhappy with their approach. Sixteen of the schools said they would buy without even seeing the finished product.
EIBJ: Any plans to expand your class offerings beyond digital marketing?
SD: For right now, we are sticking to just marketing subjects. We do foresee a time when we will do much more than just business subjects, but that is down the road. I tell all of our new hires that what Under Armour was to Nike 15 years ago, Stukent is to Pearson and McGraw-Hill now.
EIBJ: How has a base in Eastern Idaho influenced the company?
SD: We love Idaho. We want to stay based here. We will fly to over 100 conferences this year. Traveling out of Eastern Idaho is expensive and only having a regional airport stinks, but we have made it work. Our office is right next to the Idaho Falls airport. I do wish that either the Pocatello or Idaho Falls airport would combine into one so we have more buying power in one airport.
EIBJ: Anything you want to add?
SD: I’m guessing you’ll want to know if Kent Lundin is a partner. He is not. The name Stukent plays on the word Student, and it is a concatenation of my name and Kent’s, so he is a namesake, and I did that to honor him as my professor that intro’d me to digital marketing.