GoReact’s Origins: The Story, the Problem, and the Solution

The brilliant idea that eventually became GoReact all started with a very painful meeting . . .

Meet Bill Baker

Bill Baker, BYU Marriott School of Management.

Way back in 2009, Dr. Bill Baker was the course director of management communication at the BYU Marriott School. On this particular day, Bill found himself trapped in one of the worst meetings of his life. It wasn’t the subject of the meeting that was bad or even that Bill was having a bad day. The guy presenting at the meeting was just a terrible presenter.

In the midst of his boredom-induced daydream, Bill thought, “I bet he doesn’t even know just how punishing this is for all of us. I wonder if there’s a way to help people like this improve—so there will be less suffering in the world.”

There had to be a way.

The Breakthrough

Bill had been teaching public speaking to college students for 30 years by the time this incident happened. He’d spent years pondering ways to teach presenting better, looking for methods to make it happen faster. And here he was, listening not to a student but one of his own peers giving a horrible presentation and completely unaware of it.

It was in this moment that Bill had a breakthrough: what if we could invent an easy way to teach better speaking skills by increasing awareness?

It sounded deceptively simple, but Bill knew from personal experience just how few presenters have watched and analyzed themselves speak. And even if they did receive great feedback on their presentation, truly understanding that feedback and applying it was a tall order.

Finding the Answer

So Bill got to work. He took his ideas to the professionals, and this is where GoReact was born.

Once Bill got talking with other great minds, they realized that improving public speaking is difficult for two main reasons: (1) most people are unaware of what they’re doing wrong, and (2) it’s difficult for students to apply feedback without context.

Increasing awareness and context were the two things Bill knew he had to do, and both were possible through one simple solution: video.

The Power of Video

Recording presentations to the cloud was the answer, and once Bill realized that, there was nothing that could stop him.

With the help of a great developer and several of his best business colleagues, Bill and his associates created a platform that would break down the barriers standing in the way of great public speaking.

This new solution helped presenters be aware of themselves by recording video that they could watch later. And it provided contextualized feedback by allowing teachers to leave time-coded comments on the video feed. The solution was simple but shockingly effective.

And current research backs up everything that Bill discovered. Turns out that other presentation experts are discovering that video coupled with feedback is the best way to teach performance-based skills.

This record-and-critique method helps presenters change their habits quickly, set goals for improvement, and measure their progress reliably (Knight et al. 2012). Along with video, formative feedback directly from a professor—and especially immediate feedback—is the most scientifically effective way to reinforce learning and develop new skills quickly (Shute 2008).

Bridging the Gap

Even though the effectiveness of video and in-context feedback is well-known, executing it in a classroom has always been hard, doubly so if the course is online.

Some teachers wrongly contend that teaching public speaking skills online is impossible, which is a huge problem considering how many students are now taking online courses. At the same time, reputable sources like LinkedIn, Forbes, and NACE all claim that soft skills are the highest in demand for employers nationwide.

When the most valuable skills on the market are also the most difficult to teach, it takes a truly innovative solution to make a difference. And Bill knew that he’d found one.

By the time it was fully operational and in a classroom, GoReact was chipping away at the public speaking learning curve by combining video and time-coded feedback in an easy-to-use interface. And because this software is web-based and hardware agnostic, it can be accessed from anywhere.

This kind of technology had never been accomplished before, and it immediately started making a difference in university classrooms and beyond.

The Reach of GoReact

When Bill first envisioned GoReact, he never imagined just how far its scope would extend.

Obviously the software has made a difference in public speaking classrooms where it was originally intended. But GoReact ended up having far more applications nationwide. Any learning environment that includes presentations, projects, or performances has a need for GoReact.

GoReact is great for observing student teachers remotely. It allows clinical instructors to record and assess medical procedures. It teaches debate, performing arts, and even visual arts assignments. It allows sales and business professionals to improve their pitches and hiring managers to conduct remote interviews.

Anything that can be recorded for feedback can use GoReact seamlessly. But the greatest achievement of the software by far is how it connects teachers and students. Without doubt, this technology’s ability to build trust and understanding between people who teach and people who learn is helping students everywhere gain the skills they need to change the world for the better.

Years after that painful meeting, Bill Baker’s brainchild is still going strong in over 400 institutions. More than a million videos have been uploaded to the cloud using GoReact, and hopefully millions more will follow.

Works Cited

Knight, Jim, et al. “Record, Replay, Reflect: Videotaped Lessons Accelerate Learning for Teachers and Coaches. Journal of Staff Development, 33.2 (2012): 18–23.

Shute, Valerie J. “Focus on formative feedback.” Review of Educational Research 78.1 (2008): 153–189.

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