Alison Johnston Rue is an entrepreneur to watch. With extensive experience as a founder and thought leader in edtech and a "30 Under 30" nod from Forbes, Rue is definitely on an upward trajectory. She experienced success early-on when her co-founded company, Cardinal Scholars, was acquired by Course Hero. Shortly after co-founding her next edtech venture, InstaEDU, it was acquired by textbook rental innovator, Chegg. Rue continues to lead the InstaEDU team within Chegg. She holds a BA in Communication with a focus on Human/Computer Interaction from Stanford.
How did your educational trajectory and past professional experience shape your current work?
I’m very fortunate to have a family that is passionate about education. Both my parents are teachers, and I was always encouraged to take challenging classes, push myself, and go to the best college that I could; I was fortunate to be able to go to Stanford where I majored in communications with a focus on human-computer interaction.
My time at Stanford led to me getting involved in the tech startup scene. Before we started InstaEDU, I had the opportunity to meet entrepreneurs at several great startups (Box, Aardvark and Nextdoor) and learn from them. My early experiences working at startups, working with founders were inspiring, and ultimately motivated me to become an entrepreneur myself.
My first foray into entrepreneurship was through Cardinal Scholars, an in-home tutoring company that I started with Dan (one of my InstaEDU cofounders). While that business was successful and growing quickly, it highlighted to us the importance of making tutoring more accessible and affordable—even at a moment’s notice. From there, InstaEDU was born.
How do you hope your work will change the learning landscape?
With Chegg Tutors (formerly InstaEDU), our goal is to make one-on-one tutoring as accessible and convenient as possible. Every student—at all ability and economic levels—gets stuck sometimes, so we want to ensure that anyone can get the help they need, whenever and wherever they need it.
What broad trends do you think will have the most impact on learning in the years ahead?
A big theme that we’re seeing now is direct-to-student education platforms. For a long time, there was a common belief that the only way to make money in education technology was to sell to schools, but that’s changed dramatically over the past few years. Companies like Coursera, Khan Academy and Chegg have given students much more control over their education destiny, so to speak, by making a great education available to anyone with the desire to learn. I think we’re going to see this continue to evolve in really powerful ways over the next decade.
What are you currently working on & what is your next big project?
InstaEDU was acquired by Chegg in June 2014, and in early February we moved the InstaEDU experience over to the Chegg.com domain as Chegg Tutors. At the same time, we launched the Chegg Tutors app on iOS.
Integrating InstaEDU into Chegg and the Chegg Study product has been a huge focus for the past 6+ months and will continue to be a focus as we improve the combined product. Now, I have the opportunity to work more broadly across Chegg’s learning services to understand how we can best help students learn.
Image: Courtesy Alison Johnston Rue