Spring 2021

Alumni Spotlight: Alec Kretch '17

A three-month sojourn in Bali was enough time to become a bamboo enthusiast and mastermind his learning platform, OpenClass.

Alumnus Alec Kretch has been programming since he was 12 years old. For him, it’s fun — like building a puzzle. So when he found corporate life with a San Francisco tech startup unfulfilling, he took his MacBook and passion for quality in education and headed to paradise.

“Bali is a great place for digital nomads working remotely. It’s a beautiful paradise with cheap co-working spaces,” Kretch says. “I’d go to breakfast right on the beach and be around like-minded people starting companies. I cranked out an MVP [minimum viable product] with minimal distractions at coffee shops.”

When his adventure was up, Kretch took his collection of bamboo straws and love of bamboo sheets and headed to Tucson to launch his company. OpenClass, a crowdsourcing platform for educators, is a learning tool for optimizing retention.

Kretch started penning ideas for OpenClass as a sophomore when he found himself questioning his own education — lecture-style learning and cramming for tests, wondering how to retain it all.

“My qualm is that you show up to class and quickly forget much of what was covered,” he says. “Classes often have one instructor and up to 400 students. How can that instructor possibly meet the individual needs of all of their students?”

OpenClass leverages retention principles from cognitive neuroscience to bridge the gap. Students spend less time mastering more information through optimized study sessions that moderate reinforcement over time. The platform is also designed for crowdsourcing and sharing resources.

As many as 20 UArizona instructors have piloted OpenClass since January 2020. It is free for individual users and available for purchase in an institutional enterprise model.