Most students have tricks to help difficult-to-memorize concepts and definitions stick. Sacramento natives Kipp Mueller and Andrew Berg are profiting from their methods.
The childhood friends and McClatchy High School graduates, both 29, produce videos featuring animated sketches using visual memorization techniques to help students studying for exams.
Two video series, dubbed SketchyMedical and SketchyLaw, offer short, animated videos that illustrate biological or legal terms and concepts, using wordplay and nonliteral interpretations of the terms to help students better remember.
The 11-video SketchyLaw series on criminal law features animated sketches of beavers chewing on bark to represent the various legal scenarios in felony murder; “BARRK” is the acronym commonly used by law students to remember the five felonies that can lead to a murder charge if someone dies in the process. As the animation progresses, Mueller narrates off-camera to explain the terms.
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“All of law is taught through text,” said Mueller, who started working full time at the company this year after a clerkship at the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. He shepherds each law animation through its two-week production process. “People get frustrated because they don’t retain information.”
The SketchyMedical animations were launched more than two years ago after drawings that Berg shared on Facebook to help him and his classmates study in UC Irvine School of Medicine drew attention online from other students.
Berg teamed up with his classmates, contracting with artists to draw the sketches and enlisting the help of other medical students to write the explanations. Earlier this year, the team launched the last of SketchyMedical’s microbiology animations, offering about 100 videos that cover four different topics.
Mueller, who graduated from Columbia Law School in 2014, began offering subscriptions to the law animations in June. The videos cover contract and criminal law. A SketchyLaw subscription costs $39 for six months and $64 for a year. SketchyMedical subscriptions are $99 for six months and $159 for a year.
The business has about 25,000 subscribers, said Berg, who is in his residency at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.
Mueller said the sketches harness the power of visual memory while also providing a background scene and context that further help people recall information.
“It definitely seems useful to associate items with pictures and to use puns to learn new concepts and terminology,” said Talia Konkle, an assistant professor in Harvard University’s Center for Brain Science. Konkle conducts research on visual memory. “This will help them be more distinctive, and thus more memorable and easy to retrieve later,” she said.
It definitely seems useful to associate items with pictures and to use puns to learn new concepts and terminology. This will help them be more distinctive, and thus more memorable and easy to retrieve later.
Talia Konkle, assistant professor in Harvard University’s Center for Brain Science
Mueller and Berg said they want to offer videos in other fields, including nursing and accounting.
“It’s been amazingly well received,” Berg said, noting that the videos’ popularity spread without advertising.
Maritza Perez, a recent UC Berkeley School of Law graduate, has been using SketchyLaw to study for her upcoming California bar exam.
“I’ll listen to a lecture online and then go to SketchyLaw and watch a video, and it helps to have a picture of what’s going on,” Perez said. “That helps recall information that I’ve previously learned.”