Class of 2013: Doctoral Learner Develops LitAssist, a New Software Tool
By Doug Carroll
GCU Today Magazine
Tim Anderson arrived at something in his second stint with Grand Canyon University that might have helped him in his first one.
LitAssist, Anderson’s computer software for reviewing research literature, is a product for which he thinks there is an overwhelming need in the academic world. And he says he has heard agreement from as far as Singapore.
“People are hungry for this kind of software, which teaches you how to do research, what to do with it and how you put it all together,” says Anderson, 46, who is graduating from GCU with a doctorate in organizational leadership (emphasis in organizational development).
Anderson, an online doctoral learner from Marshall, Minn., was an undergraduate at the University during the early 1990s, living at the North Rim Apartments on campus.
“Whenever I come back to GCU, it’s like coming back home,” says Anderson, who presented LitAssist at this year’s Canyon Challenge entrepreneurial competition and in 2012 at an international online learning symposium in Las Vegas and at the University of Minnesota’s EduTech Minnesota.
Anderson has been working in information technology for more than 20 years and teaching business and database concepts for about half that time. His IT experience and his passion for teaching led him to develop LitAssist (www.litassist.com).
He’s rolling it out in May after three years of development, and he says it could be offered to students at less than $80 per year.
“Institutions do not teach students how to organize, critically evaluate and synthesize research effectively — especially online students,” Anderson says.
“Students have so many more options for (gathering) information, but it’s so much more overwhelming.”
Flying back to Minnesota from his first doctoral residency in Phoenix in the summer of 2010, Anderson sketched out the prototype while he was on the plane. His dissertation focused on evaluating the software’s viability.
Anderson has established an LLC, Millennium III Educational Solutions, and says that although his initial goal is to sell LitAssist to colleges and universities, it could be adapted for use even at the high school level.
There is a ready-made market, he says, with full-time online enrollment in the United States expected to increase by more than 2 percent by 2015.
“It’s very flexible,” he says of the software. “If it’s implemented early on in a degree program, you can track any research article with it.
“This is about managing data. (The software) allows you to do a quick search. The premise is to eliminate re-discovery — that alone saves time.”
It also could save students, and institutions of higher learning should be interested on that basis. Over the past 50 years, the attrition rate in doctoral programs is 50 percent — generally higher in the social sciences, lower in the pure sciences.
Research software “can help if it’s built on sound learning theory, if it’s implemented so that faculty and learners know why they’re using it, and if faculty and administrators support it,” Anderson says.
Dr. Cynthia Bainbridge, director of the Office of Academic Research in GCU’s College of Doctoral Studies, sees the enormous potential of LitAssist and says it is a product whose time has come.
“Tim is incredibly hard-working, passionate and innovative,” Bainbridge says. “Synthesizing research is a critical skill required by beginning researchers, and this innovative software will help our learners complete a higher-quality dissertation.
“This is the first intellectual property created as a result of doctoral research at GCU, and we are proud of Tim’s scholarship and accomplishments.”
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.