What is “skills grouping” and how are we using it at Thinkful to increase student engagement by 40 percent? Thinkful founder Darrell Silver chatted with Gigaom about how we’re searching for ways to make learning online the best experience possible:

If you sign up for a class on Coursera, complete lessons on Codecademy, or use another online learning platform, chances are, you’re mostly going it alone. Yes, students interact with each other on online forums, through peer grading and, occasionally, in offline meetups. But, for the most part, students travel at their own pace with minimal accountability to a group — and, in those models, many students ultimately drop out.

To help keep students engaged and able to progress at their own speed, startup Thinkful is bringing skills grouping or student tracking – an often-debated practice in K-12 education — to the adult world of online learning. Backed by Peter Thiel, the startup charges students $300 a month for a customized program that combines one-on-one tutoring with existing online learning resources from sites like Khan Academy, Treehouse and Codecademy. In an effort to boost completion rates and student motivation, the company will next week launch “Skills Groups” of 10 to 40 students who are organized according to different skill levels.

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