Thursday, September 05, 2013

Ten Educational Start-ups to Watch

Ginkgotree is a web app which aims to completely replace costly, bulky textbooks. It’s not another LMS (a Learning Management System, like Blackboard); it’s a content platform that integrates seamlessly with your LMS, with the goal of giving students and faculty a solution superior to textbooks for much less money.  Faculty create a complete bundle of learning materials for their course, from nearly any source, including published textbooks, documents, websites, and videos. Then, students can read and discuss all the course materials in one place through a simple and beautiful interface. 

MasteryConnect: The Salt Lake City-based startup focuses, particularly, on formative assessments — a type of assessment that involves qualitative feedback (instead of relying on scores) and takes place during the learning process, with the goal of helping educators tweak their activities and approach to teaching with the goal of helping students learn more effectively. MasteryConnect, then, makes it easier for teachers to create these types of assessments and share them with colleagues, parents and students.  (Techcrunch)

Panorama Education: “We’re helping schools measure things, gather feedback and then use that data to improve,” Feuer said in an interview. “The big reason schools use us over SurveyMonkey is that we help them figure out what to ask, and we help them figure out what to do with the information. Tools like SurveyMonkey are great to just tell you the answers to whatever your surveying someone about, but if you want to understand what that actually means and how to interpret it, and you want to look at it in context with other data than you need something like Panorama.”  (Techcrunch)

StraighterLine is focused on bringing price transparency to online education, offering general ed courses that students generally take (and are often required) during their freshman and sophomore years, like Algebra, Biology, Calculus, U.S. History, and English Composition, to name a few — on the Web. If we say the average price for a private institution is about $32K per year, StraigherLine’s pricing compares favorably, with the option to pay $100 a month, plus $39 for each course started, $399 per course, or a full freshman year education for $1K.  Included in this pricing is free live, on-demand instruction, although if students choose to buy a textbook, they have to do so separately. But the cool part is that the startup’s courses are ACE Credit recommended and can be transferred for credit to a number of degree granting institutions. Over 25 grant credit today, with more than 200 universities across the U.S. having accepted post-review. (Techcrunch)

StudyBlue: Today, StudyBlue has become a “digital backpack,” with its web and mobile study tools enabling college and high school students to store and organize their course materials, turning them into flashcards, quizzes and study guides that can be accessed on the go. By allowing students to share the content they create with others, the startup has amassed an enormous library of user-generated study materials — over 100 million in total — which cover a wide array of subjects, from zoology to anthropology.  (Techcrunch)

GroupNotes: To address what educators were looking for, Groupnotes developed a collaborative platform that can get an entire class on board working together on a single topic or course of study. As members of a group browse the web, they can take notes and annotate pages with drawings and text comments, and as other users also browse, they can see and add to those breadcrumbs. It also collects notes in a group dashboard, and information is communicated between group members in real-time, meaning that a prof leading a class could be viewing materials as students in the class comment, note and ask questions on their individual devices. (Techcrunch)

Noodle Education: The startup is on a mission to bring a Netflix-style recommendation engine to the fragmented and noisy world of education. Not unlike Google, Noodle Education wants to organize the world’s learning platforms and aggregate the huge amount of educational info out their on the Web into a learning-centric, personalized search and recommendation engine.  The company announced the acquisition of Lore (formally CourseKit).  Initially focused on building forums around courses with tools designed specifically for teachers, last fall, Lore launched its student-facing platform to let students create academic profiles, follow classmates and professiors and join study groups, clubs, and so on. The network had its first semester live last spring, and since then has signed up more than 600 schools and added thousands of courses across a range of disciplines. (Techcrunch)

Pearson Education acquires Learning Catalytics: Founded in late 2011, Learning Catalytics is a platform that allows teachers to ask their students open-ended critical thinking questions and receive feedback in realtime. But beyond simply being a student response system and allowing teachers to get a better sense of what areas students are struggling with, the startup’s platform allows teachers to split their class into groups of similar ability. (Techcrunch) which launches today as an early MVP, after around six weeks of total development time. While not as feature-complete or as final in terms of design as Lowry plans to make it, even the MVP of is worlds better than the bulk of available class management software, and that’s mostly because its design and user experience has been approached with a light touch.  (Techcrunch)

General Assembly, the New York-based education startup that offers classes and mingling space to tech developers and entrepreneurs, has raised $10 million in new funding, via an SEC filing. General Assembly originally launched as a co-working space but quickly evolved into an urban educational facility and event space for the technology and design industry. (Techcrunch)

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