Another week, another On the Ed. Though we are still in alpha I think we are slowly but surely getting the hang of it. Google+ Hangouts are still a bit confusing when you invite guests as a page owner but we almost started on time.
Talking about guests, this week Chris and I were joined by my old friend Shiv Rajendran who is currently working on his new startup Affectively. We even got the scoop that he had raised funding which he announces on the show. Also, Affectively are hiring!
Talking about startups, as mentioned in last week’s episode Chris also joined a new edtech startup called TDS Social as Chief Technologist.
Congratulations again to both, and I am sure that we are going to hear more of Shiv and Chris and their respective companies in the coming months.
Naturally, we had to briefly discuss the big tech news of the week: Facebook acquiring WhatsApp for $19 billion USD, but we quickly jumped on the edtech news of the week which you can find below.
TutorGroup, an online English language learning platform raised a $100 million Series B with participation from Alibaba Group.
Even if you haven’t heard of TutorGroup before, Shiv tells us that the company is operating dedicated sites for the different countries they are active in. So you might well be familiar with the name of TutorGroup in Japan or India.
He also thinks the $100 million investment is not because of the technology. All three of us think TutorGroup going to use the money for growth, to acquire new students and to spread into new markets.
Duolingo raised a $20 million Series C led by Kleiner Perkins. This latest rounds brings the total funding raised to $38.3 million.
Chris’ main takeaway here is not the funding itself but the proctored language test for $20 which, in his opinion, might add new credibility to learning a language online and to be able to prove it.
In my opinion, Duolingo has added a potentially lucrative way to make money taken into account that the startup now has 25 million users. According to Shiv they’re also shifting away from their “do something good through translating sentences online” philosophy and are turning into more of a “real business” now.
Shiv and I both have doubts about the abilities of Duolingo users to actually speak their target language. That’s something the startup still has to prove.
Google Capital invested $40 million in Renaissance Learning. Renaissance Learning did not need the money as the company is generating a lot of cash according to its CEO Jack Lynch.
Renaissance learning is a well-respected brand in the U.S according to Chris, and the fact that Google Capital invested in them out of 500 companies they had looked at is a clear sign that they’re doing at least some things right.
Generally speaking, the interest of Google Capital in the edtech market in a positive thing and will make an impact on the market.
NewSchools Venture Seed Fund, the early stage branch of NewSchools Venture Fund, announced that it has closed a $12 million round.
With his background Chris is, of course, a big proponent of teacher-led startups or at least startups that have meaningful teachers involvement.
We also spoke with Jennifer Carolan and Wayee Chu about their goals and objectives back in 2012 when NSVFSeed just got launched.
Shiv gives us some insight in the budding incubator and accelerator scene in London.
MOOCs and Higher Ed
University of the People, the world’s first tuition-free university has received accreditation by the Distance Education and Training Council.
Though a first class of seven graduates doesn’t sound huge at first glance, it is however important to note that an alternative form of degree is establishing itself.
Over buried under all the stories about MOOCs, UoPeople has slowly but surely established an online university solely based on the benevolent work of its faculty and deans.
The World Economic Forum announced the launch of the Forum Academy, an online course platform in partnership with edX.
Considering the World Economic Forum attracts an illustrious number of participants each year, $200 might not be overly expensive to get access to this kind of content.
iversity announced that since its official launch in October 2013 nearly 500.000 learners have enrolled in the 28 courses offered.
The classicly low retention rates taken into account here, Shiv asks the legitimate question of how many of those 500.000 learners have actually completed their iversity course.
However, an employer himself, he would definitely give somebody a job at his startup with a degree from UoPeople or a certificate from iversity – not only a Cambridge or Oxford graduate.
Senator Darrell Steinberg plans to introduce state legislation in California that would limit the use of student data by edtech providers and also force them to use encryption as well as deleting all data after a student graduates or leaves the school.
All three of us think it’s good to get this important discussion going. That said, all parties, including the startups and companies, should be invited and sit around the table and discuss the matter.
We don’t think that it makes any sense to delete all data once the student left a school or graduated from it. Long term data is important to gather and there are various safe ways to do it already today.
Interestingly, nobody seems to consider that students or parents as their legal guardians would own the data.