On the Ed - Alpha

On the Ed – Alpha – 004 Free SAT Prep, Community Marketplaces, Robots and more

Yesterday we live-streamed our fourth episode of On the Ed, and although we are still in Alpha this work in progress slowly takes shape. It definitely shows that it adds new and interesting layers to the discussion when I do an episode with at least two guests. So regularly having three or more people in the Hangout is one of the objectives for the weeks to come.

This week my guests are Alicia Chang, content lead at San Francisco robotics company Play-i, Matthew Burr, co-founder of NYC startup Nomadic Learning, Shiv Rajendran of London-based Affectively who came on for his third time in a row, and Bhavin Parikh of test prep startup Magoosh who joins us exclusively to share his thoughts on the Khan Academy and College Board partnership.

The novelties in the SAT that will be implemented in 2016 and the College Board teaming up with the Khan Academy to offer SAT prep for free is our first story in the show. For a company like Magoosh that gives some of its content for free but is definitely focused on selling subscriptions to students this looks like really bad news. To my surprise, Magoosh CEO Bhavin Parikh sees several positive points for the whole market in this partnership. His main points are adding credibility to e-learning in general and the industry being so big, Forbes estimates the US test prep market between $1 and $4 Billion, that it leaves enough room for business.

Alicia tells us more about her role at Play-i and at what stage they are at manufacturing the robots. They have just set a shipping date for late this summer for the first badge, for later orders shipping is estimated for around Christmas. Being our young learner / K-12 expert, I also ask for her opinion on Class Dojo and their recent funding news. Alicia also asks the question of what might be Class Dojo’s business model in the future. We have recently asked ourselves similar questions about Edmodo and Remind 101.

Looking at both Matt’s and Shiv’s background with their startups Nomadic and Affectively and having talked with them on various occasions, I was more than sure they would add interesting views and valuable insights to our edtech stories in the professional space.

We focus on the GuideSpark story first which both Matt and Shiv find interesting but wonder why an idea like this required $20 million in funding. We also discuss Apollo Education’s launch of course aggregation platform Balloon which is a bit disappointing to Matt as it’s not a very creative idea in his opinion. That said, from the various pitches I get and my talks with investors there seems to be unbroken interest for this kind of business.

We finish this episode with the CourseHorse and Skillshare stories as they are two sides of the same coin. CourseHorse is focused on curation of offline classes near you, a TeachStreet 2.0?, and Skillshare originally started as offline solution as well but has since shifted to become a marketplace for online classes for the most part.

I would also like to thank our growing community on Google+ for recommending On the Ed to others and for sharing our On the Ed episodes. And as always your feedback, good or bad, is really valuable to us and helpful.


CourseHorse raised $1.3 million Series A

CourseHorseCourseHorse, a platform that centralizes and curates offline classes and courses for lifelong learners raised a $1.3 million Series A with participation of Learn Capital and a group of angel investors.

According to an interview with PandoDaily CourseHorse is profitable since late 2013 and currently has more than 40.000 classes and courses in New York and Los Angeles listed.

Skillshare raised $6.1 million

SkillshareSkillshare, a marketplace for interactive online classes raised a $6.1 million Venture Round co-led by Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital bringing the total funding raised to $10 million.

Skillshare started as a marketplace for peer-to-peer offline classes in April 2011, operating under the motto “No webcams, no downloads. Just real classes”. The startup has changed its business model since by becoming a hybrid platform offering offline and online classes but clearly emphasizing the online, self-paced video based courses.

ClassDojo raised $8.5 million

ClassDojoClassDojo, a platform for real- time behaviour tracking and feedback in the K-12 space raised a $8.5 million Series A. The round was raised about a year ago and brings the total funding raised to around $10 million.

ClassDojo captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators. The app allows teachers to give students real-time feedback reducing the time spend on behaviour management.

Play-i raised $8 million

Play-iPlay-i, a robotics startup that aims to make programming for preschoolers fun, announced an $8 million in Series A this week. Play-i had previously raised a $1 million Seed Round followed by a $1.44 crowdfunding campaign for its two robots.

Play-i will now focus on shipping its first batch of 15.000 robots and to expand the team of engineers and the developer API that is going to be released next month. The delivery of the first batch is expected for later this year.

Blend raised $2.7 million

BlendBlend, a mobile based social network around photo sharing for college students raised a $2.7 million Seed Round led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA). Blend had previously received $1.3 million coming out of the Digital Catalyst accelerator last year.

Blend is built around a key habit of today’s college students, taking pictures. Other than on most social networks Blend added brands directly into the network, not as advertisers but as a part of the experience. All partners are curated by the Blend team based on the benefit they can bring to the network’s userbase.

GuideSpark raised $15 million

GuideSparkGuideSpark, a SaaS startup that helps companies turn their paper-based training material into interactive and mobile courses raised a $15 million Series B led by NEA. GuideSpark previously raised a $5 million Series A in August 2013.

Besides making in-company training more engaging by getting rid of learning material in physical binders or digital pdf files, GuideSpark also helps the HR department to better understand and measure the learning performance and outcomes of the training.

Quipper raised £3.4 million

QuipperQuipper, a London-based mobile e-learning and quizz platform raised a £3.4 million ($5.8 million USD) Series A2 led by Atomico.

Quipper was founded in 2010 by Masa Watanabe who is also the co-founder of the very successful Japanese mobile social gaming company DeNA. The new funding will be used to “aggressively expand” in Asia and Latin America.

Mergers & Acquisitions

TSL Education acquires Wikispaces

WikispacesTSL Education, the UK-based teacher network announced the acquisition of US-based Wikispaces at SXSWedu this week. This is the first acquisition by TSL Education since it was acquired by TPG Capital for £400 million last year.

With the acquisition of Wikispaces TSL Education adds a collaborative platform to its huge catalog of teacher created content.
Together the two platforms become the world’s largest single profession network, serving 1.4 million K-12 teachers in the US alone.

Ingram acquires CourseSmart

CourseSmartIngram Content Group acquired the assets of CourseSmart through its textbook unit Vital Source Technologies. Terms were not disclosed.

CourseSmart was founded by the publishers Macmillan, Cengage Learning, John Wiley & Sons, McGraw-Hill Education and Pearson in 2007 to facilitate the distribution of digital textbooks but has since expanded to become a leader in providing digital learning content in higher education.

Flashnotes acquires Moolaguides

FlashnotesFlashnotes, a Boston-based marketplace for student notes acquired its competitor Moolaguides for an undisclosed amount.

This is the second acquisition of a competitor by Flashnotes within twelve months.

Other News

Edublogs launches CampusPress

CampusPressEdublogs, a leading hosted WordPress provider for the education space announced the launch of CampusPress, a more robust solution for those who want to go beyond blogging.

Apollo Education launches Balloon

Apollo Education BalloonApollo Education, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, announced the launch of a course aggregation platform called Balloon. Through Balloon job seekers can get an overview about the skills needed for job openings in the technology space and related courses offered by providers such as Coursera, Udacity or Udemy.

The service is free to use. According to The Chronicle potential revenue for the site lies in selling recruitment services to companies down the line or add courses from the University of Phoenix to the catalog.

edX expands Membership Structure – Forced to block Students

edX MembersedX announced that it has expanded its membership structure. Besides the original 32 charter members of the xConsortium additional selected universities, colleges, schools and institutions are now able to join the edX community. In a first step 12 new members have joined edX.

Following Coursera’s February announcement, edX is now also forced by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the U.S. State Department to block students from Cuba, Iran and Sudan.

The College Board and Khan Academy partner for free SAT prep

Khan Academy SATAlong with the announcement of the new SAT that will be implemented in 2016 by the College Board comes a partnership with Khan Academy to provide free, top quality SAT preparation for everyone.

The new SAT aims to offer greater access opportunities by making the test more relevant and get more students from low-income families to take the SAT.

According to Forbes the SAT test prep market in the United States is estimated between $1 to $4 billion USD including informal tutoring, group and online classes, books, and mobile apps. The resources provided by Khan Academy and the College Board will entirely be free of charge.

Kirsten Winkler is the founder and editor of EDUKWEST. She also writes about Social Media, Digital Society and Startups at KirstenWinkler.com.