On the Ed - Alpha

On the Ed – Alpha – 005 The $1.1 billion Acquisition, More Funding for Adaptive Learning and Don’t Call it a MOOC

This week I recorded On the Ed episode 005 with my guests Alicia Chang of Play-i, Shiv Rajendran of Affectively and Richard Taylor of ed-invent.

We start this episode with startup Spritz that claims to have reinvented reading through their patent-pending speed reading technology, and I didn’t want to miss out on Alicia’s opinion and comment on it as a scientist.

We then hear more about Richard’s takeaways from SXSWedu this year, and whether it might be worthwhile to attend next year or rather save your money and why. He also shares his opinion on the quality of the panels compared to the value one might get out of the conference by just meeting other education folks at the various parties that take place around SXSWedu.

Of course, we have speak about this billion dollar acquisition of Renaissance Learning by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman not even a month after Google had invested $40 million in the company.

Shiv and Richard also share their take on Microsoft emphasizing student privacy and claiming the role of being the good company (back) from Google.

Other stories this week include Smart Sparrow which we discuss as an example of a new surge in adaptive learning technologies and startups.

We also touch upon the launch of World Science U, an attempt to open science to a broader audience.


SimpleTuition raised $26 million Series E

SimpleTuitionSimpleTuition, an online platform for students who seek financial assistance for their education, raised a $26 million Series E from existing investors Atlas Venture, Flybridge Capital Partners and North Hill Ventures.

This latest round brings the total funding raised to $52 million including $5 million in debt financing.

The platform aims to offer tips, advice, interactive tools and deals to ensure students plan better for the cost of college, pay less for college-related expenses, and are smarter about how they manage and pay back their student loans.

ShowEvidence received undisclosed amount from The Follet Knowledge Fund

ShowEvidenceShowEvidence which offers an SaaS platform for performance assessment has received an undisclosed amount from The Follet Knowledge Fund.

The startup previously received $500k in Partial Close funding.

The major difference to other products in the space is that ShowEvidence enables its users to evaluate in content like essays, projects, videos and presentations instead of just letting the learner take multiple choice or other linear tests.

Knowledge Delivery Systems raised $6 million

Knowledge Delivery Systems KDSIKnowledge Delivery Systems, an online platform that provides teacher development in the K-12 space raised $6 million from Edison Ventures and existing investors.

KDS provides professional development, certification and graduate programs customized for teachers and administrators in K-12. The product is currently used in public school districts in Philadelphia, Chicago, and different cities throughout New Mexico.

The funding will be used to accelerate sales & marketing, expand the management team, increase product development and build out the company’s digital content offering.

General Assembly raised $35 million Series C

General AssemblyNYC-based General Assembly has closed a $35 million Series C led by Institutional Venture Partners (IVP) with participation of GSV Capital, Rethink Education, Maveron and Western Technology Investment.

General Assembly aims to equip the digital workforce with the most relevant skills of the 21st century. Therefore GA focuses on technology, business and design education, specifically targeting workers in the knowledge economy. The course offering ranges from Web development and data science to product management and digital marketing.

Spritz raises $3.5 million

SpritzSpritz, a Boston-based startup that works on a speed reading technology is in the process of closing a $3.54 million Seed Round reports TechCrunch.

Spritz’ technology streams the text at the reader one word at a time with adjustable speed claiming readers will be able to read up to 1000 words per minute using the application.

TutorGroup receives additional funding from SBI Group

TutorGroupTutorGroup, an online English language learning platform received additional funding from SBI Group (formerly Softbank Finance Group) through its education-focused SBI-Fudan Fund. Terms were not disclosed.

This additional investment comes only one month after TutorGroup had raised a $100 million Series B from Alibaba Group, Singapore investment company Temasek and Qiming Venture Partners.

BrightBytes raised $15 million Series B

BrightBytesBrightBytes, an education data analytics platform raised a $15 million Series B led by Bessemer Venture Partners (BVP) with participation of existing investors, including Rethink Education and Learn Capital.

Currently, one in ten schools in the United States are clients of BrightBytes. Its flagship product Clarity aims to make data simple, fun and actionable. BrightBytes plans to use the funding to grow its team of engineers and data scientists. The startup also plans to expand outside of the US.

Smart Sparrow raised $10 million Series B

Smart SparrowSmart Sparrow, a platform that enables professors to create adaptive learning content raised a $10 million Series B led by Yellow Brick Capital.

The key element of Smart Sparrow is to allow professors to create adaptive learning content and courses while maintaining academic control. Besides the authoring tool, the platform provides professors with analytics on each student’s performance and advice on how to improve the content to achieve better learning outcomes.

Permira to acquire 40% stake in GEMS Education

GEMS EducationAccording to our partner site EducationInvestor, London-based private equity firm Permira is about to acquire a 40% stake in private school chain GEMS Education.

Permira just sold Renaissance Learning which they acquired for $440 million in 2011 to private equity firm Hellman & Friedman for $1.1 billion.

Merger & Acquisition

Renaissance Learning acquired by Hellman & Friedman for $1.1 billion

Renaissance LearningRenaissance Learning got acquired by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman on Monday for $1.1 billion in cash. The deal was announced on Thursday.

The acquisition comes less than a month after Google Capital invested $40 million in Renaissance Learning, valuing the company at $1 billion. Google Capital plans to stay on board as investor.

Other News

Brian Greene’s World Science U launched

World Science UColumbia University professor and physicist Brian Greene launched a science education platform called World Science U today.

World Science U launches with two classes, dealing with Einstein’s theories of relativity taught by Greene. More courses are in the planning.

World Science U offers different learning modules ranging from short two minute video clips called explainers over short 2-3 week seminars to 8-10 week university level courses. Greene recorded 500 of the explainer clips for the project.

Microsoft “takes a stand” for student privacy

Microsoft in Education - Student PrivacyDuring the annual Microsoft in Education Global Forum in Barcelona, the company announced some interesting partnerships alongside a keynote by Anthony Salcito, vice president, Worldwide Education at Microsoft that emphasized the value of student privacy.

“Privacy concerns are holding educators back from making the most of modern technology and preparing students to succeed in today’s workplace. At the same time, many solutions being used in the classroom are unintentionally putting student data at risk.”

Knewton partners with Sebit

KnewtonAdaptive learning platform Knewton announced a partnership with multinational elearning and publishing company Sebit.

Sebit, owned by Türk Telekom, has been a global leader in educational technology for more than 25 years and its solutions are used by more than 3 million students in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

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