We start in the episode with our block of K-12 stories. Alicia and Chris discuss whether teaching with the help of audio books actually makes sense from an educational point of view and what group of students might benefit most from such a teaching concept.
We then dig deeper into the story about AltSchool and look beyond the impressive $33 million in funding former Google executive Max Ventilla raised for his startup. Alicia puts the question out there what the funding could possibly be used for; she finds the educational concept behind AltSchool rather ordinary and can’t see how this would reimagine school. All three of us think these micro-schools will be appealing to a certain group of technologists and tech executives who have enough money to send their children there and who appreciate the possibility to constantly be able to monitor their children’s performance and can’t or don’t want to let go.
With regards to the recently announced partnership of edX with GEMS Education, we ask ourselves how a meaningful MOOC for K-12 could potentially look like. Chris emphasizes on the importance of a human element, the more important the younger the students, and thinks a mentor working with the kids would be a good way to go forward.
Our next block of stories starts with CommonBond and the problem of high interest rates on student loans. Although an important problem to tackle, we think mainly students who are well-off anyway will benefit from CommonBond’s lending platform.
Viridis comes across as more interesting and hopefully impactful to our editors. Aimed at middle-skill workers, people who have more than a high school diploma and less than a four-year-degree, Chris thinks the platform could well be used to train workers and satisfy rising demand in the burgeoning oil industry in North Dakota for instance.
All of which leads us to the discussion about the future of degrees with the Parchment story and also course platform Skillshare.
We finish up with two stories that involve lots of money, the first being media company Bertelsmann to invest $43 million in education in Brazil, the second the $2 billion acquisition of Skillsoft.
Last but not least, we also fit in Kunerango and Meducation and take a look at these two businesses.
Kunerango, an Italian edtech startup that builds a SaaS platform for teachers to create online courses raised a €100k ($129k) Seed Round from H-FARM Ventures.
Kunerango offers teachers, tutors and other instructors a platform they can brand with their own logo and design, upload course material and charge students.
AltSchool, a collaborative community of micro-schools that aims to transform K-8 education, raised a $33 million Series A led by by Founders Fund and Andreessen Horowitz.
Though AltSchool offers a physical classroom experience, the startup sees itself as a technology startup at the core. Each student receives an iPad as center piece for homework and other assignments.
Tales2Go, an edtech startup that provides audio books for early childhood programs and primary schools, raised a $750k Seed Round from NewSchools Venture Fund and Maryland Venture Fund.
Tales2Go created a Netflix‐like service that streams thousands of audiobooks from leading publishers, giving its users instant, unlimited and simultaneous access. Through Tales2Go a teacher can now assign the same audiobook to an entire class or grade.
Digital transcript and credential platform Parchment raised a $10 million follow-on investment led by global merchant bank The Raine Group with participation of all of Parchment’s existing institutional investors.
Parchment states that the interest in their service has grown significantly over the past year. Its user numbers are up 90% from 800.000 to nearly 1.6 million. In the same period over 5 million transcripts and certifications have been shared via Parchment, 1.8 million in the last quarter of 2013 alone. The company currently works together with over 5500 education institutions and organizations in the US.
UK-based online education network for medical professionals Meducation raised a $1 million Seed Round.
Meducation members get access to currently more than 30,000 resources in the community including documents, tutorials, podcasts, videos or images and slideshows. These learning resources either come from publishers, Meducation’s own authors or members of the growing community.
Merger & Acquisition
Skillsoft, a provider of educational software for the corporate sector got acquired by London-based private equity firm Charterhouse Capital Partners for over $2 billion. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Over the past decades Skillsoft has transformed itself from being an elearning provider in IT and business skill into one of learning solutions ranging from digitized books, videos, simulations, a learning management system and content development tools.
Private school chain GEMS Education announced a partnership with edX at the Global Education and Skills Forum to bring MOOCs to the K-12 space.
GEMS Education will be edX’s first partner in K-12 and joins as contributing member. The first courses will go live in the second half of 2014.
Bertelsmann, an international media company based in Germany, announced that it will raise a €30 million ($43 million) education technology fund in partnership with Brazilian investment company Bozano Investimentos.
The BR Education Ventures Fund aims to invest into eight to ten portfolio companies, with the first investment in Brazilian edtech startup Evolve already being finalized. The second investment in adaptive learning startup QMágico is imminent.
According to VentureBeat New York-based Skillshare is about to officially announce its new “Netflix-like” subscription model this Thursday. Learners will get access to hundreds of online courses for a fixed fee of $9.95 per month.
During the beta test learners who participated in the membership program saved about $75 per month on average.
Viridis, an online education technology platform for training and placing the middle-skill workforce, launched its new platform on Tuesday.
The learning platform offers exclusive education content from sources such as industry trade associations and internal corporate training programs.
NYC-based CommonBond, a student-lending platform, expanded its low-cost refinance program to over 100 graduate degree programs in the US to lend against.
CommonBond connects students with alumni investors to offer easier and cheaper student loans. The entire system is built on trust but also hard data: CommonBond checks the credit score of each applicant, takes a close look at the candidate’s potential for future earnings and chooses only those with high earning prospects in the best programs.