Whether you’re talking to people on the left, the right, in the middle, or the “really couldn’t care less” side of politics, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think our education system is pretty badly fractured, if not totally broken.
If there was ever an industry ripe for disruption, education is definitely it.
While taking on the entire US system is a near-insurmountable task, that doesn’t mean that intrepid startups can’t take a bite out of little pieces of it and that’s where programs like the Pearson Catalyst for Education come in.
A little background about Pearson:
Pearson is a world leader in learning, with a foot in both the traditional needs of education institutions and the newer, tech-related needs. They publish educational materials like textbooks, assessments, videos, software, and – more recently – they also create an environment in which education-related startups are given the opportunity to thrive.
For their first class, the Pearson Catalyst For Education picked five edtech startups from a pool of over 200 applicants – ClassOwl, Spongelab, Actively Learn, Ace Learning, and VLinks Media. The companies were given three months during which they partnered with Pearson business sponsors to create pilot programs with the goal of meeting some of their needs. They were also given access to mentors within the Pearson network, providing them with both direct access to their clientele and an a widely expanded group of professional contacts as they move forward.
The first graduating class from Pearson consists of:
A social academic platform created by a team of Stanford undergrads. According to ClassOwl co-founders Julienne Lam and Sam Purthill in an interview with KillerStartups earlier this year, “students can use ClassOwl’s personalized planning tool… to access all of their academic deadlines and assignments in one place.” It also helps students figure out how long their assignments will take and provides teachers with real-time info on how their students are performing.
Spongelab is a company that thinks formal education could use a little play. They focus on “the integration of game-based simulation technologies with data-drive, gamified, adaptive learning technologies for formal education, professional training, and healthcare communication.”
An online literacy platform that works primarily with iPads, Actively Learn has the lofty goal of using technology to help the two-thirds of students in grades 4-12 who struggle with reading. When I got a little tough on him in an interview in August, founder Jay Goyal showed impressive knowledge, poise, and passion for education in his response. Check out the full interview here.
Ace Learning Company
Silicon Valley-based Ace Learning Company is focused on “redefining how college and professional students discover and browse educational materials on the web.” They provide a content-as-a-service platform that auto-curates content to learning outcomes for publishers and institutions.
VLinks Media is a technology platform that helps people take formerly static content and transform it into interactive courses that can be accessed on both mobile phones and the internet. The platform is adaptive, as it reports and recommend performace data analytics to both the instructor and the student.
With this first class successfully graduated, Pearson is now on the hunt for the next batch of edtech startups to mentor and help achieve their goals. Interested? Head on over to their site and sign up for information on their next round!