As schools increasingly move to reopen their doors for in-person learning, many educational institutions have also learned a vital lesson over the past year. Better tools are essential for distance teaching in situations where the physical experience needs to be interrupted, but even when things return to normal, better technology can further improve what teachers and students can do and to whom education can be provided. . Now, a startup that bets on virtual learning in higher education – and invests in innovation to achieve it – is announcing a round of funding as it continues to grow its business.
Engageli, who built an online education platform from the ground up – providing not only their own integrated video technology for giving lectures and enabling conversations, but tools for students to “sit” in. study groups to work together; and features for sharing and annotating lecture notes, taking quizzes and more – raised $ 33 million in funding.
CEO Dan Avida – who co-founded the company with his wife Daphne Koller (the co-founder of Coursera) and Serge Plotkin – said the startup will use to continue to build more tools and evolve its platform and to l ‘open up to more schools, in particular. the group of higher education institutions and universities that it targets as customers, as these institutions continue to embrace the promise of better video tools both for delivering lessons live and for developing more features on demand and others around the Engageli video platform.
“In the beginning, the priority was on the best synchronous experience,” Avida said in an interview about universities’ distance learning priorities. “Now everyone is focusing a lot more on multimodality.”
The funding, a Series A, is co-led by Maveron and another (unnamed) investor, and also includes participation from Corner Ventures, Good Friends, Educapital and what Engageli describes as several “top individual technology leaders”.
Notably, the funding comes just seven months after the startup came out of stealth in October 2020, and investors from the $ 14.5 million round-robin fund that it announced at the same time are also participating. The startup has now raised more than $ 47 million and is not disclosing its valuation.
While there are now dozens if not hundreds of tools to help students learn things without being in a traditional classroom, Engageli has taken a slightly different approach than the pack in building its video platform. from scratch with educational goals in mind. .
This is already a radical change, when you think about it, compared to the teams of Microsoft, Google Classroom or Zoom. These are three of the most commonly used video platforms in educational settings, but they are all based on technology that was, in essence, originally designed for more professional and generic purposes.
From there, Engageli worked on expanding the platform with tools that not only improve the video experience, but logically improve it for teachers and learners.
So far, these have focused both on the types of conversations students can have with each other and with the teacher, and on ways for the teacher to keep their students engaged, through quizzes, notes they can download and annotate, and question-and-answer channels. . For now, Engageli is focused on building its own technology, but over time you can see how the platform might open up to link with larger learning management systems and other tools that institutions may already use regularly.
Avida said Engageli is not yet disclosing metrics on engagement time, number of customers or users, or any other numbers. So far, he said the startup is attracting college clients across the US, UK and Israel (where the founders hail from and all originally cut their teeth in the units. military personnel of the country), where classes are already dealing with up to “hundreds” of simultaneous students.
He also added that while more schools are returning to in-person learning, he expects a surge in new users in the fall term as the genius, so to speak, has come out. of the bottle with distance learning and the fact that it can continue. to be efficient.
“Even before the pandemic, there were tens of millions of students online, half of all students were taking some form of online course or another, and we expect that to go much further, to like online grocery shopping or telemedicine, ”he said. “A professor described it to me like this: The Hollow of Disillusionment” – a reference to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant visualization – “is very superficial here. We will not be returning.
It is also a feeling that educators seem to have as well.
“It’s hard to go back once you’ve raised the bar for engagement. With Engageli, I felt the experience most resembled a real classroom. The students are seated at tables, I can quickly see what they are doing, they can ask questions of others at their table, they discuss and interact, ”said Dr. Theodora Christou, professor at Queen Mary University of London, in a statement. “I finally have an easy way to conduct meaningful group work and case studies online. I would choose Engageli over any other existing tool offered by my university. “
The funding and growth of the company comes at a time when we are indeed seeing wider wholesale adoption and the development of more tools to adapt to digital learning styles, in many cases also to complement what’s happening offline, as well as in younger age groups.
Last week, Kahoot acquired Clever in the US to create a popular platform used by many K-12 schools to manage their online learning interactions, and yesterday StuDocu raised funds for a platform that crowdsourcing, evaluating and sharing college course grades, a platform that has now passed 15 million students and is growing very rapidly. All of these lead to higher expectations for better technology in the future, which Engageli also hopes to initiate.
“Dan Avida and his team at Engageli, which includes talented professors, technologists and seasoned ed-tech leaders, are uniquely suited to creating a digital education solution that truly looks like a classroom and works. even better than some in-person classes, ”said Jason Stoffer, partner at Maveron, in a statement. “Whether or not there is a pandemic, every school needs Engageli to achieve better outcomes for students, whether they take full-time distance learning courses or choose to connect digitally when they need flexibility. We are passionate about equal opportunity in higher education, and Engageli’s unique platform will help institutions reach and meet the needs of every type of student.