Examville, Coursekit, and Others Disrupt Learning to Get Ahead

2/1/12Follow @jpruth

New York is known as the home to some of the world’s biggest education publishers, such as Pearson and McGraw-Hill. Even Apple came to New York to make its big iPad textbook announcement two weeks ago. But what’s not as well known is that the city is also teeming with education technology startups—companies leveraging the Web, the cloud, social media, and other tools to help people keep learning even outside the classroom. The founders of two of those startups, Examville and Coursekit, gave me a peek into their notebooks for a look at the technologies they’re offering to help connect students with educational content and services.

Both companies are growing—Coursekit in particular expects to more than quadruple its staff this year—and they’ll be getting even more company if an education-focused Startup Weekend event this weekend comes off as planned. Sponsored by San Francisco-based test prep startup Grockit, the intense event at the Mandell School on the Upper West Side is designed to help teams build a credible Web or mobile app for education in just 54 hours.

The demand for new ways to access educational content is only growing, says Examville’s founder and CEO Nilanjan Sen. Education is approaching a moment of disruption and fragmentation comparable to the one Apple’s iPod and iTunes caused in the music industry, he says. “In the 1970s you had to buy a whole album when you really wanted one song,” he says. “Most people don’t need help with everything [in education].”

Examville is a Web-based marketplace that aggregates and sells digitized material from educators, textbook publishers such as Milliken Publishing, and other students. Examville’s website offers live online classes, tutor searching, video lectures, e-books, study guides, and practice versions of standardized tests such as the LSAT and GMAT. The content is geared for elementary school through higher education students. Examville takes a cut from the fees charged when users pay for certain content and services, though some material is also available free. Sen says his company is generating revenue, and he is also exploring a Series A funding round, which would help the company hire more engineering and marketing staff ideally in the next six months. Examville currently has a staff of seven regular employees augmented by additional personnel as needed.

Sen worked in the education industry as a course developer and test preparation instructor for companies such as Kaplan and The Princeton Review before founding his previous company, Test Prep International, in 1997. With the evolution of the Web, Sen saw an opportunity to shift his business to an online platform, and started … Next Page »

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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