Schoology Aims to Make the Honor Roll in Education Technology

4/18/12Follow @jpruth

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than 18,000 schools across country already use the technology even though his company has not promoted itself too heavily. “We’ve maintained a pretty low profile,” he says. “That’s all about to change.” Some of the planned new hires will include marketing personnel to get the word out about the platform.

Amish Jani, managing partner with FirstMark, says he was impressed by Schoology’s trajectory as it rapidly spread in the market. He also praised the company’s technology, which works with Google Docs and other third party applications that teachers and students already use. “It puts the software leaps and bounds ahead of most other platforms that are in this space,” he says.

Schoology and others in the education tech market are introducing new ways to make academia more efficient, a common topic of discussion given the rising cost of education, Jani says. Schoology is FirstMark’s fourth investment in education technology, he says.

Last Friday FirstMark led a $10 million funding round with online college education company StraighterLine in Baltimore. That follows an unrelated April 2 funding round that put another $26 million in the hands of 2tor, an education technology company in Landover, MD. With its latest deal, 2tor has raised some $96 million in venture funding from backers that include Hillman Company, SVB Capital, WestRiver Capital, and Bessemer Venture Partners. 2tor relocated its headquarters from New York to Landover in January with the appointment of CEO Chip Paucek.

Friedman seems to welcome the rise of more players in education technology. “We’re seeing a lot of people focusing on flipping the classroom through adaptive learning,” he says. He cited New York’s Knewton, also backed by FirstMark, as a local example of education technology companies brining innovation to academics.

As competition is bound to intensify in this market, Friedman proudly talked about his company beating Blackboard, a Washington, DC-based rival, to nab schools in Jefferson County, CO, as customers for its learning management platform. “They’ve got 85,000 students,” he says. Nationally, Schoology is being used by more than one million students.

Friedman confesses when the company launched it was not easy to convince school administrators to introduce a network that seemed reminiscent of Facebook, at least superficially, in their classrooms. “Everyone would say ‘we can’t have that in schools,’” he says. After Schoology demonstrated how instructors could use the platform to be more active in the development of students, he won over the naysayers. “Seeing that paradigm shift is encouraging,” he says.

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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