Edmodo's K-12 Social Network Helps Teachers Connect with Students---and One Another

Back in 2008, when Edmodo co-founders Nic Borg and Jeff O’Hara were still working in IT for Chicago-area school districts, they noticed a big problem. Teachers were increasingly trying to bring Web tools into the classroom, but they didn’t have a safe and secure way to collaborate with students online. (Clearly, Facebook wasn’t an option—and still isn’t.) Drawing on the free space in their garages and the money in their pockets, Borg and O’Hara created Edmodo, a social network that allows K-12 teachers to interact and share resources with their students over the Internet.

Now, three years later, the San Francisco-based company has connected approximately 5 million students and teachers globally. And in December, marquee investors Greylock Partners and Benchmark Capital showed how much they liked Edmodo’s product by shelling out $15 million in Series B financing. (The company’s other backers include LearnCapital and Union Square Ventures.)

Edmodo co-founders Jeff O'Hara (left) and Nic Borg

It was a big validation for the company, which has created a social network that teachers can use to assign homework, create quizzes, share materials and lesson plans with each other, and communicate with students in the same way that they communicate with their friends. The education-specific network doesn’t come with the same distractions that others have (FarmVille, friend updates, gossip) and it keeps its members in a closed community. “Edmodo is really built around the teacher-student relationship and what a classroom is,” Borg says. “There are a lot of roles in a social network when you look at the education side of things, and Edmodo really captures that.”

The company is part of a larger crop of Web startups working to create new management tools and facilitate communication in K-12 schools, among them San Francisco’s LearnBoost and education incubator Imagine K12’s Class Connect and Goalbook.

In early versions of Edmodo’s network, the emphasis was on sharing with students, but Borg says it wasn’t enough. Both he and O’Hara were working with teachers daily—the two met because O’Hara’s wife was Borg’s high school biology teacher—and Edmodo quickly received requests from teachers wanting to be able to connect with each other, not just their students.

“This group of teachers came on board really early and helped shape the product,” Borg says. “They’ve driven it from day one up to this point.”

Because of their feedback, the Edmodo service has evolved so that teachers can connect with each other, notify students of overdue homework, award badges for merits like good attendance, and even contact parents through the network.

Educators have also frequently asked for more ways to motivate their students. “The digital rewards have had an amazing impact,” Borg says. “Teachers clamored to create more and more badges.”

For Edmodo, it’s been particularly important to take the product directly to teachers, as opposed to … Next Page »

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