Edmodo's K-12 Social Network Helps Teachers Connect with Students---and One Another
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school districts and administrations that can be slow to take action, Borg says. “We’re working on a space that’s been traditionally difficult to change, and really using this bottom up pressure from the user base to accelerate that change.”
Getting the product into teachers’ hands has been and continues to be the company’s biggest challenge. That’s a big part of the reason that the service has been free for both teachers and students from the beginning. “Right now to grow quickly in the space, it’s all about going directly to the teachers with something free they can adopt tomorrow, and then bring into their classroom,” Borg says.
Edmodo’s investors are on board with the free-to-play philosophy. “All the investors believe in network effects and really building a free platform that gets into every classroom,” Borg says. “Given how fractured the education space is, especially around the types of platforms being used for distributing content, it’s really difficult for rapid innovation to take place and for teachers to quickly discover and use new services.” It’s already a challenge to get widespread adoption of a new technology in K-12 classrooms, so it’s important not to add the extra hurdle of subscription fees-and the bureaucracy that comes with them, he says. “The focus for us is about absolutely always being a free platform.”
So far, Borg says he hasn’t seen any direct competition. Though there have been a fair number of first- and second-generation education content distribution systems, he can’t point to any that are K-12-focused social networks. The company plans to stay focused on K-12 schools, but Borg says the company does have a few higher education users on the network.
Three years after launch, Edmodo continues to get daily feedback about what features teachers would like to see added or changed, but also stories about how the social network has helped students in the classroom. About once a week, Borg says, the startup gets a thank you note from a teacher who says that a certain student who isn’t comfortable speaking up in the classroom is opening up online.
That kind of validation is important to the company’s 35 employees and its co-founders—first-time entrepreneurs who are really looking to make a difference.
“I’m just really excited to be working in a space that has such a profound impact,” Borg says. “If we begin to help create the tools that enable teachers to fix what’s going on in the classroom, we fix other parts of society as well.”