Knewton snags $33M for adaptive learning

Faith Merino · October 13, 2011 · Short URL:

The personalized learning platform gets support from Founders Fund and Pearson

Personalized education platform Knewton announced Thursday morning that it has raised $33 million in a round of funding led by Founders Fund and Pearson, along with help from existing investors Accel Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, and FirstMark Capital.  The company has previously raised $21 million across three rounds of financing, bringing the total raised to over $50 million.

Founded in 2008, Knewton bills itself as an “adaptive learning platform” that aims to customize learning to the individual needs of each student.  It’s long been a tricky problem: how does one teacher and one textbook cater to the different needs and learning styles of 20+ students at a time?  And how do schools keep all students chugging along at the same pace as set by standardized testing?

The traditional solution has often meant long, unpaid overtime for teachers who spend evenings and weekends poring over each student’s work and assessing their progress according to their individual learning goals.  The beauty of the Knewton platform is that it does the grunt work so that teachers can focus on moving the student forward.

The platform uses algorithms to continually assess a student and determine his or her comprehension of a concept, progress, and vulnerabilities.  When a student logs in, he can find his homework and review concepts taught in class that day, play educational games, and chat with classmates who are also logged in.  The more the student uses the platform, the more accurate it becomes in determining his proficiencies and needs—to the extent that it can even determine how he learns best (i.e. when presented with only one or two questions at a time, when playing games, etc.).

Parents and teachers can then track the student’s progress (online or from a mobile device) to see where the student is flagging and where his strengths lie.

Knewton was recently selected as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the company has also teamed up with a number of educational institutions across the country, including Penn State, Arizona State University, UN Las Vegas, Washington State University, Mount St. Mary’s College, and Education Management Corporation.

"Between increased broadband and the rise of tablet computing, many more students are accessing their homework and even their classes online. In so doing they are producing unfathomable quantities of data,” said Knewton CEO Jose Ferreira, in a statement.  “As the world leader in adaptive learning, Knewton can capture these data to give students a unique lifetime learning profile that dramatically improves their educational experience."

The company plans to use the new funds to expand its platform to K-12 grades and partner with more educational institutions, publishers, and school districts. Additionally, it plans to double its current team of 70 over the next two years. 

The company could not be reached for comment, so no word on how it's been doing revenue-wise. 

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