Learning in the Internet Era

One of the most exciting areas where the impact of technology and the Internet will be felt is in education.  In a world where many students will leverage the Web for content consumption, where textbooks will become rich interactive experiences, and where the iPad or Kindle will become a standard part of the learning platform, education will begin its inevitable march from being an imprecise art optimized for the “averages” to a highly measured science designed for the individual.  Concepts such as “Assessment for Learning” are advancing the notion of regular feedback as a critical element of curriculum for both teachers and students.  There is no better platform than the Web to transform the student experience.  And many would suggest it couldn’t come at a better time.

Today, on the heels of that notion, I am excited to announce our investment in Knewton.  On the surface, Knewton is the leading online provider of test preparation services such as the GMAT, SAT, and LSAT.  Underneath the hood, the Company’s service is powered by a groundbreaking adaptive learning engine that takes the myriad of data a Web-based platform generates and optimizes curricula down to the concept level for an individual.  It allows the Company to make performance improvement guarantees no one else is willing to offer, and leads to its customers giving as high a net promoter score as respected brands such as Apple and Google receive. 

To accomplish their ambition is very technically complex, which is why the team at Knewton includes some of the foremost researchers and creators of computer adaptive testing.  Knewton has taken this engine powering their own direct to consumer service and is now opening it up for third parties to instantly bring adaptivity to their content.  “Just add Knewton”.  Over the coming twelve months, Knewton will begin partnering with leading content providers in the market to supercharge their offerings. 

While test prep alone is a multi-billion market, education is a multi-trillion dollar market.  At FirstMark Capital, we look for ideas that can transform large marketplaces and there are few as gigantic and meaningful as this.  NYC is the home of the largest school system in the US and the base of the education industry’s leading content providers.  As we have seen across other vertical industries being disrupted, it’s no surprise that this startup was born here.  We are delighted to partner with the founder, visionary, and CEO Jose Ferreira and the rest of the NYC-based Knewton team as they seek to change the world!

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4 thoughts on “Learning in the Internet Era

  1. Hey Amish –

    Congrats on your investment. I hope Knewton helps shape the future of education for all of us. I’d love to hear your thoughts on an article I recently submitted to Venture Beat about Knewton’s latest round of financing.

    Looking forward

    -David

    • Thanks David. Clearly the challenges to get to full adaptivity are significant, and will require many technology breakthroughs that the Company is working on. We’re betting that a highly focused startup with a world class team will be best positioned to figure it out. But there will be plenty of smaller steps to get there. In the near term, I agree the concept is most suited to ‘quantitative’ subjects, but those subjects are large and broad in scope, and anything that is done today is highly manual. In addition, there is a depth of analytics unrelated to automating and re-engineering the learning process that can have a huge impact on the educational experience.
      Amish

  2. Amish-

    I think this is the step in the right direction. There will be further disruption in the education space and I’m looking forward to it. Perhaps something like a monetizable and credible version of MIT’s OCW. There’s also disruption opportunities in the $7B textbook market. Maybe the iPad and future tablet computers will be the catalyst.

  3. Nice work. I would like to stumble up your post.

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