Khan Academy has attracted the attention of millions of students and parents (and has even impressed Bill Gates) by flipping the traditional classroom and homework model on its head with videos on a variety of academic subjects. While it’s easy to admire Khan’s devotion to teaching, the truth is he’s not a trained educator. There are millions of professional teachers who would relish the opportunity to create their own educational videos and interactive lessons, but the vast majority lack the resources to flip their own classrooms.
That’s where Educreations comes in. After graduating from Imagine K12′s education-specific startup accelerator, the company launched early this year to make it easy for teachers (and everyone else) to create, narrate and record video whiteboard tutorials on the Web and the iPad — and share them with the world.
Today, the startup is announcing that it has raised $2.2 million in series A financing from Accel Partners and NewSchools Venture fund and a number of angel investors, including Matthew Greenfield, Tabreez Verjee, and David and Julia Popowitz (the latter of whom was an early deputy general counsel at Facebook). As part of the round, Accel Partner Rich Wong will join the startup’s board of directors.
When asked about his interest in Educreations, the Accel Partner tells us that he was attracted to the experience of its co-founders, Wade Roberts and Chris Streeter, particularly in their familiarity with the mechanics of making a viral social app. Roberts, for example, spent several years developing apps for Facebook’s platform, including Pieces Of Flair, which attracted 20 million users over the course of the year. He sold the app to RockYou in 2008 and joined the company as part of the sale, where Streeter was already working.
At that point, Roberts says, he was frustrated with the fact that the brightest minds of younger generations were focused on building ads and photo-sharing apps, so he and Streeter decided to take their experience building viral apps and bring a more engaging and intuitive user experience to the underserved education market.
Like ShowMe (and more generally, Udemy), Educreations focused on enabling teachers to use a simple, interactive whiteboard to create their own video lessons and hosts those lessons online (helpful for K-12 schools that block YouTube), where teachers can share them publicly or within a private group. Students and teachers can replay lessons in any web browser or from within its iPad app. With its mobile version, Educreations has attempted to distinguish itself from competitors by offering more features than the rest while maintaining simplicity of its interface and user experience.
Users can create lessons with multiple pages, add images to their tutorials (that are taken with the iPad’s camera or from a harddrive or Dropbox), resize images while recording, and embed their videos in blogs or on websites, all in all taking its use case beyond the classroom.
Since launching six months ago, more than 50K teachers have created and shared lessons on Educreation’s platform, which is now being used in over 12,000 schools and in 117 countries. This traction, which is another part of its attraction for investors, Roberts attributes to a couple of significant trends within education that are driving adoption of mobile learning platforms. Obviously, the first is the proliferation of mobile devices (namely iPads) in K-12 classrooms, as well as the growing interest among teachers in leveraging online video to reach students.
During Apple’s last earnings call, he pointed out, CFO Peter Oppenheimer reported that the last quarter was the best ever for iPad sales to educational institutions — something that has been particularly true for K-12, where iPad sales nearly doubled since last year. The sale of iPads to educational institutions also outpaced the sale of laptops and desktops, an important indication that classroom demand is truly beginning to shift from desktop to touch-based, mobile learning.
This bodes well for mobile-focused education entrepreneurs and startups, and is likely just the beginning of the transformation of the learning experience. As for Educreations, while the startup is still developing its plans for monetizing its platform, the co-founder said that among the options it’s considering is a premium product that would be sold to schools.
This product might include an administrative dashboard that would track student comprehension and help teachers identify what lessons are most effective. The other would be building a straight consumer product, which would target families under a freemium model. Or, it might consider the route of its competitor ShowMe, which has licensed its technology to Princeton Review — that would be yet another option. But, with $2.2 million now under its belt, Educreations has some time before it needs to turn itself into a billion-dollar operation and find backers for its IPO.