Edmodo is one of the startups whose name pops up a lot when you talk about “edtech.” Founded in 2007, the company is almost old school, yet, in spite of the influx of new education-focused startups, Edmodo continues to press forward. This is largely due to its appeal as a social learning platform for K-12 education — one that has earned it the “Facebook for the classroom” moniker — meaning that Edmodo enables teachers to share content, manage projects, assignments and notifications, distribute quizzes and events — both among students and colleagues. But the real key, and where it departs from being synonymous with an “educational Facebook,” is that all this collaboration and classroom management takes place within a network that it completely private and secure.
This is the core value proposition that has led to Edmodo’s growing adoption among teachers and school districts. Case in point: The startup is today announcing that it has officially crossed 7 million users and is now being used in over 80,000 schools. Districts across the U.S. are now doing wide-scale implementations, and 80 of the top 100 largest school districts in the U.S. are on board, including Chicago Public Schools, Denver Public Schools, Delaware, Palm Beach, Florida, Clark County, Nevada, and Wake County, North Carolina.
In fact, the Edmodo founders tell us that the service is now being used not only in every state in the U.S., but every country in the world. The team also said that it’s growing steadily in international markets, especially in southeast Asia, as well as Australia and the U.K.
For a little perspective on the timeframe of this growth, in September 2011, Edmodo counted 3 million users in its system, which means that, over the course of the 2011-2012 school year, Edmodo has more than doubled its user base. Again, part of the explanation for this is that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” That is to say, schools and teachers are, en masse, looking for smarter ways to integrate technology into the classroom, and, as a result, there’s been a growing demand for blended learning solutions — i.e. those that enable teachers to combine in-classroom and online approaches to better address the diversity of learning styles among student populations.
Educators and administrators are moving away from the monolithic, traditional learning management systems (like Blackboard and Moodle) in favor of collaborative, stream-based social environments — a trend on which Edmodo has thus far been able to capitalize.
On the one hand, it’s important to celebrate the growing number of online and blended learning solutions that are attempting to address the sky-rocketing costs of education in the U.S., and in turn, both higher ed and K-12 institutions’ openness to adopting fresh, disruptive alternatives to their legacy systems. So, while growing user bases thankfully represent a growing demand, on the other hand, these vanity metrics mean little without viable revenue streams.
In December, Edmodo raised $15 million from Greylock Partners and Benchmark Capital, which gives the startup plenty of cushion as it moves to scale its business across the U.S. and around the world. Its venture investment notwithstanding, up until recently, it hadn’t really been evident how Edmodo planned to make money.
So, not unlike Facebook, Edmodo has been making an effort to transition from a free collaboration and communications network into a platform — through which others could leverage its growing network to sell their own products and applications. In March, Edmodo opened up an API to third–party developers, enabling any and all ed-focused builders to create apps on top of its platform.
While this may not sound particularly mind-blowing, it actually represents a big opportunity for edtech developers, which have traditionally met with more than a few hurdles when trying to sell products to schools and teachers. The kind of investment in sales and marketing, for example, that is required to gain significant traction in K-12 classrooms really isn’t within the budget of most small development operations — or startups, for that matter.
With Edmodo’s app store on the market, app developers and startups won’t have to be as reliant on closing district-wide sales, and can instead sell their wares direct to those who will find them most applicable to their daily operations. Plus, teachers are able to connect these new apps to already-existing Edmodo features, like badges, assignments and quizzes to make learning more engaging for their students.
And, as edtech startups look to establish viable revenue streams, for Edmodo, the app store model means being able to take a step in that direction. The platform launched with more than 35 partners, which developed everything from educational games to subject-specific learning solutions, and are offering both free and premium apps. Just like the App Store et al, Edmodo gets to take a cut of app sales, and steer toward profitability.
While it’s still too early to say whether its app store is on the way to becoming a big money-maker, because the app store really won’t take full effect until students go back to school in September, the team is jazzed about the progress thus far. (They’ve added at least 5 more partners since March, on top of Mathalicious, Late Nite Labs, Desmos, BrainNook, Aviary, etc.)
As to what’s next? As hinted previously, Edmodo Apps will go into wide release to all U.S. teachers at the beginning of the school year, and the company plans on launching a slew of new features as it gears up for September.
For more on Edmodo, check ’em out at home here.