Educational Technology Company Knewton Scores $12.5 Million More

Online educational technology startup Knewton has completed a $12.5 million round of funding led by New York City-based VC firm FirstMark Capital, after securing a $6 million Series B round of financing a little over a year ago.

Returning investors include Accel Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, First Round Capital, and angel investor Reid Hoffman, who are bringing the total of capital injected into the company to just south of $20 million with this third round.

Knewton says it will use the new financing to accelerate expansion to meet demand for its adaptive learning engine, which uses proprietary algorithms to identify and address each student’s unique needs. The company’s platform tracks virtually every action by every student and accordingly prioritizes concepts for study each day based on which concepts a student is weakest in.

Subsequently, the Knewton system delivers those concepts in whatever learning modality is best for that individual student, such as bite size, media format, time of day, and the number and difficulty of accompanying practice questions.

When Erick Schonfeld reviewed the service in late 2008, he wrote:

Adaptive learning tests are taken on computers. The questions get progressively harder or easier depending on each student’s answers. Thus, they adapt to each student’s knowledge and abilities. Knewton is taking the adaptive learning concept and applying it first to online test preparation services.

The service combines live video chat with an instructor in a whiteboard environment, along with learn-at-your-own-pace sample questions and tutorials. Knewton finds the best teachers it can get and pays them $500 to $800 an hour. In addition to the virtual classroom, Knewton keeps track of each student’s progress in mastering the thousand or so concepts that can be covered in each test. A “concept queue” keeps the students abreast of what concepts they have mastered and which ones they are weak on. They can click on each concept tag to dig deeper.

Read the full review here (it digs pretty deep).

Knewton has gone to market with a suite of adaptive-learning test prep products (it just unveiled one for the SAT test), and says it is now working on opening the platform for anyone to use.

Knewton faces competition from companies like Brightstorm and Grockit.