There are few people who doubt the ability of technology to help improve education, whether that be at the primary or secondary level. Of course, there are a hundred differing views on the best ways to manage (or moderate) the integration of technology into the educational process — and the classroom.
Many parents, teachers, and schools are not exactly thrilled with the idea of technology or mobile devices playing a leading role in the classroom at the expense of teachers, etc. And thus, as with so many things, striking a balance (or finding moderation) is key, which is why we’ve seen a rise in so-called blended learning, or the strategic integration of technology into the classroom — with the goal of increasing the productivity of both teachers and students.
Founded in 2010, Education Elements is one of many startups helping schools, school networks, and districts adopt blended learning by offering a suite of design services and a SaaS-based learning management system to enable schools to personalize student education and focus on small-group instruction. In February of last year, the startup raised $2.1 million in seed funding from Tugboat Ventures, NewSchools Venture Fund, Wally Hawley, and Imagine K12 to help get its software and services off the ground.
In the last six months, Education Elements has seen its team grow from 10 to 45, and CEO Anthony Kim tells us that it will be working with 100 private, charter and public school districts across the country by this fall. So, today, a year removed from its seed round, Education Elements is announcing that it has closed a $6 million Series A round of financing. The round was led by Harmony Partners, with contributions from Rethink Education, Eff Martin of Anthos Capital, and prior investors.
The funding will enable the startup, Kim says, to meet the increasing demand its seeing from school districts across the country by further expanding its education consultant and support teams and expanding its technology partnerships. It will also be opening an East Coast office this year to complement its Bay Area operations.
Education Elements plans to expand from the 40 schools it was working with last year, including institutions like KIPP LA, Mission Dolores Academy, IDEA Public Schools, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, and Aspire Public Schools, to 100 schools this fall, and hundreds by 2014.
While technology is beginning to have significant impact in schools across the country, blended learning is only just beginning to take off. So, Education Elements has adopted an approach of working closely with schools (Kim says that 15 of its employees are former educators themselves) to embed online content and data into daily instruction.
What does this mean? As students rotate on and off their school’s computers over the course of a day, teachers use the startup’s learning management system to monitor individual students’ progress so that they can adjust their instruction according to their various levels of proficiency.
School districts are already working with a wide array of digital solutions, whether that be in digital content, assessment systems, or learning software. So what’s cool about Educational Elements’ system is that it is attempting to offer a unified, single sign-on platform by partnering with and aggregating digital content (like Khan Academy or K-12 math and English/Arts programs), EdTech tools and personalized learning programs like ClassDojo and BrainHoney, and assessment systems.
The startup partners with the solutions teachers are using from those groups so that it can collect data automatically, collecting and normalizing that data in a uniformed view. The startup’s CEO says that he thinks there are too many point solutions that require teachers to waste time learning how to configure to their classrooms, so they’ve chosen to pull all those systems into one platform that offers a dashboard and reporting tools to create visualizations and charts that personalize the data and make it easier to understand.
Typically, standardized assessment happens two or three times a year in school districts, so teachers may go more than two months before they get an idea of what individual students are (or are not) learning. Because Education Elements allows them access to a constant stream of data from the tools they’re using everyday, it enables schools to decrease those feedback loops, so they can break classrooms up into groups based on ability in a more effective, real-time way.
The startup’s solution can begin recommending to teachers which students should be in which group, or which students need additional help in certain areas. The goal, obviously, being to make the overall classroom experience more streamlined and better suited to handle the diverse styles and ways in which students learn.
For more on Education Elements, check them out at home here.