Thiel-backed Lore Bets The Newsfeed Is Education’s Future

Getting students excited enough to participate in conversation outside of class is one of the Holy Grails of teaching. Lore, formerly known as CourseKit, is a Founder’s Fund-backed classroom management system that centers discussion around the familiar (and addictive) interface of the scrolling newsfeed. With an impressive +600 universities already experimenting with a platform launched last winter, Lore has announced a newly redesigned interface for the upcoming semester (including a future-facing “upward” scroll for the newsfeed, which could become a staple of other social media).

Lore’s newsfeed makes classroom conversation public by default. Instead of one-to-one emails or conversations between students and professors, everything gets listed on the public platform.

“I used to receive a ton of emails from students sharing links and now they post them all on Coursekit,” said University of Oregon Professor, Carol Stabil. “Within a week of the class starting, students were creating their own profiles, posting content and sharing interesting pieces of information online.”

Since micro-blogging hit the mainstream, eagers professors have eyed social media as a way to keep students engaged on the go. In 2008, the University of Leicester found that students equipped with iPods and encouraged to use Twitter would send updates from all over campus, create sophisticated peer support networks, and arrange meetups. Like many things touched by the Internet, a constant information feed makes classroom discussion completely public and always on.

Co-founder Joseph Cohen said that he believes Lore’s barebone feature set (grading, document upload, and calendar) can replace the alpha dog of course management, Blackboard, for most teachers. Having used Blackboard myself, digging through its complicated menus can be a real pain, and I rarely used more sophisticated features than Lore offers. To-date, Lore has raised $6 million from Founder’s Fund, Shasta Ventures, Founder Collective and others (see the compete list here). Lore, of course, has stiff competition from Blackboard and proprietary university systems. But, perhaps simplicity and a appealing newsfeed interface will help it win the growing education market.