For most students, learning within the traditional confines of the educational system has been something to be endured, rather than something that’s just as fun as it is rewarding. Every student knows that learning is more fun when content it comes alive and is personalized. In other words, when it’s actually adaptive, interactive and engaging.
Thankfully, advances in adaptive learning software have begun to overturn this paradigm, and make learning more dynamic. However, Sydney-based education startup, Smart Sparrow, thinks we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential applications of this technology, and that it’s ability to transform learning goes far beyond multiple choice quizzes.
This week, with faculty at over 400 universities now using its adaptive learning platform, Smart Sparrow is looking to step on the accelerator, and has raised $10 million in Series B financing to do that. Led by London-based investment firm, Yellow Brick Capital, with participation from the startup’s existing investors Uniseed and One Ventures, the investment follows the $2 million Smart Sparrow raised last year. The new capital brings its total to just over $12 million.
Smart Sparrow’s history dates back to 2005, when Dr. Dror Ben-Naim began the research and development process that would lead to the development of the startup’s core technology. Leading a research group that focused on intelligent tutoring systems at the University of New South Wales, the professor recruited some of his students to help him develop the project. Over time, the technology was adopted by academics, slowly working its way into the hands of dozens of teaching programs and thousands of students.
When Ben-Naim decided it was time to finish his PhD, his colleagues officially founded Smart Sparrow, and launched its new platform. Today, the adaptive eLearning platform provides educators with a suite of tools that allows them to create interactive content, which can be tailored to any class or group of students based on the subject and that group’s particular demands.
Broken down, Smart Sparrow offers a dynamic, drag-and-drop authoring tool that works in any web browser, and allows teachers to define personalized learning paths for their students, collaborate in realtime, and access pre-made templates to help them save time during the creation process. Educators can easily import rich simulations in Flash or HTML5 into their adaptive lessons, and then add lessons into their LMS or embed those lessons in any web page.
Today, Smart Sparrow claims to integrate with most modern LMSes, and supports both gradebook and single-sign access, while allowing professors to deploy their lessons to students (and make them live) with a click of a button. Teachers can then evaluate their students’ progress as they go via the platform’s analytics tools.
All in all, the startup’s platform is attempting to give teachers the ability to create content and materials that can be personalized in such a way that they account for the many permutations of students’ potential errors and struggles. This means that, as students proceed through the teacher’s lesson and engage with the materials, Smart Sparrow provides teachers with instantaneous feedback that allows them to better understand what their students are struggling with so that they can tweak their content accordingly.
The key to Smart Sparrow’s value proposition is that it gives educators the ability to control what content they’re delivering to students, and manipulate that content in realtime as they teach. Rather than offering technology that simply automates content delivery and adaptive learning, the startup wants to put teachers back in the driver’s seat and give them the ability to tailor what and how they teach to each student’s learning path.
For more, find Smart Sparrow at home here.