Edtech Startup LearnSprout Takes In $4.2M To Unlock More Insights From Schools’ Data

U.S. edtech startup LearnSprout has taken in more funding — announcing today a $4.2 million round which it actually closed last August. Investors in the new round are prior investor Formation 8, Samsung Ventures and former Blackboard president, Justin Tan (who also sits on its advisory board).

We last covered LearnSprout in July 2012 when they were in the process of closing their seed round, backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Formation 8, Benjamin Ling, Philip Fung, Luke Shepard and others. Its total funding to date stands at $4.7 million.

LearnSprout’s aim is to help schools unlock the data held in their legacy Student Information Systems (SIS) — by offering a free big data analytics service, so educators can dig into trends in areas such as attendance, college readiness or even student health as flu season approaches.

The problem it is seeking to fix is the quantity of data schools hold, which it argues makes it unwieldy for them to dig into on their own. Ergo, enter LearnSprout with its offer of freemium big data analysis — and focus on simple set-up — plus “easy to digest multi-year trend reports” so that schools can start gaining intel from all that student info they are sitting on.

Since it launched the LearnSprout Dashboard nine months ago, the startup says it has analyzed data for more than 2,000 schools in 47 states and nine countries.

In terms of the competitive landscape, it says SchoolzillaBrightBytes and Mileposts are doing similar things — but argues that its differentiator is a lower barrier of entry to using its tech, which is designed for non-technical users and apparently “taps live data without putting additional processing load on the SIS”.

LearnSprout says it has been using the new funding for accelerating development on new tools to offer educators predictive analytics on which students are at risk for dropping out of school. And on speeding up the development of a premium offering — which it’s looking to launch in 2015 to start monetizing the freemium business.

“Our base analytics product will always be free as it helps us grow our customer base. We hope/expect to be at 5,000 schools by the end of this year,” the startup told TechCrunch.

Today LearnSprout is also launching a new college readiness dashboard which gives counselors access to a live overview showing the total number of students in each grade level that are on-track, borderline or off-track for college.

It’s also announcing it’s integration with the Infinite Campus’ SIS — which it says broadens its potential reach to a further 20 million students (assuming it can successfully on-board the schools that use that software).

As you can imagine, LearnSprout’s business is data mining what is inevitably very sensitive information — especially when it comes to things like identifying chronic absenteeism — so LearnSprout says its security policy aims to be “one of the most transparent policies in the industry” and to specifically mitigate concerns about how students’ data might be used and how securely it is stored.

To that end, its pledge to schools notes:

Your data is kept separate from other schools and districts, so there is no possible way for other LearnSprout customers to see your data. LearnSprout is FERPA compliant and adheres to all state laws in regard to student data. With LearnSprout, PII [personally identifiable information] will never be shared, sold, mined or used for marketing purposes.