Learning Analytics Startups

Outside of MOOCs there have been many other successful startups in the field of learning analytics. Each company differs in its own unique way, and how they entered this market, but each have arrived at providing similar products. Ranging from Rupert Murdoch’s company Amplify, to former Kaplan Executive Jose Ferreira’s Knewton there are so many options to choose from. Many of these companies follow a model that takes some if not all of the five types of educational data and runs it through complex machine algorithms to provide graphs, and meaningful recommendations for it’s students.

Each has some sort of teacher dashboard that allows highlight the students that need more one on one with the teacher, while guiding the remainder of the class through suggested learning paths on a more self directed approach.

Using identity, user interaction, inferred content, system-wide and inferred student data are integral components to learning analytics systems and is essential to each of these systems. However, it is also this data and where it is housed which is the biggest concern facing these companies. Every educational institution has policies surrounding it’s student data and where it can be housed. These restrictions are the biggest hurdle to overcome, and unless they offer a system that works with existing databases, even the best pitchman couldn’t make the sale.

In addition to this, the other glaringly obvious issue is the current organization, structure and capacity of an institution to role something out this significant. Teachers and professors are constantly getting more and more put on their plate with growing demands to improve the current state of education. Asking teachers to become analysts on top of their current role is a daunting task, and designing a successful implementation plan is no easy task.

Considering these issues, I encourage you to evaluate the following companies. Below is a list of several success stories in the field of learning analytics. I have provided video overviews, their websites, as well as the crunch base reviews of each company. Pay attention to the funding numbers provided on the left panel of the crunch base site and look at the press releases and milestones that each company has made along it’s path to success.

Based upon your expertise which company do you feel works best for you and your current district/system? Specifically describe what distinguishes it from its competitors and explain why you see it as a valuable product. You can post your comments below or join the conversation on twitter by using the hashtag #learninganalytics.

For additional reading take a look at Audrey Waters post on Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2012: Educational Data and Learning Analytics to provide more context about this market.










6 comments on “Learning Analytics Startups
  1. Shaimaa says:

    This was really informative. Thanks
    However, I don’t think Khan Academy should be in this group. They use learning analytics, but for their own use, not to be sold to schools, districts or learners.

    Answering the question: it is very difficult to judge between: Knewton,knowillage in terms of what they offer in data analysis. They are basically saying the same thing. Currently I would go for Knewton as their presentation of what they can do is more impressive. However, with D2L acquiring Knowillage, I think we would witness a huge change in the future. Let’s wait & see

    • I tend to agree Shaimaa, in the spirit of the question I would probably not consider Khan Academy in the same vein as Knewton or Knowillage. Although it was interesting to see that way Khan Academy utalizes Learning Analytics. It seems to be done so in a more thoughful and less mechanical manner.

  2. jldr says:

    Educators will probably prefer ‘Amplify’ due to its comprehensive coordination of curriculum development, technology, technical training and data coaching. The primary barrier here would be the cost – both of refitting an entire school or class and of not making use of technology that has already been acquired. However, for a small or a new school it may be a very attractive option.

    A more realistic option for many schools, including my own, would be incorporating ‘Knewton’ or ‘Knowillage’ into an existing platform. I agree with the previous comment that ‘Knewton’ provides a better video introduction of their product but ‘Knowillage’ may have a competitive advantage due to its compatibility with ‘Blackboard’, ‘Canvas’ and ‘Moodle’. It is very difficult to tell from the information provided which would be a better investment. I would prefer to have a more in-depth demonstration (preferably face-to-face) before making that decision.

    For schools or classes that don’t have an existing platform, ‘Khan Academy’ could be a great resource but may not be as customizable as the other options.

    The choice of any of these tools would require consideration of what platform, tools, and expertise are already in place as well as the total cost and potential benefits of upgrading or changing them.

  3. diane says:

    Knowillage.com is th only player in the list to be new to me. It would appear that it has a BC background, as it is in use at UBC as well as in public and private BC schools.
    There is an offer to trial the Knowillage.com offering for Grade 10 students writing the BC Science 10 Provincial exams.
    In an effort to understand the program a bit better, I intend to have my Grade 10 daughter give it a try.
    I cannot see how these programs might be used in my place of employment (health education) until such time as we move to more online instruction formats.

  4. Sylvain Menard says:

    I am blown away to see that Knowillage is implementing an idea very similar to what I suggested when we discussed digital textbooks. That being said however, even though I do believe that such system can somewhat improve our current educational model, I think that it can only go so far in doing so. Billick himself highlights this fact when he mentions that students and teachers don’t have to change the way they are using online education tools. On the plus side, if teachers are already doing the right thing, Knowillage can be a good help, but definitely not a game changer.

    I am more critical of Knewton. Even though, it does bring small improvements with its highly sophisticated analytic software, it does not have the potential to bring about the profound transformations that our system needs; to bring about profound changes, we have to think outside the books, and Knewton doesn’t do that.

    Khan Academy, with its open platform and inter-connectivity features, allowing for unlimited peer to peer interactions and non sequential learning, has more potential to be a game changer. The strength of KA is its ability to mesh project based learning with the check an balances of a rigid curriculum. It has the power to help students understand concepts that class activities require them to apply in the context of an engaging class project. Once students master a concept through its application in context, they can use the KA software to be assessed more formally. It would be a mistake however, to rely on KA to “teach” topics that are more subjective such as language arts or social studies where understanding cannot be acquired through a one way lecture or be assessed through a multiple choice test.

    Junyo also has potential insofar as they can help the administrators of education realize faster that the current model, regardless of its format, is ineffective. Data feedback is essential to improve or maintain any system, if Junyo can achieve that in an environment that allows more flexibility for students learning, it can certainly contribute to improve and maintain a high quality education system.

    Although they are not revealing much details as to what their product is, Amplify’s presentation demonstrates that they understand the issues with the current system. The fact that they do not propose a simple fix is also a testament to their depth of understanding. Their use of data is only one piece of their arsenal, and their integrated approach inspires confidence. I found their article with Howard Gardner very insightful.

  5. After progressing through the unit I remain a bit skeptical of the transformative properties promised by LA solutions such as Knowillage and Knewton. I certainly recognize the potential in customized learning through data analytics, but I still think we are being sold more on potential than results. That said, these solutions could most certainly develop into something truly groundbreaking. If I had to use one of these solutions to use with my class, I would certainly lean towards Knewton. Their recent collaboration with Cambridge is promising for future implimatation into English language learning. I quite like Cambridge’s diverse ESL curriculum and would consider blending a platform like Knewton with my current classroom practices. The potential outcomes would most certainly make it a worthwhile experiment.

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