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VC investor Dan Avida saw how limited and disengaged his two girls were with remote learning through Zoom when the pandemic first closed classrooms and sent everyone home. After not finding another platform for them to potentially use and recommend to their universities, he and his wife, Daphne Koller, one of the co-founders of the online learning platform Coursera, decided to create an alternative.
Their platform, Engageli, is specifically designed for higher-education purposes. And on Tuesday, the ed tech company announced that it raised $33 million in its latest funding round, bringing total financing to more than $47 million, co-led by Maveron. Additional investors include Corner Ventures, Good Friends and Educapital.
"We built Engageli to deliver exceptional student experiences that are personal, engaging and rooted in learning outcomes," Avida told Protocol.
The platform went live in October as a sort of beta with some universities; it used learnings to inform the kinds of features to include, such as flexible table groups for separate discussions, separate student note-taking and Q&A chat functions and student-instructor feedback loops. Universities can also use the platform to measure student engagement based on how much students are actually interacting with the platform and each other.
Engageli is one of a few platforms designed for student engagement as an alternative to Zoom.
Engageli is "in conversations with dozens of universities. Many of them are in pilot with one or more classes, which range from dozens to hundreds of students. We're not ready to announce any partnerships yet, but we fully expect to see universities on the platform in the fall [of 2021]," Avida said.
Higher-education institutions are increasingly embracing a hybrid approach to teaching; for example, Kahoot acquired Clever to grow its K-12 learning platform, and former Blackboard CEO Michael Chasen created Class Technologies to offer more classroom-specific features to the thousands of classrooms that are using Zoom for learning.
One of the things that makes Engageli stand out is that it's browser-based: Users do not have to download an app to access its features. Engageli also takes into account technical requirements; for example, the platform compresses video feeds to address slower internet speeds.
For now, Avida says that Engageli's primary focus will be on higher ed. But he sees no reason that it couldn't be used by K-12 students and faculty as well. "Higher-education institutions, instructors and students are looking towards a future where multiple modalities for learning exist in parallel: in-person teaching, synchronous and asynchronous online education, as well as hybrid models. Engageli's platform is designed to support and enhance all these modalities," he said.
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Penelope Blackwell is a reporting fellow at Protocol covering edtech. She reports on the developments in tech that are shaping the future of learning. Previously, she interned at The Baltimore Sun covering emerging news and produced content for Carnegie-Knight's News21 documenting hate and bias incidents in the U.S. She is also a recent graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and Morgan State University.