Inkling Raises, Blackboard Reacts, and Udacity Reflects

In The News

Since last week was  quite an interesting one in terms of launches, investments, and backlashes in edtech, I thought it might be worthwhile to give you a short roundup on some of the top stories.

Inkling Raised $16 Million in Series C Funding

Although the news leaked a week early, Inkling has now officially announced a new round of funding. The $16 million Series C round was led by Sequoia Capital, arguably one of the most prolific venture capital funds in Silicon Valley.

The interesting part of the story here is that Inkling made some kind of a pivot away from their initial business model of creating digital versions of textbooks for publishers. Instead, the company is now providing a platform that publishers can use on their own, called Inkling Habitat.

Inkling also announced that Pearson and Elsevier are going to use the new Inkling Habitat service as their primary way to create e-books from now on. The company is also in talks with five more of the top ten global publishers, recruiting them to join the Habitat platform (according to TechCrunch).

All in all, a noteworthy event and move, especially considering the rivalry of Inkling and Kno for market share.

Blackboard Taking MOOCs Seriously

In other news, Blackboard is now taking MOOCs seriously. So seriously, in fact, that the new Blackboard’s CEO, Jay Bhatt, announced at the annual BbWorld conference that the company is going to enter the MOOC madness. The newest version of the flagship Blackboard LMS, Blackboard Learn, wants to offer a “… fully functional, flexible platform option complete with social learning capabilities and a wide range of course management and student engagement features.”

It’s essentially the same move that its competitor Instructure took late last year with the launch of the Canvas Network. Blackboard also announced that 15 colleges and universities already signed up to run their MOOCs based on the new version of Blackboard Learn.

That’s probably one of the main issues I see with Blackboard at the moment. Right now, the company is not innovating but simply reacting to moves its competitors make. And there is pressure from both sides: the LMS space in which Blackboard used to be the clear top dog and now the MOOC platform space, which is the new darling.

Udacity and San Jose Put Their Pilot On Hold

Talking about MOOCs, Udacity just had a setback; San Jose State University has put their partnership on hold, at least until Spring 2014. The decision was mutual, decided on both sides based on data showing that students enrolled for the online course did not perform as well as students in the traditional in-person class.

Liz Gannes from AllThingsD did a good write-up about the story behind the story, and Thrun gave an interesting interview to MIT Technology Review editor Rachel Metz in which he talks about the implementation of more artificial intelligence in MOOCs, completion rates, and the future of Udacity as the university of the 21st century.

Thrun also wrote an article for the Udacity blog, essentially identifying the problems mainly due to “the non-traditional student population” in the course, explaining that it wasn’t a general problem of the course structure or the pedagogy.

As an interesting side note, San Jose stated that the blended courses delivered through a partnership with edX outperform the ones that don’t have the support of edX material.


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