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StudyBlue raises $9M to equip students with digital backpacks

I will never forget the days spent trekking up Ithaca’s hills in a blizzard with a 20 pounds of books on my back. Maybe it built character (and back strength), but given the choice, many students would happily forsake heavy backpacks for a less cumbersome alternative.

StudyBlue has raised $9 million for to provide students with a “digital backpack.” It is a cloud-based platform with web, iOS, and Android apps that enable students to store and organize their course material. The cloud and mobile technology provide for studying anytime, anywhere, while the social component makes hitting the “books” more engaging and interactive.

All of the content on StudyBlue is crowdsourced and shareable. The 2.5 million users have created 100 million study materials, such as flashcards, study guides, and quizzes. Students can customize their search results by school, class, professor, subject, or textbook. They can also use the social tools to collaborate with other students, compare notes, ask questions, and work together to master the information. StudyBlue tracks what students are studying and connects them with other people tackling the same material.

Budget and performance issues riddle our education sector, and both students and teachers struggle to find the resources they need. Rather than targeting institutions or teachers, StudyBlue focuses on “a generation of ambitious digital natives” that are looking for a modern alternative to traditional study methods.

“There is no money to solve today’s educational stalemates, and we can’t ask more of teachers,” said founder Chris Klundt in an email interview. “If educational outcomes in this country are going to improve, the improvement will come from the successful application of technology to the problems we face—at scale and cost effectively.”

Educational platforms, portals, and apps have erupted over the past few years as entrepreneurs and consumers alike see tremendous opportunity in this space. Crowdsourced phenomenons like Khan Academy, Udemy, and Grockit are changing the landscape of higher-education, and tablets are increasingly becoming valuable learning tools. Even if institutions are reluctant to change, students, it seems are not. StudyBlue is growing by 50,000 users a week, and the company said engagement levels are high, with around 1,000 students on the platform at any given time.

StudyBlue was founded by Klundt in 2009 as a platform for online study groups and launched its current incarnation in 2010. This brings its total funding to $14.7 million. Great Oaks Venture Capital led this round, with participation from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation and existing investors. StudyBlue is based in Madison, Wis., where Klundt attended university.

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