A new digital education platform has emerged from stealth today with $14.5 million in seed funding and an impressive roster of founders. Palo Alto-based Engageli is launching its pilot program amid the rapid shift to remote learning ushered in by the pandemic. The company aims to partner with higher education institutions in the U.S., U.K., and Israel ahead of a full launch early next year.
Engageli has built what it calls an “inclusive digital learning platform” for educational institutions that want to maintain the feel of normal operations during lockdowns. The platform facilitates polls, quizzes, and interactive exercises to test students’ knowledge, while a gallery view with fixed seating arrangements allows instructors to familiarize themselves with class layouts and access real-time engagement data.
A major facet of Engagli’s platform is that it supports study groups and breakout sessions, with the ability to share and discuss learning material and exercises collaboratively within each group.
Engageli was founded in June of this year by Daphne Koller, cofounder and former co-chair of edtech giant Coursera; CEO Dan Avida, general partner at Opus Capital; CTO Serge Plotkin, also a partner at Opus Capital; and COO Jamie Nacht Farrell, formerly of 2U and Trilogy Education.
Seed backers include personal investments from Benchmark Capital’s Alex Balkanski; Genesis Partners’ Gary Gannot; Cadence Design Systems CEO Lip-Bu Tan, and former 2U president, COO, and CFO Rob Cohen. Two investment funds — BRM and Emerge Education — also invested in the round.
Mix and match
Mission-specific platforms have begun to emerge across a range of industries as people adapt to social distancing measures. For example, Strigo — which last month raised $8 million — is designed to help software companies train clients remotely. Meanwhile, schools, colleges, and universities have scrambled to adopt any digital tools available during the pandemic, which has led to a “mix and match” approach that combines tools ranging from Google Classroom to Zoom — which wasn’t even built with education in mind. To better facilitate remote learning, Engageli has built a platform from scratch to replicate a physical classroom environment with as little friction as possible.
“Google Classroom is good for providing assignments and grades, but it doesn’t offer an interactive, real-time classroom environment,” Avida told VentureBeat. “That is also true for most other remote learning tools that are designed for asynchronous learning.”
While Engageli is geared toward real-time engagement and interaction, it caters to both live (synchronous) and asynchronous (on-demand) learning.
“Each lecture is recorded and can be accessed via the platform or from a link on the instructor’s LMS (learning management system) platform,” Avida said. “Each student’s notes are also saved and synced to the point of the lesson when the notation was taken.”
Avida was hesitant to divulge pricing at this stage, although he did say there will be two distinct models. One will be a software license that is priced per course, based on the number of students, while the other will be an “enterprise-wide” subscription for universities that want to go all in. The company could later move into sectors beyond higher education.
“While our features were designed specifically for college and university students and instructors, they are also suited for other learning environments,” Avida said.