How do you engage university students, hear their concerns, and give them both the information that they need and want? It’s a big question that most, if not all college administrators and faculty grapple with. But one company thinks it has figured it out, and it’s been rewarded with a few extra dollar signs to prove it.
ClearScholar, a student engagement platform where students can receive notifications, store information and virtually interact with their university, today announced it has received $1.25 million in seed funding from investors including High Alpha Capital, Elevate Ventures, Butler University, Cindy and Paul Skjodt, and Stephen Simon, co-founder of Simon Equity Partners.
Less than a year old, ClearScholar currently has 10 employees and says it will use the seed funding to grow its team by hiring in sales, marketing and product departments.
“I’ve seen the disconnection with students and the inability to know when students are frustrated,” says CEO Jason Konesco, a former president and CEO at Harrison College. “We’re providing a student engagement platform that helps nudge students to get more engaged in meaningful relationships and staff.”
After 17 years at Harrison, Konesco had seen enough students disengaged from the campus. Even more frustrating was experiencing firsthand how difficult it was to hear and address many student’s concerns.
So in late 2015, after having decided to leave the campus, he turned to a few buddies at High Alpha, an Indianapolis-based venture studio that had already been exploring ideas around better platforms to engage university students and staff. He officially joined forces with the group as CEO of ClearScholar in the spring of 2016, and with the help of $500,000 in pre-seed funding from co-developer Butler University, the first version of ClearScholar was launched into reality (and onto the radar of other high-profile investors).
To sharpen their idea, the team again turned to Butler, Konesco’s own alma mater, to ask students directly what they want. After hearing them out, they decided to develop the product in a way that could meet students where they’re at—on mobile devices. “To be in the palm of students’ hands gives an unbelievable asset for being able to stay connected with students,” he says.
The outcome, ClearScholar, is a mobile app similar to a social media newsfeed where students can customize the campus news they receive, see upcoming events (which they can add to the app’s calendar), and manage class assignments and schedules. They can receive emergency notifications, navigate campus on the app’s interactive map, and even integrate their student ID to pay for on-campus meals.
On the backend, administrators get a goldmine of student data. They can see what students are engaging with, send announcements and notifications, and also release polls to get direct feedback from students on their experience. It even integrates data between ClearScholar and the university’s existing information systems, so data doesn’t get lost as programs consolidate.
“We are able to see how students are maneuvering and making choices, and we can aggregate that data to give institutions actionable insights to better serve students,” says Konesco.
At Butler University, students and administrators have already taken ClearScholar on a test spin, and the company says it expects to add nine more institutions to that list in 2017. “There is a huge opportunity for educational institutions to embrace emerging technology to drive improved student outcomes and leave tangible impacts on the lives of students,” Mike Fitzgerald, partner at High Alpha, said in a prepared statement.
ClearScholar’s price model is still in discussion; however Konesco says the company is considering a plan where universities pay between $25-30 per student depending on a university’s size and budget.