San Francisco-based ClassOwl has raised $850K in a seed round from Follett Knowledge Fund, The Stanford StartX Fund, and Dorm Room Fund, among other angel investors. A graduate of the first class of Pearson’s Catalyst Program, the company offers a web-based and mobile application enabling teachers to post assignments and communicate with their students.
Founded in 2013, ClassOwl was born out of an undergraduate project at Stanford University, where co-founders Sam Purtill and Julienne Lam were frustrated by the lack of tools to help students manage their time and preparedness for class. “Students have apps for everything in their lives except this: there needs to be something simple to help students understand their teachers’ expectations, stay organized, and manage their time well,” explains Lam. “When you are constantly trying to figure out what you have to do, it really detracts from the ‘learning’ part of school.”
Unlike other task list or time management applications, like Evernote or The Quad, ClassOwl markets its product towards teachers, rather than students. “The only way to get all the right assignments is to get the teachers on board,” Purtill explained.
Although the product was initially designed for university use, Purtill and Lam quickly found that ClassOwl resonated with high school teachers. “We’ve found that organization and staying on track is a much tougher problem for students in high school, rather than college,” Purtill told EdSurge. Educators have also recognized creative uses for the application outside of the classroom, as athletic coaches use it to communicate practice changes and scheduling to teams.
In the next few months, ClassOwl will focus on improving based on teacher feedback, particularly from educators in high school classrooms. ClassOwl has already begun responding to teacher requests, like an added function enabling teachers to estimate how long an assignment will take students. “One teacher wanted to turn off comments for his assignments, because his students were pretty immature,” said Purtill. “We never would have thought of that.”
ClassOwl is available on desktop and mobile, but 47% of its traffic comes through the iPhone app, which allows teachers to send push notifications to their students about assignments. ClassOwl plans to release an Android-compatible version by mid-September.