Universities hold treasure troves of educational content from many different sources, including but not limited to academic journals like JSTOR and EBSCO, licensed materials from textbooks publishers, and self-published and open educational resources. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, university libraries in the U.S. spent an estimated $2.8 billion in 2012 for information resources.
But sifting through all this content to find the right materials to use in courses can be daunting and time-consuming for professors, says David Kim, CEO of Ace Learning. And that’s where he says his company can help.
Founded in 2011, the Los Altos, CA-based startup offers a content curation platform that, in the words of Kim, helps college faculty “select the best content for each learner and align digital content to learning objectives.”
Today, Ace Learning announced it has raised an undisclosed sum in a Series A round led by Rethink Education. Other participants include Jonathan Newcomb (former CEO of Cambium Learning and Simon & Schuster), Nathan Schultz (chief learning officer at Chegg) and Anil Kamath. Matthew Greenfield, managing partner at Rethink Education, will join the company’s board.
The platform can index all the digital content already licensed or owned by universities. It then plugs into the school’s learning management system (LMS), identifies the courses and learning objectives set by professors, and offers recommendations on what materials to use. Professors can then choose and assemble the digital content for their courses, which students can then access on the course webpage via the LMS. (Kim says Ace Learning is “LMS agnostic” and works with popular providers like Blackboard and Desire2Learn.)
Many universities, Kim claims, “have no real-time intelligence on whether the content is of value.” Through the Ace Learning platform, professors get data on how students are interacting with the course materials--and whether they have any impact on learning outcomes. “We can track the time that any individual student spends on the material and provide insights on consumption patterns that may lead to different student performance” in the course, he states.
Some of this data could push content providers to develop better materials, too. “The analytics will give both institution and content partners the ability to drive improvements,” Kim adds.
The company also operates “Learning Ace,” a search engine currently in beta where students can look for free and premium educational materials.
Ace Learning is currently used in over a dozen higher-ed institutions, including Western Governor’s University, which operates on a competency-based learning model, and Capella University, which offers an online, learn-at-your-own-pace “FlexPath” program.
The company, a participant in the Pearson’s Catalyst accelerator and one of the publisher's technology partners, is looking to grow its team of 20 full-time and contract employees. This also isn’t Kim’s first time at the helm of an edtech company; he was formerly CEO at Course Hero, an online marketplace for study materials created by students.