Carnegie Learning Bets Big on Coding With Acquisition of Globaloria

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Carnegie Learning Bets Big on Coding With Acquisition of Globaloria

By Tony Wan     Sep 13, 2017

Carnegie Learning Bets Big on Coding With Acquisition of Globaloria

It’s a pairing as natural as letters and numbers, math and coding, the founders of Carnegie Learning and Globaloria would say.

Today, Carnegie Learning announced that it has acquired Globaloria, a New York-based provider of computer science curriculum and professional development for K-12 schools and districts. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Both companies trace their lineage to top-pedigree universities: Carnegie grew out of research on computer-based instructional systems started by Carnegie Mellon researchers. Globaloria’s CEO and founder, Idit Harel, studied and refined the pedagogy behind her coding program at MIT Media Lab (where she worked with the late Seymour Papert, often credited as a pioneer of constructionist philosophy).

Carnegie Learning is best known for its intelligent math system, Cognitive Tutor, developed in the 1980’s. Used in high schools and colleges, the tool was a forbearer of the “adaptive” math programs in vogue today. Carnegie Learning spun out as an independent company in 1998. In 2011, private equity firm Apollo Group purchased Carnegie Learning for $75 million, before selling it to back to private investors in 2015.

Barry Malkin, a former Apollo executive who made the call to buy the company in 2011, took over as Carnegie’s CEO after its 2015 sale. Under his watch, Carnegie has re-tooled and rebranded its adaptive math curriculum for grades 6-12 as Mathia. Last year it launched Mika, a math offering for the higher education market.

The addition of Globaloria is the newest part of Carnegie’s makeover efforts. “I’ve always had an interest in finding a coding curriculum for Carnegie Learning,” Malkin said in an interview with EdSurge. He noticed Globaloria about nine months ago, and first met Idit Harel at the ASU+GSV conference this past May.

“Coding and mathematics go together quite well.” he adds. “Both require abstract thinking and process-oriented thinking...I believe that math can strengthen coding, and vice versa.”

That’s a sentiment shared by Harel, who calls the acquisition a “historical deal: one technology-based curriculum company rooted in research buying another.” Globaloria had been incubated at the World Wide Workshop, a nonprofit incubator she founded, since 2006, and supported by roughly $8 million from grants. After it became an independent company in 2014, Harel raised another $3.5 million in equity and convertible note funding.

Globaloria offers online courses, lesson plans and teacher training support to introduce students to the concepts behind computer science and coding. The curricula leverages a project-based learning approach where students design and build their own games.

More than 40,000 students have used Globaloria’s computer science courses over the years, and the team has trained more than 1,100 teachers and education leaders. Last year 150 schools used its programs, according to Harel. “To scale even further we needed to find a new home.”

With roughly 140 employees, Carnegie boasts capacity and resources “in distribution, sales and operations” that Globaloria did not have, says Harel, who oversaw sales efforts with, at most, one other staff. Carnegie claims Mathia is used across 1,400 schools through 536,000 active student licenses.

For the time being, Globaloria will continue operations as a distinct product and brand. “We have not made any final determination as to how it will be combined with Carnegie,” states Malkin. Down the line, he sees opportunities to apply Carnegie’s adaptive and artificial intelligence technologies to Globaloria’s courses.

As part of the transition, Harel will support Carnegie in an advisory capacity. Some of her colleagues have formally joined the new owner.

In Carnegie, Harel believes she’s found “a partner who understands the value of doing computer-science education side-by-side with math education.”

For more than a decade, Harel has pitched STEM and computer science as “the new literacy,” skills necessary for everyone to understand—if not build—technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain that will define life and work. Yet few investors believed there was a demand for such tools and services in the K-12 market. That has since changed with the proliferation of organizations like Girls Who Code and, along with coding games and apps. “I can walk into any meeting now and talk about computer science as the new literacy, and people will nod their heads,” she shares. “It’s not like 2005 or 2010, when many were skeptics.”

Harel, who claims an eclectic background as a scientist, researcher, entrepreneur and author, hints at the possibility of pursuing new challenges. “It’s time for a businessman like Barry [Malkin] to scale it to the next level, and time for me to help organizations and companies invent new things.”

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