K-12 has been a challenge for EdTech companies to build businesses in. Typically, buying cycles tend to be very long. See where Edgenuity is getting traction, and what trends are emerging in the space.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to you as well as to your company.
Sari Factor: After a short career in teaching back in 1980, I joined a company to explore technology in education. It was the first electronic publishing division of a major US publisher. I thought technology was going to change the world. I was this young green thing right out of teaching. Here I am many years later and I’m still trying to get technology to change K-12 education.
It’s starting to happen in a way now. It’s accelerating, which is very exciting. I came to Edgenuity in 2011 as the CEO. Edgenuity is an online learning provider for middle school and high school students. We provide full-course curriculum for Grades 6 through 12 on a proprietary learning management system. It’s a portfolio company of Weld North Education, which is an investment company focused on education. It’s led by former Kaplan CEO Jonathan Grayer.
Sramana Mitra: What specifically do you do with Edgenuity?
Sari Factor: Edgenuity offers engaging online curriculum to help learners achieve their full potential. We have courses in the core curriculum areas – Math, Science, Social Studies, and English Language Arts. We have a wide range of electives and foreign languages. We work with school districts and schools to provide opportunity and access for kids.
The company was founded in 1998 to provide education for kids who couldn’t be in the classroom. Oftentimes, these were kids who were homebound for medical reasons or had disciplinary issues. Way back in those days, the company sent a textbook with a videotape of a teacher conducting a lesson. Over time, it transformed to be a completely web-based application – no more textbooks. The entire curriculum is delivered online. You still see evidence of those qualified teachers on videotapes, but integrated along with that, are simulations, rich media clips, primary source media, investigation, and projects along with assessments.
It’s completely asynchronous, so some kids can work through it on their own. Generally, they’re doing it under the supervision of a local teacher in a school or school district. Some virtual schools are using it. Again, we provide the curriculum so that teachers can then monitor how students are doing, whether in person, or at a distance.
Sramana Mitra: This is all supplemental? This is not the core school curriculum?
Sari Factor: It’s used in a variety of ways. One of the things that really propelled our goals was the credit recovery market. Online learning has been a really good solution for students whose problems, for some reason, couldn’t be solved by schools. Those who have failed are struggling in a course often get put into an Edgenuity course to make up work. There are various settings in the learning management system that will allow students to pre-test content that they already know, to free them up to spend their time on new content that they haven’t been exposed to. That makes it a good solution for credit recovery.