Founded in 2009, Kno began its career with ambitious plans to disrupt education with a little mobile hardware — by developing a tablet that was tailor-made for students. Unfortunately, thanks to the meteoric rise of the iPad and, later, Apple’s big re-entry into the textbook arena with iBooks 2, Kno’s hardware efforts didn’t pan out. Beginning early last year, the startup pivoted towards a more agnostic solution, creating an educational software platform and app to bring interactive textbooks to the college crowd.
But, with nearly $80 million raised from investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Mike Maples and Ron Conway, Kno has more at stake than your average edtech startup. Today, the Santa Clara-based company is making a big leap forward, expanding its scope beyond the college campus to bring digital textbooks into K-12 classrooms.
To take on grade-agnostic solutions like iBooks 2, Kno has struck a partnership with educational publishing giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The deal is a big win for Kno, as the publisher comprises about 50 percent of K-12 market. Naturally, with $80 million-worth of pressure, the company will look to quickly follow with further publishing partnerships — with Pearson and McGraw Hill at the top of the list. Along with Houghton, the three publishers make up the lionshare of the market.
wordpress.com/2012/08/video.png” rel=”lightbox“> Kno is already being used by students in 5,500 universities and co-founder and CEO Osman Rashid (who is also a co-founder of textbook rental player Chegg) tells us that its free app has been downloaded over 500K times. Its new partnership with Houghton Mifflin will see the company begin offering the publisher’s textbooks in digital form both on the iPad and on the Web — with availability on Android and Windows 7 coming soon.
But what’s interesting is that Kno will offer its digital textbooks for $9.99, a significant change from its free app. What’s more, as Rashid admits, most public schools dole out textbooks for free, so it might seem backwards to expect students and parents to pay for content they’re already getting at no cost.
Compared to the cost of textbooks for college students, of course, $10 is nothing, but this isn’t the case for K-12. But the CEO believes that parents will be enamored with the opportunity to have their kids’ same textbooks available at home. It also alleviates the pain many parents experience when watching their kids lug around heavy backpacks, brimming with bulky hardcopy textbooks. With Kno’s new offering for K-12, parents can rent the textbooks their children are using in school without having to watch their kids develop Scoliosis at an early age.
Kno is essentially licensing its publishing partners’ titles and will thus be taking a cut of the sales of its eTextbooks, but at $9.99 a pop, it doesn’t exactly seem like the deal spells financial gold for the company. But Rashid said that he hopes that rentable, interactive textbooks (and skinnier backpacks) will help the startup win the parental vote. If parents are moved by the alternative, they could help spur widespread adoption of Kno’s platform and, in turn, push more schools to warm up to the idea of bringing mobile devices into K-12 classrooms.
The startup will also be looking to work with partners to begin the process of bringing online bookstores into K-12 schools so that digital textbooks can be bought and sold directly through a school’s network.
It’s definitely an exciting time for the intersection of technology and education, as a plethora of services are beginning to make educational tools and beyond available online. Colleges have really led the way thus far as they represent the low-hanging fruit for companies hawking educational software or services, but online bookstores, courses, and mobile textbooks are coming and coming soon — even in K-12. And Kno is obviously hoping that it can be among the early movers.
Of course, there’s a lot of noise around “interactive” textbooks, so what does that mean exactly in Kno’s conception? The startup’s interactive features provide students with a digital journals that automatically saves their notes and highlights them in a digital study notebook, along with flash cards for key terms within a textbook that help students study more efficiently and retain their reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic.
The new K-12 digital textbooks also feature 3D models that bring chemistry concepts to life, for example, a “Quiz Me” feature that turns a book’s diagrams into a multiple-choice quiz, and “SmartLinks” that deliver videos, images, and photos to both formulas and concepts in realtime for easy reference. Next up? Analytics that will help parents and students keep track and measure reading progress.
While there’s a lot of appeal to Kno’s educational platform, they’re hardly alone in this space. Inkling is busy developing a robust, enterprise-grade publishing CMS that lets any publisher turn their hardcopy textbooks into a digital product while bringing interactive learning content to the iPhone.
Meanwhile, BenchPrep has forged a number of partnerships with top publishers to create interactive study guides from publishers’ content, creating an educational platform of interactive, game-ified courses. Obviously, Kno and BenchPrep are taking slightly different tacks, but they’re both going after the same eyeballs and competing for the same content.
In the end, the more the merrier, as schools, students and parents are the ones who get to enjoy the benefits of this competition and the arrival of more engaging, digital educational experiences.
More on Kno at home here.
Kno has developed a digital learning environment for students to read textbooks, take notes, and share materials with friends and teachers. Students can access through multiple platforms and purpose-built textbook tablets. The company works with multiple textbook publishers to make tens of thousands of textbooks and supplementary materials available to their users. Kno is also developing a services platform to connect students globally through tutoring, collaboration, and education assessment tools.
Article source: http://techcrunch.com/2012/08/07/know-goes-beyond-college/