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Sesame Street Cred: eLearning in the Age of Iggy Azalea



Catalyst spent our “summer vacation” researching the trends, dynamics and innovative companies in the eLearning sector, including one of the main themes among K-12 educators: the challenge of Common Core implementation (i.e., how the standards are taught, the curriculum developed and the materials used to support teachers).

Fast Company highlights Flocabulary, an eLearning company providing an online library of educational hip-hop songs and videos for grades K-12, as a leader in addressing the “conundrum [faced by K-12 educators]. Philosophically, [the Common Core standards] emphasize higher order critical thinking, based on analysis of ‘complex’ texts and primary sources… But practically, they do not prescribe specific texts, curricula, or ways of teaching…” Flocabulary curriculum directors partner with freelance hip hop artists to create catchy, pedagogic tunes such as “Order of Operations – PEMDAS” that provide teachers and students with enriched, engaging and effective content.

Used by over 20,000 schools, Flocabulary’s library of hundreds of songs and videos, is yielding positive results: a school year’s worth of exposure to Word Up, the company’s vocabulary curriculum, raised middle school students’ scores on state tests. The Company is just one example of the many recent technological and philosophical changes to the approach to education. Catalyst created an eLearning market map and research report to highlight the key trends in eLearning, and we outlined our top three themes in eLearning below:

Authoring Tools: Authoring Tools are software solutions (e.g. Flocabulary, Collaborative Learning, Inkling) that allow non-programmers (i.e., teachers) to create and package eLearning content. The subsector is of interest to Catalyst given the rapid innovation and expansion of platform capabilities (e.g., multilingual courses, LMS synchronization, avatars/animated characters/scenario backgrounds, HTML5 output). We see a particularly compelling opportunity for Catalyst to capitalize on solutions targeting Common Core implementation as states continue to spend billions of dollars to train teachers and administrators.

Assessment/Analytics: Educational Assessment/Analytics solutions (e.g., BrightBytes, Civitas Learning, Learnmetrics) present another opportunity for Catalyst due to the recent focus on learning outcomes for eLearning end-users. With the emergence of “Big Data” in education, analytics solutions enable the collection, analysis and use of data patterns to optimize conditions for improving learning. The subsector is attractive to Catalyst in terms of growth and maturity given its early stage in the eLearning consolidation curve and the lack of clear winner in the space.

m-Education: m-Education has become an increasingly important sector for distributed learning, and the market is expected to continue to grow at a CAGR of 31% (2011A-2020P). As designers and instructors shift focus to “mobile first” in eLearning development and teachers/employers increasingly adopt BYOD, the m-Education subsector is an interesting opportunity for Catalyst. Within m-Education distribution, we are particularly interested in Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL, e.g., Babbel, Busuu, Myngle, Voxy), which supports language learning with increased mobile technology and enables students to communicate with teachers and peers anytime, anywhere.

Catalyst Investors employs a proactive, research-based approach to investing. We target sectors that are experiencing above-average growth. If you are a growth-stage eLearning company seeking investment, our team would love to start a dialogue. Please send inquiries and business plans to mia at catalyst dot com.

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