The COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to adapt to new ways of doing things. For students and teachers, that means getting used to virtual lectures and digital classrooms. That isn’t an easy transition to make.
Many of the tools that educators are using to try and conduct virtual classes were designed for business. That doesn’t translate well to the education world.
Fortunately, companies realize that remote learning isn’t going away. One startup, Engageli, is working to make virtual classrooms better. It recently emerged from stealth with $14.5 million and a passion for making remote learning better.
Gap in the Market
Engageli is doing what all good startups should do—it is trying to fill a gap in the current market. When the COVID-19 pandemic pushed schools to cancel or cut back on in-person classes, it also opened a door for a boom in the remote learning software space.
To meet that need, Engageli is developing a videoconferencing platform that is specifically geared towards virtual learning. The startup is targeting higher education as its primary market. However, it has the potential to impact K-12 schools as well.
Engageli’s $14.5 million seed round is noteworthy. That’s especially true considering that the company is still in the pilot testing phase.
TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden believes that the team behind Engageli is partly responsible for the influx of funding. It was co-founded by Dan Avida, a general partner at Opus Capital with a history in selling an enterprise startup called Decru. Another co-founder, Daphne Koller, is also a co-founder of the online learning platform Coursera and an adjunct professor at Stanford University. The married duo watched their children go through the stress of online school in the early stages of the pandemic, which spurred them to create Engageli.
Avida says, “The idea for this started in March when our two daughters found themselves in ‘Zoom School.’ One of them watched a lot of Netflix, and the other, well, she really improved her high scores in a lot of games.”
Sitting in a Zoom session for a business meeting is one thing. Doing so while trying to learn in class is a different matter entirely. Platforms like Zoom, Skype, and Google Meet simply aren’t good enough at facilitating the connections that students need in order to thrive.
“The reason teachers and schools are using conferencing systems is because that was what was out there,” Avida said. “We thought we could build a better system from the ground up.”
As of now, Engageli is still being tested and developed. That means much of its design could change before it is released as an official product. However, it currently looks like the platform will allow teachers to offer both synchronous and asynchronous lectures. It also works inside all major browsers so that students don’t need to worry about installing yet another piece of software.
One of Engageli’s shining features lets teachers create “tables,” where small groups of students can participate in discussions in a more personal manner. That’s just one of the many ways that the startup plans to improve engagement for students in virtual seminars.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the tool is developed as time goes on. Engageli’s $14.5 million in funding should help it accelerate quickly to meet the needs of students around the world.