With nearly 10M members, Edmodo goes back to school with new version

As students across the country head back to school with new clothes and class supplies, social learning platform Edmodo is going back the classroom with an updated look of its own.

On Wednesday, the San Mateo, Calif.–based company is releasing a new version of its platform that provides a cleaner, more attractive user interface as well as richer functionality meant to improve discovery, insights and planning.

In the last school year, Edmodo’s membership has more than doubled from 3 million to 8 million teachers and students, the company said. Now that it nears 10 million, co-founder and CEO Nic Borg said the new version reflects feedback from teachers and students to make it easier for classes to communicate about and share resources and to simplify teachers’ ability track student progress.

“It drives a more connected and insightful environment,” Borg said.

The updates revolve around a few key themes, including:

  • Insights. “A lot of people are talking about data — but there’s so much data at the classroom level that’s lost,” said Borg. Students constantly react to content introduced by teachers, he said, but it’s often difficult to record and track granular daily feedback to individual worksheets, reading assignments and tasks. With the new platform, each time a teacher posts new content, students can select from a menu of illustrated icons to indicate their reaction, from “tough/challenging” to “interesting” and more. Over time, teachers can use the information to monitor their classroom’s mood and how students are processing new content. Without waiting for tests and other major assessments, the insights can help teachers adjust the pace and figure out what to focus on for each student.
  • Discovery. Across the site, teachers and students share tens of millions of pieces of content, which can make content discovery increasingly challenging as the site gets bigger. But using data on how students are reacting to and learning from material, Borg said, Edmodo can begin to target content to teachers. It monitors the success of content used by classrooms across the system and dynamically suggests content to other teachers when they teach relevant lessons.
  • Activity Stream, Group Planning and Progress Reports. The updated activity stream reveals more information about what connected teachers and students are sharing. New organizational features make it easier for teachers to share folders with smaller groups and track student performance.

Improving the platform for teachers and responding to their feedback is essential for Edmodo given that its adoption — and potential revenue — is driven by teachers, and not the administrators who normally bring new technology into the classroom.

The site has experienced strong growth and has raised a considerable amount of money ($40 million) from top investors. But it’s not without competitors, including Schoology, which has fewer members (about 1 million) and less venture capital (about $9 million), but has chosen a more traditional business model. Schoology targets teachers with a free basic service but also offers a SaaS version to schools, districts and organizations.

Earlier this year, Edmodo revealed the first clue into how it could make money when it opened its API to developers to create apps built on Edmodo’s platform. At launch, the company had about 40 app publishers; now it says it has over 100.

Ultimately, Borg said he wants Edmodo to become a platform that allows teachers to make the decisions about the content introduced into their classrooms and provides data on how those purchase decisions are contributing to student outcomes.

“For the first time, people purchasing content get a sense of what’s [most effective],” he said. And “it’s a new environment for publishers to rapidly interact with [teachers and students] and create better content.”