If the Web is your textbook, Scrible offers new ways to mark it up

When web annotation startup Scrible launched two years ago, it knew the education market could be a big opportunity but cast its net to a wider consumer audience. Through its browser-based bookmarklet, users can highlight content on any web page, add notes and tags and then save the research online – and that kind of tool could be help anyone from consumers researching their next car to professionals digging up information about new clients or rivals.

But Scrible co-founder and CEO Victor Karkar said his company soon noticed that while 9 percent of average users engaged with the site on a monthly basis, a quarter of its education users displayed that level of engagement.  So the company put more of its efforts toward an education audience and on Tuesday launched the first of what could be several versions targeting students and teachers.

The new student edition includes all the highlighting and annotation tools in its original product as well as several features that help with academic research. For example, it auto-extracts the information needed for citations and quickly creates bibliographies; it saves and organizes all the research into searchable and filterable “Libraries”; and it enables students to export highlighted text and notes into shareable summaries.

“The ways that people have been working with information has changed dramatically … At school, people doing research still tend to go to the web, Google(s goog) and then print or copy and paste content. It’s a mishmash of web clippings,” said Karkar. “The information people need is on the Web so why not give them tools to annotate in the browser and in the cloud.”

For students and professors at traditional schools, it can provide a way to organize and save web research and encourage group learning. But there could also be interesting applications and integrations with online education providers. As more educational content and experiences go digital, platforms like Scrible could boost collaborative learning and individual engagement around online documents. The startup said it’s been approached by more than a handful of education technology companies, with one deal already in place. Scrible has also been selected as a finalist in an upcoming ed tech startup competition at the SXSWedu conference in Austin.

Other companies, including Diigo and Markup.io, also help people annotate the Web, but Scrible offers richer options and now has more specific features for education users. The startup, backed by $600,000 from the National Science Foundation, said its basic service is free but that it will soon roll out premium plans that provide more storage and functionality for educators.