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For 'adaptive learning' tech, a surge of investment

Posting in Education

A trio of startup companies pursuing "adaptive learning" technologies received funding from venture capitalists and established education industry leaders this week, demonstrating that there's gold in the hills of the virtual classroom and personalized instruction.

The first, WizIQ, raised $4 million from Indian private equity firm Kaizen and German media conglomerate Bertelsmann for its online education platform and software, which works on desktop and mobile devices alike and is already in use by institutions of higher education on several continents, including IIT Delhi in India and community colleges in Des Moines, Iowa in the U.S.

The second, KnowRe, raised $1.4 million from SoftBank Ventures for its not-yet-launched online educational service focused on K-12 mathematics. The startup company emerged from Korean-American business accelerator SparkLabs and promises a real-time adaptive learning environment that tailors itself, using algorithms that create permutations of mathematical concepts, to a student's performance based on regular question-and-answer sessions.

The third, Denmark's Area9, received investment by selling 20 percent of the company to American education stalwart McGraw-Hill. That company, known best for its textbooks, seeks a vehicle into a digital future; Area9, launched in 2006, offers an adaptive learning platform. The two companies have been partners for five years, collaborating on "SmartBooks" and "LearnSmart"; the new, undisclosed amount of investment will allow Area9 to continue pursuing personalization as it serves one of its biggest customers. (It also powers platforms for GE, Global CSR and Lanit-Tercom.)

From primary school lesson plans to employee education and simulation, e-learning is finding fans in both the private and public sectors. Will it catch on in the classroom? We'll find out soon enough.

Image: Area9's training simulator for GE's Engstrom Carestation. (Area9)

— By on January 24, 2013, 12:25 AM PST

Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure