Knewton, a company that specializes in adaptive learning technology that tracks student use and personalizes instructional content, has reached an agreement with Cengage Learning, an educational and professional publisher, to integrate Knewton software into Cengage’s higher education content. Beginning in fall 2015, Knewton technology will be embedded in Cengage’s MindTap platform for content in its management and sociology subject areas.
Adaptive learning is a fast-growing software technology that not only tracks student use of a wide variety of content—from K-12 and higher education to continuing education—but also evaluates learning, identifies students’ strengths and weaknesses, ameliorates learning problems, and recommends teaching strategy. Cengage MindTap is a digital content program that also offers customization and combines readings, multimedia content, assessments, and personalization for students. Jim Donohue, Cengage chief product officer, described the student experience of using Knewton technology as an immersion into “a highly personalized learning environment,” noting that students “receive real-time recommendations based on their individual activity in the course, helping to create a more engaged learning experience.”
Knewton was founded by Jose Ferreira in 2008. The company has about 150 staffers at its offices in New York City’s Union Square. Knewton is looking to add as many as 100 more employees after securing an additional $51 million in investment capital in December, and it plans to use the money to expand to Europe, the Middle East, South America, and other overseas regions. The new round of investment was led by U.K. venture capital firm Atomico and included GSV Capital, Accel Partners, Bessemer Venture, and others.
Sara Ittelson, Knewton’s director of business development, described the content partnership with Cengage as a process of providing publishers with access to Knewton’s application program interface (API), which enables access to a variety of proprietary data and content, allowing publishers to embed Knewton technology into digital texts from any content platform. “Our API allows our products to connect to our partner products,” Ittelson said. “When a student uses MindTap, behind the scenes, Knewton technology will broadcast what happens with each nugget of content” back to Knewton servers, which can then adjust the tools and the student’s learning path on the fly. Ittelson said, “We crunch the data on what the student learned, and the effectiveness of the content.” Once the company receives the data, the software can personalize the content, offer tests and quizzes targeting the student’s needs, and, eventually, even optimize which types of content are provided at each point in the day. “We can determine how to use the content better,” she said, adding, “we get lots of data that can shed light on the learner.”
In addition to Cengage, Knewton partners include Pearson, Gutenberg Technologies, Cambridge University Press, Macmillan, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, John Wiley, and Triumph Learning. “We have worked directly with schools—Arizona State University was one—but now we focus on offering our API to publishers,” Ittelson noted. Through these partners, she added, “millions of students will be using content embedded with Knewton technology.”
“We built Knewton to be agnostic about platforms and flexible, so it can work with K-12, higher ed, or lifelong learning,” Ittelson said. “So we’ll be partnering with more publishing folks.”