Their five-person start-up, which is based in New York, announced on Monday that it has raised $5 million in venture financing from a noted roster of investors — including Social+Capital, David Tisch, Joel Spolsky, IA Ventures, and several angel investors — to expand the company and continue its rollout. In May, the company raised $1 million in seed financing from IA Ventures and Founder Collective, among others.
The goal of the service, said Joseph Cohen, its co-founder and chief executive, is to take some of the most successful elements of social networking — especially the fluid exchange of ideas that comes natural to online interactions — to revitalize the education experience. Students are already accustomed to interacting online and supplementing their daily lives with the Web and social media. Why should that stop when it comes to learning?
“Our education experience is truly offline,” he said. “We want to build what Facebook has done for your personal life, but for your school.”
Using Coursekit’s software, teachers can upload homework assignments, answer questions, grade work and facilitate discussions with their students. In addition, students can use the software to chat with one another, collaborate on projects and share relevant materials with their classmates.
“It adds a whole new dimension beyond just showing up for class twice a week,” he said.
Coursekit is free to both the instructors and students that want to have access to it. The company says its main focus is attracting users, not making money, but Mr. Cohen said that eventually, if Coursekit can gain enough heft to become one of the go-to services that students use, the company could have a lucrative business as a storefront for books and other education-related materials.
“We aren’t going to invent the future of textbooks but we hope that we can be the place where students get their textbooks,” he said.
Coursekit, which officially came out of beta testing in November, has been used to supplement thousands of courses already, Mr. Cohen said. The service also has 85 student ambassadors helping to evangelize its merits. The service joins the ranks of other start-ups, like Khan Academy andCodecademy that are trying to rethink access to learning and overhaul the services and tools that students and teachers use for learning.
“If you look at education, there’s no wiring,” Mr. Cohen said. “It’s not plugged in and there lies the opportunity.”