The latest from edtech startup Lore: Today the company debuts a rebuilt platform, designed to function more like a social network and less like those dreadful discussion forums you might remember from your educational days.
The rebrand fits with the vision CEO Joe Cohen was excitedly evangelizing when last we spoke. Back in April, the company shucked its original name (Coursekit) and christened itself Lore, a move meant to provide the team with more wiggle room. “Our vision is to be a platform for learning in whatever form,” he told Betabeat, but refused to divulge any details on what that might mean, product-wise.
In a phone conversation yesterday explaining the changes to Betabeat, Mr. Cohen was every bit as irrepressibly pie in the sky:
“Our ambitions are bigger than kits or courses,” he told us. “We want to be this underlying software platform for the whole of education.”
That’s a big ambition, all right.
Lore’s approach: social networking, but specifically for education. The revamp introduces profiles, so that rather than the platform privileging a particular class, students and instructors will be individual users who happen to be participating in a class. The company has also merged the newsfeed-style stream and the class calendar, as well as adding a library to serve as a repository for course content.
“If you think about companies like Yammer, LinkedIn, they’ve validated this idea that you don’t just have Facebook. You have situation-oriented social networks. And we’re trying to do that for education,” Mr. Cohen told Betabeat.
He described the results as analogous to LinkedIn: “We think we’ve got the largest connected community of instructors and students ever put together so far,” he said (even as he confessed there’s no real data to support that feeling), and the revamp is “the next step in making that fabric stronger but also more pervasive,” he added.
After a semester up and running at 600 schools across the country, Mr. Cohen confessed that he just “didn’t see the platform scaling” into the future to meet that broader goal. Hence the redesigned user interface.
Besides the more social changes, Instructors landing on the homepage are now prompted with the question “What do you teach?” They can choose from one of twelve areas where the platform has worked best, ranging from social studies to engineering. Once they select an area, they’ll get an explanation of how Lore works best for that particular discipline.
To date, Lore has raised $6 million in venture funding, including support from the king of higher-ed skeptics, Peter Thiel.