18 Game-Changing Education Startups You Should Watch

by Staff Writers

Education is notoriously slow to change, but new technologies could speed things up. With valuable developments happening at a rapid pace, students, teachers and administrators alike are finding new and amazing ways to teach, learn, communicate, organize and even have fun.

Educational startups often sit at the forefront of these changes, offering new solutions to some age-old problems and issues. In fact, no matter where you fall on the educational system, whether a college student or a seasoned professor, keeping up with latest and greatest startups is advantageous. These innovative technologies not only make your life easier, but are rich with new learning opportunities as well. Here are just a few educational startups we think truly stand out, offering products that may just change how we teach, learn and think about education.

  1. Brainscape

    Showcased at the Venture Capital in Education Summit in 2011, this web and mobile platform is designed to help students study smart. The program uses adaptive algorithms to create flashcards that change in response to what students know and what they seem to be struggling with, focusing attention on the more difficult topics. Such a potentially valuable startup consists of two parts right, one offering free, self-created flashcards and the other aimed at selling educators and students premium content. It could be a great tool for studious college kids, as it is most popular when used over iPhone or iPod Touch, and turns those old-school flashcards into something much more useful.

  2. Engrade

    This startup has been around for a few years, attracting over 2.7 million users since then, with upcoming plans to reach more countries. Engrde provides a suite of classroom tools quite popular with teachers, administrators and parents. These include an online grade book, attendance charts, secure messaging, homework calendars, online quizzes and easily printable administrative reports. The program makes tracking progress simple, and teachers can such information with students and parents alike. While it's primarily used in K-12 classrooms, more and more colleges find it a useful tool as well, keeping students on track and giving educators more time to focus on issues besides maintaining a grade book.

  3. RippleSend

    Need a more controlled place to organize your academic life? RippleSend offers ePortfolio solutions claiming to do just that. Educators can use the site to store and share digital content, lesson plans and resumes as well as securely communicate with others in their academic circle. Since information is stored digitally, users access information from anywhere and build a better online brand through the creation of a robust online portfolio.

  4. 2tor Inc

    Fast Company named this one of the top educational startups to watch, and 2tor has seen some pretty big growth over the past few years. Founded by John Katzman (who also launched the Princeton Review), the company partners with universities and colleges to improve online educational experiences. Currently, it works primarily with master's degree programs, creating online, interactive materials for students. The system uses a Facebook-like setup allowing users to create, share and comment on a variety of multimedia. With more and more college kids seeking out online education, this system provides a new, exciting way for them to interact and learn.

  5. Lesson Writer, Inc.

    As any educator knows, creating lesson plans can be a time-consuming process, especially when taking students' individualized needs into consideration or evaluating the effectiveness of a particular lesson. This startup aims to ease things up a little. Lesson Writer makes it simple to create lesson plans online (even integrating video), manage classes, look up information and generate class records and reports on command. Schools who purchase it will also get access to communication software that fosters team collaboration in developing new lessons and working with students.

  6. Socrative 101

    Many students find school dull and boring, but Socrative 101 offers a solution. The company makes it easier to engage students through a response system that offers educational exercises and games over a laptop or mobile device. Aimed at the digital native generation, the program helps teachers adapt lessons to these modern learning styles and better track the results. Not only that, but it can make any class more interactive and fun. As student expectations change, education has to follow suit, and this startup could be one of the first steps in making that happen.

  7. OpenSesame

    Aimed at colleges and businesses, this startup has created the first online marketplace for buying and selling e-learning courses. The site aggregates the best relevant content from around the web, gathering it in one place where buyers can browse and purchase courses that interest them most. Being able to download training programs and educational content at the click of a button (and find just about anything you're looking for) may just revolutionize how we think about paying for and gaining access to higher education.

  8. Grockit

    Using Grockit's online social learning site, students can prepare for tests like the SAT or GRE in a whole new way. The site allows users to connect with friends who are also taking the tests or find expert instructors. Not only do students study better with the program, but they can also track their progress and easily determine where they need to focus their efforts. Many claim that it has increased their test scores, and since it's free to use, the startup is seeing more and more people give it a try as they prepare for intimidating exams.

  9. EduFire

    Social, online learning may just be the wave of the future, and this startup is getting in on the ground floor. EduFire provides, essentially, a distance learning platform and social network in one. It gives students access to live tutoring through video and chat, as well as online courses on a wide variety of topics. The site can be a valuable tool for users trying to learn a language, study for the SAT or even hone some technology skills. Those who already have a college degree or expertise can offer their services as tutors and teachers, creating a fully collaborative online learning environment.

  10. Late Nite Labs

    US science scores aren't keeping up with those in other parts of the world, but startups like this could help change that. Late Nite Labs offers students access to a virtual laboratory, where they can perform more than 150 different experiments. Users run through a simulated experiment, take notes and get graded by teachers, who can modify any labs to meet course requirements. The startup's product enjoys popularity with high schools and colleges alike, and is transforming how biology and chemistry education takes place.

  11. Goalbook

    Goalbook is an online platform that helps teachers, parents and students collaboratively track progress. Blending qualities of social networking and IEP tracking software, the program makes it simple for students and teachers to set goals and all involved parties to watch how everything unfolds. An amazing tool for any special education teacher, Goalbook turns hours of record keeping and tracking into minutes – allowing them to notify their students' parents and primary instructors of any changes, progress or problems immediately.

  12. Eleven Learning

    Eleven Learning specializes in crowdsourced textbooks. What does that mean? That the e-books they provide are open source, making them very low cost or free to use. Because they are crowdsourced, the texts are updated frequently and can be revised without creating pricey new editions. The company also offers a platform for taking notes, highlighting, sharing thoughts and even creating a study sheet with other students. With e-textbooks taking off at colleges around the nation this fall, Eleven Learning is part of a growing trend that will likely only strengthen over time.

  13. Mingoville

    Storytelling and oral communication form the crux of the educational offerings provided by this startup company. Aimed at ESL and EFL students, the company's website is the biggest and most comprehensive English learning program for students ages 6-12 anywhere. Students and teachers can work with over 40,000 online audio files, which explain and guide students through several different subjects — all the while nurturing valuable English language skills. In areas with high foreign language populations, this program could prove invaluable for educators and may help struggling students find the process far more enjoyable.

  14. BrainNook

    BrainNook is a great place for teachers, students and parents to find social conduits for math and language learning. There are currently over 100 different games they can play, covering topics like addition, grammar and even spatial visualization. The content asks children to solve problems, interact with others and explore virtual worlds through a cute, customizable character. As students play, they'll gain stars, which they can use to buy collectible items for their avatars. Fun, interactive and educational, it's an amazing site for any young child.

  15. Knewton

    Knewton is an adaptive learning platform that many colleges use to power their online and test preparation courses. The company was founded by former Kaplan executive Jose Ferreira in 2008 and focuses much of its programming on helping students prepare for exams like the GMAT, SAT and ACT. When they sign up to use Knewton, it will identify their strengths and weaknesses and make learning and studying recommendations based on these factors. Essentially, it creates a learning experience tailored to each student's unique skill set. The program is a hot ticket in the ed tech market, as both a finalist in Amazon's Start-up Challenge and a technology pioneer noted by the 2011 World Economic Forum.

  16. Inigral

    Billed as the Facebook of higher education, Inigral's SchoolApp helps future and present college students build a social network that will serve them well during their studies — and beyond. They can connect with one another, share notes and even build a network of friends before ever setting foot on campus. The program works within the existing Facebook framework, allowing universities to create their own secure, private social networks just for students. Universities invite participants to the network once they've been accepted. The startup got a huge boost this year when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced it was investing $2 million.

  17. SkillShare

    Looking to learn some new abilities? Skillshare can help. Creating a community marketplace, the company allows anyone to advertise a course, regardless of subject matter, on the site. Those who want to share their skills with others post a class online, choose a time and offer others a chance to join them. Founders say they want to make learning more collaborative, and hope people throughout the communities will be more inspired to share what they know through the site.

  18. Global Imagination

    Established in 2002, this startup wants to transform the way people experience and understand information, especially when it comes to learning. While they produce a number of different products, their most impressive is the Magic Planet, a digital video globe projecting information about topics like geology, natural science, astronomy, and even current events right onto the applicable geographic areas. While currently more common in settings like museums and planetariums, this futuristic device might one day find a place in the classroom as well. A Chinese student found that the Magic Planet helped raise comprehension by 13% across a wide range of K-12 subjects.