K-12 Dealmaking: Three Acquisitions–Nearpod of Flocabulary; Renaissance of Early Learning Labs; Instructure of MasteryConnect

Contributing Writer

In recent dealmaking news, Nearpod will acquire Flocabulary to expand its student engagement platform; Renaissance is entering curriculum-based assessment in early learning by acquiring Early Learning Labs, while Instructure plans to acquire MasteryConnect to support the demand for assessments versus end-of-year testing. Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble Education pursues multiple partnerships to expand inclusive access content on college campuses.

Nearpod acquires Flocabulary to expand its student engagement platform

Student-engagement platform Nearpod announced today that it will acquire learning platform Flocabulary, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company that uses hip-hop to engage students and increase achievement.

With Flocabulary’s media-centered content that offers cultural relevance to many students, and Nearpod’s solutions aimed at inspiring students through activities such as Virtual Reality, PhET, and Desmos, the combined companies hope to become the most comprehensive student engagement platform on the market.

Together, Nearpod and Flocabulary are already used by teachers in 97 of the 100 largest U.S. districts, according to the companies’ announcement.

Dan Gohl, chief academic officer of Florida’s Broward County Public Schools, the sixth largest school district in the country, said that the combination of Nearpod and Flocabulary—which are both used by educators in Broward—“signals the creation of a new category of learning tools aligned with both the needs of the modern classroom and the aspirations of today’s learners.”

Student engagement is one of the biggest challenges faced by teachers, according to recent data, and the combined solutions from Nearpod and Flocabulary will help schools and districts address that issue, according to Nearpod CEO and co-founder Guido Kovalskys.

“We are convinced that the future of educational content is much closer to Flocabulary’s unique combination of hip-hop and educational rigor than to a textbook, regardless of being print or digital,” Kovalskys said in a statement.

After the acquisition, Nearpod’s 200 employees will continue to work at company’s headquarters in Miami, Fla., while the Flocabulary’s team of 60 will continue to operate out of their Brooklyn office.

Renaissance expands into curriculum-based assessment and early learning

Renaissance, which focuses on pre-K–12 education technology, today announced that it has acquired Early Learning Labs. The acquisition comes in response to customer requests for a curriculum-based measurement option and increased tools to support younger students, the company said in a statement.

Early Learning Labs was developed at the University of Minnesota. It offers progress monitoring, assessments, and reporting tools to track early literacy, early numeracy, early social-emotional learning, and more through its myIGDIs platform, which is now available for Renaissance users.

“Renaissance is a leader in K–12 assessment and is in an ideal position to expand the myIGDIs experience for current users, as well as grow Early Learning Labs’ offerings in the coming months and years,” said Scott McConnell, the founder of and senior advisor to Early Learning Labs. He is also a professor of educational psychology in the university, and one of the founding directors of IGDILab.

The Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDIs) assessments are the product of more than 20 years of federally funded research at the university. Empirical evaluations have shown the indicators to be valid, reliable predictors of language, early literacy, and school readiness for later academic success, according to the company’s statement.

With this move, Renaissance further expands into the early learning space—reaching children from age 3 to grade 3—and enters the curriculum-based measurement market. Using brief, week-to-week assessments, this measurement provides insights into students’ progress and suggests avenues for differentiating instruction, making it a powerful supplement to Renaissance’s existing assessment and monitoring options, the company said.

“The acquisition of the myIGDIs platform and the exemplary research behind it will help us further [our] mission” of supporting and accelerating student learning, said Renaissance CEO Chris Bauleke in the announcement.

Renaissance used this acquisition to signal that more could be on the horizon.

“Renaissance is making a significant investment to expand our portfolio to include CBM [curriculum-based measurement], said Todd Brekhus, chief product officer at Renaissance.  “When our customers speak, we listen, and if it makes sense to respond to those requests with further acquisitions to improve services and products, we’re eager and well-positioned to do so.”

Today myIGDIs assessments are used with three- and four-year-olds by more than 12,500 schools across the country to monitor and support the growth of over 300,000 students, the announcement said.

Instructure acquires MasteryConnect to support demand for different assessments 

Instructure, Inc., a software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology company that helps people learn and develop from their first day of school to their last day of work, has announced it will acquire Salt Lake City-based MasteryConnect, a longtime partner of Instructure, which designs and delivers formative and interim assessments to help bolster personalized and mastery-based learning.

Through this acquisition, Instructure hopes to support the shift in many states to replace high-stakes, end-of-year testing with innovative assessment models.

Instructure operates Canvas, the learning platform that seeks to simplify teaching and elevate learning, and Bridge, the employee development and engagement solution for companies.

MasteryConnect is designed to quickly identify student levels of understanding, target areas for personalized growth, and give teachers the data they need to direct each student’s learning.

“Today’s educators are trying to move away from archaic, end-of-year testing and looking for more intuitive evaluation models,” said Dan Goldsmith, CEO of Instructure. “Together, Canvas and MasteryConnect will place valuable data in the hands of our teachers, not once, but throughout the year so they can focus on activities that increase student learning,” he said in the announcement.

Teachers in more than 14,000 U.S. school districts use MasteryConnect, and many districts already using both MasteryConnect and Canvas together, according to the companies. MasteryConnect will continue to be sold as a standalone offering. However, for customers interested in combining assessment with learning, MasteryConnect will be further integrated with Canvas LMS. MasteryConnect and Instructure have been partners in education since 2016.

Mick Hewitt, co-founder and CEO of MasteryConnect will join Instructure as general manager of MasteryConnect.

The acquisition of MasteryConnect comes after Instructure announced earlier this year that it would acquire Portfolium, a network built to showcase the achievements, projects, and competencies of students to potential employers.

Barnes & Noble Education pursues partnerships to expand inclusive access content

Barnes & Noble Education, which provides educational products and service solutions for higher education and K-12 institutions, has announced several new partnerships to increase inclusive access content on campuses nationwide.

Inclusive access is a new textbook model in which publishers convert textbooks into digital content. Rather than individual students each purchasing a textbook, all students in a class buy into the content—lowering the cost for everyone.

For Barnes & Noble Education, partnerships with SAGE Publishing and Oxford University Press will make e-books available on campuses through inclusive access models, while a partnership with Macmillan Learning will provide students with digital content, courseware, and e-books. Meanwhile, a partnership with Wiley, a research and education company, will bring wider access to affordable, digital course materials.

The content from these new partners will be shared through inclusive access models, including Barnes & Noble College’s First Day model, which offers course materials at reduced prices through a course materials charge for participating courses or programs. Students have the option to receive their materials on or before the first day of class, delivered seamlessly through their learning management system.

According to a recent survey, more than a third of college students felt unprepared for the first day of the spring semester. Inclusive access models help make sure students have the materials they need at the start of the semester, so faculty members can begin instruction on the first day of class.

“Inclusive access remains an important driver of affordability, access, and achievement in higher education, and we are proud to work closely with our publishing partners to expand the use of these models on the campuses we serve,” said Ann Fraley, vice president of campus solutions for Barnes & Noble College, in a statement.

Barnes & Noble College is a subsidiary of Barnes & Noble Education, which has been a separate company from the national bookstore chain Barnes & Noble since 2015.

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