Knewton Launches Partnerships With Ed. Companies in China, Japan

Managing Editor

Knewton, the adaptive learning company known for its ambitious efforts to fashion “learner profiles” of students, has established new business partnerships to expand the company’s reach into China and Japan.

The deals are just the latest examples of American ed-tech businesses moving aggressively to bring their products and brands into foreign markets.

Knewton has created partnerships with companies that will use or are already implementing its technology about 20 countries, not only in Asia, but also Europe, Latin America, and other regions. And the company has its eye further international expansion.

Earlier this month, Knewton said it has formed a partnership with Classi, a Japanese provider of cloud-based support services for various computing devices. Classi is a joint venture of Benesse, a major Japanese education publisher, and SoftBank, a Japanese telecom.

Knewton says the deal will allow it to enhance digital courses offered by Classi to give high school students a more “personalized” educational experience.

Specifically, Classi, which is used in 120 high schools, will use Knewton’s technology to give teachers the power to assign adaptive math practice materials to students.

The U.S. company hopes to expand the subjects and grades served through its technology over time, said David Liu, Knewton’s chief operating officer.

In China, Knewton announced this week that it will partner with 17zuoye, which describes itself as the largest online education platform in that country. The company—its name roughly translates as “homework together”—is a provider of textbook curriculum and data analytics.

Knewton says it will deliver 17zuoye, which has 14 million registered users and serves 700,000 teachers, with customized, individual recommendations and predictive analytics for educators and students.

Adapting to Demand 

The deals in Japan and China each reflect the core business model Knewton follows in both the U.S and international markets, Liu told Education Week in an interview.

The company does not sell its product directly to K-12 schools. Instead, Knewton tries to establish partnerships with market-leading companies—typically publishers—who have well-established sales channels to schools, or other consumers, businesses that then merge the Knewton engine and personalization functions into their products.

In the United States, Knewton’s massive and precise collection of student data has raised concerns among those who fear an intrusion on student privacy. Other have questioned whether data collected really presents an accurate and holistic view of students’ needs.

But there’s strong demand for the kind of information Knewton can churn out in markets like Japan and China, where interest in customizing lessons through technology is growing.

 “The markets we’re getting into are massive,” Liu said. The rapid growth of interest in ed-tech and adaptive platforms in Asia, in particular, has been surprising, he said, with many countries “rushing toward digital and personalized learning.”

Demand for adaptive learning and technology-based platforms in Asia, and some other foreign markets, has been fueled by a variety of factors, he said. One of them is the shift away from paper-and-pencil based to digital learning, as well as an expansion in the amount of reliable Internet connectivity.

The other countries where Knewton says it has forged partnerships of are: Canada, Belgium, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, India, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

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