Microsoft Acquires Education Data Platform From Brightbytes

Managing Editor

Microsoft is acquiring a school data-integration platform developed by the company Brightbytes, in another sign of the private sector’s interest in meeting districts’ growing appetite for streamlined data delivery and analysis.

The giant tech company said it will integrate the platform, DataSense, into Microsoft’s cloud computing service, Azure.

“We are committed to help schools migrate to the cloud, simplifying data management and providing explicit security and control over their data,” Microsoft’s general manager of education strategy and platforms, Steve Liffick, said in an online post explaining the acquisition.

“Data is perhaps one of the most powerful tools we have in modern education,” he added. “It can empower teachers and administrators with insights, illuminate potential issues, streamline inefficiencies, and help personalize the learning experience for students.”

Liffick said the acquisition will give school districts and postsecondary institutions a controlled, “secure starting point in Azure.” It will make it easier for K-12 users to focus on improving student outcomes,he predicted, and help district IT teams with data transfer and management functions.

Brightbytes and Microsoft say that DataSense is an integration platform-as-a-service that is used across “hundreds of districts” serving millions of students.

It is the only part of Brightbytes’ portfolio that is being acquired in the deal, the organization said. Terms were not disclosed.

Brightbytes is a San Francisco-based education data-analytics organization. It is also the developer of Clarity, a data-analytics application that processes data for K-12 users.

The companies, in an e-mail to EdWeek Market Brief, likened DataSense to the plumbing in data delivery: It is the infrastructure needed to move data from an array of disconnected sources into a format where analytics can be performed, and then move the data into apps and systems that rely on that information. DataSense does not produce conclusions about the data; it rather moves it to apps that produce those results, they said.

Clarity, by contrast, is an analytics application that processes data with specific goal in mind–such as giving districts information that can prevent students from dropping out of school, the companies said. Clarity relies on machine-learning, psychometrics, and predictive analytics to organize and visualize data.

School districts have shown a growing interest in platforms that collect data, integrate it across platforms, and help district leaders make sense of it as they try to improve classroom performance and administrative efficiency.

One example of districts’ evolving needs is their increased interest in usage data, which speaks to how much time teachers and students are spending with individual ed-tech products that K-12 systems have purchased.

An analysis produced recently by Brightbytes suggested that districts aren’t getting their money’s worth. A median of 30 percent of the ed-tech licenses purchased by K-12 districts–as tracked through Brightbytes’ proprietary platform–go unused used, the report found. And a median of 97.6 ed-tech licenses are never used “intensively.”

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