In another sign of how the educational technology market has gone global, a U.S.-based provider of learning management systems, Schoology, has been chosen to provide a platform to deliver academic content as part of a massive project underway in Uruguay.
Schoology’s work will be conducted through a government-run project called Plan Ceibal, widely regarded as one of the most ambitious school technology projects in the world.
A central part of Plan Ceibal is to provide more than 600,000 students with computing devices as part of a 1-to-1 project, and to provide Internet access in schools across the nation of 3.3 million citizens.
Based in New York City, Schoology seeks to offer services far beyond those of a typical learning management system. Users are given access to a platform that connects them with other educators and students around the globe. That means teachers in different countries can coordinate lessons, professional development, and other activities—and students can receive online instruction—via laptops or other computing devices, said Jeremy Friedman, the co-founder and CEO of Schoology, in an interview.
In Uruguay, those functions will allow educators to reach beyond their country’s borders for help with stated priorities, such as instruction on English language and other topics, and tap into a vast network of instructional tools and ideas, Friedman said.
Schoology will not provide content through the program, but will instead give Uruguay the platform to create, deliver, and manage the content, said Friedman.
“It connects people across the globe,” he said. By using the system, “you’re able to bridge a gap that you could not, otherwise.”
The company, which currently has 80 employees, serves individual schools, districts, and universities in many foreign countries already, though this is Schoology’s first contract with a foreign government, Friedman said.
He declined to describe the size of the contract between Schoology and Plan Ceibal, but said it was a project of “a very large scale, and very meaningful to our company.”
A lot of analyses published over the past few years have shown a growing worldwide demand for educational technology. That growth is particularly evident in Latin America, where various governments have initiated ambitious digital projects, and public demand for technology has increased with the maturation of a burgeoning middle class with increased buying power.
In a statement, the president of Plan Ceibal, Miguel Brechner, said that since the technology project was conceived, his country has provided laptops for every student and teacher in public education, and supplied Web connectivity to all educational facilities. Since 2012, national officials have turned their focus to using technology to improve the quality of teaching and learning. The country is counting on Schoology to contribute to those efforts.
“In our holistic approach [to] pedgogy and technology, we believe that Schoology will be a very relevant player in the integration of these two fields,” Brechner said in a statement.
Another Plan Ceibal official, Florencia Gonzalez, said in an e-mail to Education Week that the program received several bids for the learning-management work through a competitive process, before selecting Schoology earlier this year.
She said that Plan Ceibal also has a contract with a German company, Bettermarks, to help with the Uruguayan tech effort. Bettermarks officials told EdWeek that their company’s work in Uruguay is focused on providing adaptive math courseware. While Bettermarks’ platform includes a kind of classroom management, its central function is offering math content, company officials said.
UPDATE: I’ve updated this post with new information from Bettermarks officials regarding the type of work they’re doing in Uruguay.