The Internet’s reshaped how we live our lives. We’re ordering movies online from Netflix. We’re listening to music from Pandora and iTunes. We’re “liking” status updates and chatting with our friends during the day on Facebook. And we’re condensing our thoughts into 140-characters or less, all while video blogging on YouTube.
But, where’s education, and why is the Internet just facing it now? The team behind Lore asked the same question before they set out to redefine how educators and learners communicate.
“Education so badly needs a network,” says Hunter Horsley, who runs Lore’s marketing and operations. When tasked with defining what really makes the college experience, Horsley would say “interaction,” claiming, “you’re a student giving a presentation or a professor giving a lecture,” and what you want is interaction — a response from those in front of you. “So, if education is about people, why has the Internet not really touched education?” Horsley asks.
This network all started as Coursekit, Lore’s former name. Founded by three University of Pennsylvania students — Joseph Cohen, Dan Getelman and Jim Grandpre — Coursekit launched as a social network for courses: what the team calls “the smallest unit for learning.” Each course was given a Facebook-like stream, calendar, grade book and place to dump and collect assignments. Within six or so months, Coursekit was in use at more than 600 colleges, including Harvard, Boston University, MIT and UMass Amherst.
The team raised a $1 million seed round led by IA Ventures in June 2011, and a $5 million Series A round led by The Social + Capital Partnership seven months later. Then, this past April, PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel jumped on board, dishing out an amount the team has yet to disclose, and the team changed their name to Lore to reflect their expansion beyond just college courses.
At the time, Thiel, who’s paid for students to drop out of college — which all three co-founders have done — said he was using the platform in his computer science class at Stanford. In a statement Thiel said:
The Internet is reshaping how people learn, and Lore is one of the companies making that happen. My course at Stanford is using Lore and we can see dynamics changing already.
Based in Tribeca, Lore’s focused on giving people not only a place to connect, but also a place to have an identity as both an educator and a learner. To Lore, the “smallest unit of learning” changed from course to person, and users are now able to create bios, upload their résumé, write aspirations and keep track of all their courses all in one place. “We’re giving you a much richer identity as a student,” Horsley says.
As students complete courses, Horsley says he’s noticed they continue to interact, sharing photographs, starting conversations and keeping up-to-date with their former classmates. Yet, Horsley also sees students using these profiles as something they can begin to share with future employers, as well.
Although LinkedIn might be useful for “40-year-old professionals,” the network only highlights a user’s “storied career,” placing education all the way at the bottom. Neither students nor academics “have a good way to show off what they’re doing as people,” Horsley says, admitting, “I think the profiles we built on Lore are going to be amazing.”
Now, employers could choose to see the one summer internship and where a student went to school on LinkedIn, or they could look at all the classes a student took specifically and how fellow students are interacting with that applicant via Lore.
As part of Lore’s recent re-design, users can also audit the professors’ courses who opt to make their lessons available. Therefore, anyone who’s logged into the Lore platform, yet isn’t enrolled in a class on campus, can follow a course and watch it.
Although Horsley wouldn’t be specific when asked “What’s next?,” he did hint that “there’s a little bit more for students coming.”
After seeing Lore’s growth in just the past year, it’s hard to imagine what more they could accomplish. Education needed this, though, and education will continue to need this as it adjusts to the online world.