'WhatsApp for education' company Aula raises $4.2m
The young company has worked with students and educators at universities to develop a communication platform for education.
The seed funding round was led by investors Project A, Brighteye Ventures and Sunstone with participation from existing investors including Nordic Makers.
It will be used to invest in building the case for a ‘digital campus’ with existing partner institutions, to find new partner institutions and to make it easier to build integrations with the Aula platform.
Aula was developed as a response to dissatisfaction with the Learning Management Systems - such as Blackboard and Canvas - being used by universities to make announcements and store files.
Inspired by the way in which educators and students use communication tools such as WhatsApp and Slack, Aula replaces emails and learning management systems with a single platform designed to encourage interaction and student engagement.
Aula was founded at the University of Oxford in 2016 by Anders Krohn, Adrian Franklin and Oliver Nicolini, who were driven to build Aula based on their own experiences as students.
The team developed the platform by working closely with educators and students, carrying out 230 pilot classes across 30 institutions that ranged from small workshops at MIT to large physics classes at Imperial College London.
“As universities strive towards a greater emphasis on student engagement and participation, digital learning infrastructure is often one of the main stumbling blocks,” said Aula CEO and co-founder Anders Krohn.
“The platforms currently being used are clunky and end up serving mainly as digital filing cabinets for PDFs and lecture slides.
“Technology can do so much more than that—with Aula, we’ve created the platform we wished we had: an engaging and interactive digital space for students, staff, and educators.”
The funding follows the release of Aula’s institutional version in September 2017.
Dr Gary Pritchard, dean of the School of Media at Ravensbourne, a creative arts university in London, said: “We’ve seen immediate benefits from moving students to Aula.
“A survey among students showed that Aula is easy to use and helps them get support and feel part of a digital community of staff and students.”
Other early adopter institutions include the Royal College of Art, the University of Nottingham, and the University of Derby.
The new investors will be joining the investors in Aula’s pre-seed round in January 2017, which included the edtech investor Emerge Education and was led by Nordic Makers.
Following the round, European angel investor Hampus Jakobsson, Anton Waitz of Project A, Professor Rose Luckin of University College London and founder of Educate, Christian Jepsen of Sunstone and Alex Spiro of Brighteye Ventures will be joining the Aula board.
“One reason we are so excited about the edtech space is that it brings up extraordinary founders that are intrinsically motivated to build products that have a meaningful impact,” said Project A partner Anton Waitz.
“Anders and his team are a perfect example, it is one of the most dedicated and passionate teams we have ever met.”
Alex Spiro, managing partner at Brighteye Ventures, said: “Higher education has traditionally lagged behind when it comes to implementing new technologies and it continues to be a heavily underserved market.
“Aula’s success demonstrates that universities are recognising the need to invest in their digital infrastructure in order to provide the best possible experience for students.”