Tag Archives: Germany

Video Tuition Platform sofatutor raises €3,5 million led by German publisher Cornelsen

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Berlin-based online video tuition platform sofatutor has raised €3.5 million in a round led by German education publisher Cornelsen with participation of existing investors Acton Capital Partners, J.C.M.B. and IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft.

In 2012 German edtech startup raised a low million Euro round from Acton Capital Partners and another undisclosed round from J.C.M.B. and IBB Beteiligungsgesellschaft in early 2010 according to CrunchBase.

Continue reading Video Tuition Platform sofatutor raises €3,5 million led by German publisher Cornelsen

HEDLINE: Patience.io raises Series A led by Holtzbrinck Digital

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Berlin-based Patience.io, a SaaS platform serving educators and institutions who want to create online courses and sell them via their own websites, raised an undisclosed Series A from Holtzbrinck Digital and RI Digital Ventures reports Venture Village.

The funding will be used to grow the team and expand into new markets.

Continue reading HEDLINE: Patience.io raises Series A led by Holtzbrinck Digital

HEDLINE: Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek officially launched

The first full version of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek was officially launched on March 31st. The DDB has been online in an open beta version since late 2012.

The objective of this digital library is to give everybody access to German cultural and scientific heritage free of charge and is part of a bigger European initiative called Europeana.

Continue reading HEDLINE: Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek officially launched

Berlin-based Lingoda enters the crowded ESL Market with Online Language School Concept

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Berlin-based Lingoda is a new player in the online English learning space. The platform offers a mix of self-paced video based learning material, group classes and individual classes with a tutor. The premise is that the learner will be speaking English fluently within twelve months.

Lingoda has been founded by Fabian and Felix Wunderlich and seems to be an iteration of their other startup Easy Languages which offeres German and English classes with tutors via the Internet. According to Deutsche Startups, Lingoda has recently raised some funding from Global Founders Capital, the new investment fund of the Samwer brothers. It’s little of a surprise that the mentioned above Easy Languages received angel funding from people in the Samwer network, former staff and founders.

I have definitely noticed a lot of Google Adwords ads for Lingoda and Easy Languages recently, so the marketing machine seems to run already. Inevitably, being a former online language coach myself, I had to take a closer look at the new platform and compare it to earlier players in the space like Myngle out of the Netherlands, Learnissimo and Lingueo out of France or Shanghai based italki.

First of all, Lingoda only offers one language to learn, English. The other language learning platforms expanded very quickly in as many languages as possible. I guess focus on (one of) the most popular language to learn is a good decision though the market is of course pretty saturated.

Another difference to the earlier players mentioned above is that Lingoda is defining itself as an online language school whereas Myngle, Learnissimo and Lingueo took the approach of a marketplace for language tutors (they have since pivoted). This often led to discussions about the quality of the offered lessons and how much the platform was able to intervene in the different teaching styles.

To further distinguish the service from other players in the space, Lingoda offers a mix of three learning types combined with the promise to teach fluent English in twelve months. Interestingly the video lessons are provided by a startup we covered a couple of years ago on our mother site EDUKWEST, namely English Central.

English Central is offering a vast catalog of video content and a pretty nifty set of features that includes voice recognition and automatic correction for pronunciation. The aim is to offer content based on the interests of different learners and their level of English. Partnering with a startup that takes care of such a complex technology instead of creating it on its own is another clever step.

Learners also get a personal adviser that helps them to stay focused, organize the best learning schedule and motivate them along the way. This is something that is often missing in the mix, so again a plus for Lingoda.

The last ingredient are of course the English tutors on the site. Lingoda, like everyone else in the space, is touting that those tutors are well trained, certified and love teaching English. Back in the days I tend to get myself into the role of a unionist for online language teachers, decrying the dumping prices that got out of hand and left the tutor with pocket money for their work. As I get older (and maybe wiser) I promised myself that I won’t drive up my blood pressure about things like this, so I just state that if you want to teach for Lingoda, the hourly rate is €8.50.

Now, I would really like to let you know what a student has to pay per month to get access to the video library, unlimited 24/7 group lessons and private 1:1 tutoring. The thing is that in order to get the pricing users need to leave their name, email address, telephone number, age range and where they heard of Lingoda. Quite frankly, just to get a price chart that is too much data for my taste in order to get cold calls and emails from the marketing department. If anyone knows the pricing, please leave it in the comments below.

All in all, I think Lingoda get some important points right, but I really truly don’t like the compensation model for tutors and the data scraping in order to get detailed information about the product. Whether the startup is going to get significant market share in the online ESL space is hard to predict though the neutral company name would not prevent Lingoda from adding more languages later on.

Germany: Baden Württemberg declares Social Media Ban in Schools over Privacy Concerns

In Germany data privacy protection is taken very seriously. With the NSA leaks it has become once again one of the hot topics of the upcoming Bundestagswahl (federal elections) but discussions around the topic are basically held on a monthly basis.

Yesterday the ministry of education in Baden Württemberg sent out a letter to all teachers in the state in which it explained that the use of social media in education is banned. Needless to say that this decisions has stirred up some passionate discussions. Today the ministry underlined that the letter does not set up new rules but simply clarifies already existing rules and regulations for the use of social media in the public education system of the state.

There are three main issues. The first one has to do with the location of the servers that host the social networks and therefore also host the data of teachers and students. Those servers are for the most part outside of Germany and hence usually in countries that have a less strict approach to data privacy.

Secondly, social networks tend to be advertising supported, hence the user pays for the service through sharing her personal data. Especially Facebook seems to breach a couple of terms in the German Telemediengesetz according to Jörg Klingbeil, appointee for data privacy protection in Baden Württemberg.

Last but not least, the ministry and teachers who also took part in the creation of the guidelines fear that students who are not using social networks like Facebook might get disadvantaged when teachers and students use those platforms to create study groups or use them to coordinate school related events and such.

Of course, this letter of advice leaves open a lot of questions and creates new grey areas. For example, is it OK for teachers to use Twitter to have an #edchat after school in which they naturally talk about school related topics. The only way teachers were on the safe side would then be to not use social networks at all which is also the worst of options.

The only approved option of using social media in the classroom now is to cover it as a topic and talk about the functions, opportunities and risks but without forcing the students to join one of the networks.

This story shows the differences we have in the European Union when it comes to data protection vs. facing the reality of technology taking over our daily life. The UK-based Education Foundation just published a Facebook Guide for Educators in which teachers find case studies and examples of how to use the social network in a school setting.

All of the above might leave an interesting option for the creation of a new education startup open, a German Edmodo, if you will. This network needed to be hosted entirely in Germany and complies with the data privacy protection laws. Of course, it needed to be paid or financed by the state as ad-based revenue would not be allowed. Looking at the success of Edmodo in the US it is somewhat astonishing that nobody has cloned it so far. Maybe based on the bad experiences with Studi-VZ.