In the K-12 education market, Nearpod boasts a far reach, claiming its tools are used by about 7 million students in 60 percent of U.S. K-12 districts.
Now it has set its sights higher—literally—by looking at colleges and universities.
Originally designed for the K-12 market, Nearpod’s interactive lesson and assessment tools have unintentionally attracted some 200 higher-ed institutions that are already paying for the product, according to Felipe Sommer, the company’s co-founder and chief operating officer. Still, these users account for just a fraction of its overall user base, of whom up to 90 percent are in K-12, by his estimate.
Today, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based company is launching a new offering to grow its higher-ed footprint. Dubbed simply “Nearpod for Higher Education,” the product lets faculty and instructors upload lessons and presentations, add interactive features and assessments, create polls and quizzes, and then beam them directly to students’ devices. Students can follow at their own pace and deliver responses back to the instructor.
In essence, Nearpod offers a bundle of services that college departments may already purchase separately, including presentation delivery tools such as Top Hat and student response systems commonly called “clickers.”
For a product that was once billed as an “interactive lecture” platform, higher ed appears to be a natural home. For Julie Reinhart, chair of the education department at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, the tool has become a staple on multiple fronts. She’s used it since 2015 to share presentations in her classes and has also taught aspiring K-12 STEM teachers how they can use Nearpod in their classrooms.
Suffice it to say, college students aren’t always on task or pay attention in college classes, especially those on laptops. For Reinhart, the fact that Nearpod can beam materials and quizzes directly to a student’s web browser is a powerful, albeit forcing, function for ensuring their engagement. There’s a better chance that everyone in class is on the same page, and instructors can immediately see responses from students.
Nearpod for Higher Education screenshot
“We strive for retention and engagement, and making sure that everybody is learning,” says Reinhart. “I can see where everyone is at any single point, and they know that I’m going to be paying attention.” Six departments at Saint Xavier University are currently using Nearpod, she adds.
On Nearpod, professors can also share lessons with colleagues within their department or institution.
“We’ve long considered higher ed as one of the opportunities for expanding our business,” says Sommer. It wasn’t until earlier this year, though, that he led a small crack team of five to explore the new market. What they found was that Nearpod was popular among certain departments, including schools of education, health sciences, business and law. Preservice teachers (college students training to teach) made up a sizable number of higher ed users, he adds.
To get the word out about the new product, the company is prepared to woo faculty one at a time, with a focus on instructors and instructional designers. “Professors are often very independent when it comes to deciding what tools they use,” says Sommer. “For us, it’s imperative that we take a bottom-up approach. It’s really hard to go from the top and expect to see university-wide adoption immediately.”
Sommer did not disclose pricing details for the higher-ed offering, only stating that Nearpod is committed to keeping the tool free for students. It wants departments or universities to foot the bill. Currently, the company charges K-12 teachers $10 per month for an individual account; the rate is lower for bulk purchases.
Some of the materials available in the Nearpod’s original flagship product will not be available in the higher ed version, including its library of digital content from third-party providers that primarily cover K-12 subjects. Sommer envisions that the company could eventually offer materials around soft skills, social-emotional learning and professional development relevant to higher education, but “we don’t see ourselves competing with curriculum publishers.”
Sommer acknowledges the stiff competition in the higher-ed market, where “there are a bunch of players who provide different pieces” of what Nearpod offers.
The company is currently “not profitable by design,” he adds, explaining that Nearpod has chosen to invest in growing its product and team. The company today has about 200 full-time employees, and has raised more than $30.7 million in venture capital to date.
In April, the company made its first acquisition in Flocabulary, a creator of educational hip-hop videos. That month, Forbes reported that the company is “on track” to make $50 million in annual recurring revenue.