In the post about USV’s initial investment in Outschool 16 months ago, I wrote about the dramatic need for innovation in an education system that looked effectively the same as it did 50 years ago. While the internet had altered almost every element of our lives, the only meaningful change to education was rising barriers to access–growing debt, more expensive tuition, falling aid, and increased obstacles based on where students lived and what they could afford.
Today, the world is different. Necessity driven change has been a constant of this pandemic with education at the center. Most of this change has been chaotic, frightening, and difficult for the millions of families navigating the balance between safety, school, childcare, and employment. The inequalities in the system have only been accentuated. School districts are stalled by politics, the list of unknown variables, and the weight of processes.
The silver lining of challenging times is often an openness to new ways of doing things that leads to long term behavior change and the evolution of norms. That’s what we’re seeing in education as parents and students have discovered fresh ways of learning, the best of which have come from outside of the traditional school systems and reached learners directly. There is a new sense of agency around putting together an education, and tools and platforms, including Outschool, that offer convenience, quality, and affordability to families at a critical time are providing huge value and seeing unprecedented growth. We are all realizing, because we have to, that learning not only can look different than it has, but might also be better–more fun, more personalized, more effective, more affordable– than it’s been.
This accelerated behavior change makes us excited to participate in Outschool’s $45M Series B led by Lightspeed and alongside our current coinvestors including Reach Capital, Y Combinator and SV Angel.
Outschool now offers learners between 3 and 18 the chance to supplement their learning with more than 50,000 options. Classes like Zombie Apocalypse During the American Colonial Period, Grammar Detectives in the Rainforest and Mathtopia: An Original Math Musical have let students discover and follow passions, learn in intimate settings, and connect with classmates across the country (and increasingly the globe.) Outschool has also given parents an affordable resource for their kids that has deeply resonated. Bookings in August 2020 were up 2000% from August 2019. To keep up, the platform has added more than 5,000 new teachers since March, offering an outlet for educators to teach what they love and build meaningful and growing businesses.
Early on during COVID, Amir and his team quickly realized they would be failing their community if they didn’t find a way to support all learners during this time, including those who needed financial aid. In response, they launched Outschool.org, which allows students to take classes for free while still paying teachers. Now with a designated Executive Director, outside capital, and more than $3M contributed from Outschool itself, Outschool.org will continue making live online learning available to everyone.
Nearly 40% of parents say they’ve disenrolled their children from the school they were set to attend this year. 60% of those parents are putting their children in an online program. We don’t think all of these students will continue to only learn online or abandon the traditional school systems. But we do think this behavior is indicative of long term change and will expedite a growing appetite for new ways of doing things–and that as parents and students explore them, some of them will like it and stick, changing the system over time from the outside in.
We are excited to support Outschool in their leadership of this category and eager to talk to the others that are working toward this goal, too.