Classroom Engagement: 9 Startups to Watch in 2018

  • 9 November 2017
  • Walter Couture

The traditional classroom is pretty much a one-way deal where the teacher delivers a predetermined lesson, the students do some predetermined exercises, and they get tested with predetermined questions. See any pattern here?

The modern classroom is more open-minded and moves from teacher-centric to student-centric. It endeavors to engage the students in creative projects and higher-order thinking.  It goes beyond printed textbooks and embraces digital and multimedia technology. It brings in the Internet and brings out the classroom into museums and libraries and places of historic or scientific value.

And it makes things come alive with all sorts of new approaches that stimulate a student’s imagination and promote a high degree of engagement.

There are many educational startups that are taking note of the new classroom and creating exciting opportunities for teachers and students to interact in new, more enjoyable and more productive ways. Here are 9 notable examples.

Top Hat

Top Hat, an educational startup that recently raised $7.5 M with Leaders Fund, is one of the new companies expanding the traditional classroom experience.

The company’s approach to education allows students to participate on any device they prefer whether that is a smartphone, a feature phone, an iPad or a laptop.

Top Hat

Instructors use polls, quizzes, and interactive demonstrations in class and get real-time feedback on how well the students understand the material. This multi-platform approach to student participation and engagement, combined with the “instant” feedback, is the new wave in education.


Oddcast brings a new level of creativity to the classroom by using a scheme popular with young people – talking characters or avatars – through a free iOS application called Voki.

Voki is a mobile app created to simulate the online experience and allows students to create avatars in the classroom to help explain their projects and solutions. It’s a fun way for students to work on their assignments.

Voki App – Oddcast

Voki has been used to teach history, foreign languages, and other subjects and is customizable to create historical figures, cartoons, and animals. Going one step further, the app can also be used to portray the students themselves, even recording their voices. Talking Vokis can be shared, emailed or used in social media.

Oddcast is showing that not only can technology improve student engagement, but it can make learning fun as well.


While Oddcast uses avatars, another educational startup, Fundamentor, uses gamification to engage students.

Based in India, Fundamentor is a structured learning program using a web application and platform that offers points, badges, and levels as well as social interaction.


Using its core application technology, analytics, and gamification, Fundamentor claims that its approach helps students with life skills like problem-solving, decision making, creativity and overall communications.

Why it works – Fundamentor


Similar to Top Hat, Nearpod is another educational startup that employs device-independent learning, providing an all-in-one solution synchronized across many mobile devices used in the classroom

Nearpod provides software that allows teachers to bring the classroom to life with interactive mobile presentations that they create and customize themselves.

How it works – Nearpod

Teachers can download interactive multimedia presentations or create them. Students then interact with the lesson and submit responses through whatever mobile device they prefer. Students can also join the lesson remotely, making the classroom a virtual one.


Programming is a popular subject for many in this digital age, and one company, Codecademy, thinks it has a better approach to educating college level students.

Founded in New York in 2011, Codecademy received venture capital from firms Kleiner Perkins and Index Ventures, along with British mogul Richard Branson.

In business for just over five years, the company, which offers to teach coding interactively for free, claims over one million users.


Building on available open source software like Linux, MySQL, Firefox and WordPress, Codecademy is disrupting the classroom by bringing it online and creating what the company calls the first truly net-native education platform.

The company says it takes its lead from sources like Facebook and Zynga rather than the traditional classroom.


Cofounded by its CEO, Alex Rappaport, Flocabulary is a Brooklyn-based educational technology company that is bringing a whole new dimension to classroom teaching, creating educational hip-hop videos for students in grades K-12.

Flocabulary’s online library has been called “The 21st-century Schoolhouse Rock,” featuring over 500 videos that teach topics ranging from math and science to social studies, reading and vocabulary.

How to use Flocabulary

Flocabulary offers free songs and videos, and its library hip-hop programs are used to teach standards-based skills and content, provide analytics, and inspire students to create their own educational raps.

That’s student engagement at its best.

Boundless Learning

Founded in 2011 and with over $11M in funding, Boundless Learning moves student resources from the classroom to the cloud, allowing students and teachers to ditch the heavy and expensive textbooks.

No longer restricted to outdated textbooks and printed materials, the cloud resources of Boundless Learning provide a wealth of current materials in a variety of formats that add richness and convenient access.

The company currently offers over 20 subjects, with more on the way.

Catalog – Boundless


CueThink takes its lead from social media.

Founded in 2012 by its CEO, Sheela Sethuraman, and with $18K of financing in its first round, CueThink is a peer-to-peer mobile learning platform for middle and high school students to help them with math and problem-solving skills.

The company leverages what students already know and do well (social media, content publishing, and gaming) and uses those experiences in the classroom.


The company’s goal is to provide a social, collaborative, and interactive learning environment. Its philosophy is to give students the opportunity to learn math from not only their teacher but also from their friends by sharing their thinking process

It’s really turning the math class into a social learning community, almost a “crowdsourcing” environment. Students create “thinklets” or video vignettes of their solutions, recording their voices as think-aloud presentations. Students review each other’s work and share comments.


Sutori is a free digital learning tool for the classroom, enabling teachers and students to create interactive stories through a simple and intuitive interface. It’s basically a story-telling and presentation tool that can be used in every subject area and at every grade level.


The company says its method is “cooler than a slide and more dynamic than an essay.” Students can create imaginative visual presentations, embedding multimedia aspects and including other materials like Google Docs or a Quizlets.

As you can see, the classroom of today is far more engaging than ever before, making good use of the Internet, avatars, gaming, multimedia, social media, animation, music, and even dance moves. It’s not your grandmother’s schoolhouse anymore.

About Walter Couture

Walter is an award-winning writer and blogger; former K12 teacher, corporate and college executive. Managed $100 million sales force for Received BA in Psychology from University of Minnesota, MA in Teaching & Learning with Technology from Ashford University.