Personalized Learning: 10 Startups to Watch in 2018

  • 20 December 2017
  • Walter Couture

The traditional classroom is designed to teach to the masses, providing content for the average learner, designing tests and evaluations for the average learner, and generally ignoring and individual strengths and weaknesses of its students.

That world is changing.

The talented students (and everyone is talented in some way) no longer want to wait for an average education. They want to learn their own way, at their own pace. They want personalized learning.

Personalized learning provides a highly focused and individual learning path for each student. It’s a category that includes technology like adaptive learning, digital courseware, analytics and any software that profiles an individual student and allows continual change and adjustment throughout the learning process.

Startups in the education field are taking notice of the movement and are banking on a widespread shift across the education spectrum toward individualized instruction, and counting on a seismic change in methods, materials, strategies and opportunities for profit.

Here are a few startups taking aim at this potentially lucrative market.


In 2014, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg assigned a team to work with a California charter school network known as Summit public schools. The educators and engineers are developing a platform called PLP (Personalized Learning Platform).

Facebook and Summit have an ambitious goal, and that’s to make PLP available in every K-12 school in the country. The opportunity for commercialization is huge.

Zuckerberg says “We think that personalized learning makes sense. We want to see as many good versions of this idea as possible get tested in the world.”

Summit Public Schools

He and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, have announced that they will eventually give 99 percent of their Facebook shares, worth an estimated $45 million, to a variety of software initiatives that “understand how you learn best and where you need to focus.”

Woot Math

Woot Math is a startup in Boulder that helps teachers create custom learning plans for students who have trouble understanding core math concepts.

The company’s software works on web and tablets, so students can use it in the classroom and at home.

Woot Math programs include video lessons and interactive activities that simulate working with tutors.


Based in Denver, Couragion helps students plan their careers, especially STEM careers, and exposes them to jobs based on their individual values, interests and ideal workplace.

The company produces an app that uses videos, games, and quizzes to discover more about different career options.

The technique features a large and diverse cast of people who are currently active in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.


So by combining software and real-world experience, Couragion gives students a look and feel into what it’s really like to work in those fields.


Claned is a Finland-based startup that uses a combination of artificial intelligence and theories based on educational psychology to create a platform for personal learning for each student.

Within their own personal spaces, students can read, write, watch videos, make notes, plan, chat, and collaborate with others. It is a social and learning platform.

Based on its technology, Claned understands how each student learns and how certain factors affect that student’s study performance and learning process.


It uses algorithms to provide insights into recommended study buddies, learning materials, and mentors best suited for each student.

The company claims to have made commercial deals in excess of 1 million euros in over 10 countries.

IMAX Program

IMAX Program is a school-based individualized curriculum program adopted by more than 800 schools and 3,00,000 students across India. The offering includes Teacher Manual, Textbooks, Workbooks, School Exams, Feedback Reports and Individualized Remedial Sheets. Its USP is using regular school exam data to provide printed remedial input individualized for each and every student. For this innovation and dramatic growth of 75x in the last three years, it was featured as a Harvard Business School case study.

Our roots go back to impact assessment services when we started in 2009. Our products are based on our insights about student learning culled from 16,00,000 assessments across 11 states of India.

The vision of IMAX is to ‘develop the best version of each learner’ by introducing rapid remedial feedback in all classrooms. To accomplish this, our EdTech company has a multi-disciplinary team of expert academicians and alumni of reputed institutes like IITs, IIMs, ISB, NID, RAND Corporation (USA), and Teach for India.

Our new innovation ClassKlap is a one-to-one classroom technology for upgrading traditional classrooms. Most traditional classrooms are built around a model where there is a teacher broadcasting to a classful of students without any ‘in-classroom' feedback mechanism to gauge if students have understood or not. Through ClassKlap, teachers have the ability to check in real time how many students have understood a concept, and which students need what kind of remedial support.  

We aim to serve 2 million students by 2020.



Knewton is a New York startup and adaptive learning company where each student gets a personalized curriculum based on his or her skills and level of learning and performance.

It analyzes learning materials based on thousands of data points – concepts, structures, media formats, and difficulty levels – and uses sophisticated algorithms to put together the perfect combination of content for each student each day.

The company claims to have the industry’s most powerful adaptive learning engine with continuous adaptivity to be able to customize individual content on a daily basis. It dynamically matches lessons, videos, and practice problems to each student’s learning arc.


Knewton has funding from London-based Pearson, a publishing company betting on the future of digital course material. Knewton’s adaptive learning platform plugs into textbook companies’ course materials.

Class performance – Knewton


Based in California, with development in India, Lrnr has created a cloud-based, online platform for adaptive learning.

It produces content and assessments that are continuously adapted for each student and measured to best manage learning outcomes.

Using AI and cognitive analysis, Lrnr has an “adaptive sidebar,” a context-sensitive companion, that dynamically updates itself with supplemental and core learning content.


Adaptative sidebar – Lrnr

It also has a “knowledge map” that superimposes a student’s learning level on each topic that indicates progress and level of understanding.

Knowledge map – Lrnr


Following this trend of publishers going digital, let’s talk about McGraw-Hill’s acquisition of ALEKS (Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces).

ALEKS is a product (and company) that uses machine-learning algorithms to ask adaptive questioning and analyze student responses to determine which mathematical concepts they do and do not understand.


McGraw-Hill and its investors are banking on ALEKS to become more than a teaching tool – optimally, a profit machine as well.


A Delhi-based startup, Mindler was found by Prateek Bhargava and his mentor, Prikshit Dhanda. Mindler provides a technology-enabled eco-system for career planning, development and mentoring of school students in the eighth and 12th grades.

The Mindler platform combines artificial intelligence and machine learning with strategic human interventions to help students and their parents choose the ideal career path for them.


Career library – Mindler

The platform involves a five-step multi-dimensional career assessment battery, having an algorithm-driven, semi-automated career planner, as well as tracker and course correction mechanism.

Advanced Assessment & Best-Fit Matches – Mindler

Desire2Learn and Knowillage Systems

Desire2Learn (DL2) s leader in providing cloud-based learning solutions for higher education, K-12, and Fortune 1000 companies.

The company recently acquired Vancouver-based Knowillage Systems, creators of an adaptive learning and analytics engine, called LeaP, that helps teachers improve student performance.


LeaP uses natural language processing, techniques and analytics to adjust student learning paths, understanding the areas where students are struggling and then guiding teachers to provide the right tools and content to address these areas.

No one knows what the future holds, but today’s teachers may just become tomorrow’s guidance counselors in a world where each student uses AI programs to follow his or her own personal and multidimensional curriculum in a personal learning environment.

About Walter Couture

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