Perhaps taking aim at the well-entrenched presence of other tech giants in the education market, Apple confirmed Thursday that it has acquired LearnSprout, a San Francisco-based startup that specializes in education analytics and used for tracking the performance of students.
The purchase of LearnSprout should give Apple some ammunition as it tries to challenge the existence of Microsoft’s software programs and Google’s Chromebook in the classroom.
Apple didn’t comment on the reasons for the purchase in a statement to Bloomberg, which first reported the acquisition. "Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans," said Colin Johnson, a spokesman for Apple, in the statement. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
More than 2,500 schools use LearnSprout’s software across 400 districts in 42 states. The company’s products track students’ grades, as well as patterns in other categories such as health and attendance.
The LearnSprout enterprise reporting platform is used by schools and districts to analyze the data they collect within their student information systems (SIS). This is facilitated by a secure data synchronization process that’s set up between the SIS and LearnSprout as a read-only connection that effectively lets schools take snapshot of their data that they can use to analyze performance.
The data that’s gathered ranges from basic information such as the school’s location to more granular data such as student gender, letter grades each student receives in each course, scores in standardized tests and even the room number where tests are given.
Apple has made pronounced efforts to get more educational institutions to use iPads. Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 9.3, is helping make that happen by introducing features that, for instance, will make it possible for several students to share a single iPad. iOS 9.3 also accommodates multi-user accounts, has a classroom teaching assistant app, and is designed to help teachers manage classrooms full of the devices.
The company is also planning a Web tool, Apple School Manager, that lets administrators handle tasks like creating Apple IDs, building courses, and making volume app and book purchases. Recently, Apple also expanded iPad software to accommodate more classroom-friendly features, and is rolling out a Web site that will spotlight Apple’s education-related products and services.
Apple is also aiming to fill the gap with its new iPad Pro, which has a larger display canvas for multitasking multiple apps, as well as with the iPad Air 3, which is scheduled to be released as soon as March.
As Google's inexpensive, lightweight Chromebook has risen in prominence, the education market share held by Microsoft and Apple has dwindled. Microsoft had a foothold on the education market for years because of its Windows products.
Four-year-old LearnSprout has raised more than $4 million from investors. The company’s primary competitor is Clever, which has raised more than $40 million from investors.
Image Credit: Screenshot from LearnSprout.