Montreal-based online tutoring platform Gradeslam has raised “well over a million dollars” from Google’s AI Assistant Fund, Birchmere, BDC Capital, Reach Capital and Anges Quebec. The news was first reported by EdSurge.
GradeSlam will use the cash to build support for voice platforms, in order to reach more prospective students.
“Voice technology is the next-generation interface,” said CEO Philip Cutler. “After running countless focus groups it became evident that students from a younger age were asking voice assistant for help with their homework.”
Cutler started GradeSlam in 2014 to give every student in a school or district access to online tutoring support. It only sells this platform to educational and youth organizations, and so far has deals with roughly 200 partners, from school districts in southern California to the Canadian Junior Hockey League. The company claims it currently reaches more than 160,000 students.
Since 2016, edtech companies have raised more than $1.2 billion in venture capital, according to EdSurge data—most notably Chinese startups that connect local students with English tutors. But the market is saturated with them.
But, as EdSurge quoted Cutler as saying, most of these businesses target direct to consumer, or those who have the means to pay for afterschool help.
“I saw early on in my teaching career that a lot of my students were going to after-school homework help,” Cutler told EdSurge. “But they were often the wealthiest students. The students who needed the help the most, their families didn’t have the resources.”
The company previously raised $1.6 million in a seed round in 2016.
GradeSlam offers a web-based platform where students can ask for live help from a tutor on any subject, at any time. They can upload files or send a photo directly onto the platform, and communicate with a tutor via chat and a digital whiteboard. Tutors are encouraged to use a Socratic-based pedagogy to guide students through solving problems on their own. The tool includes an essay-review feature where a Gradeslam tutor will give feedback on students’ drafts within 24 hours.
All help requests and communication between students and tutors are captured on a dashboard that educators can review and see where learners may be struggling, or which topics remain confusing.
Tutors on GradeSlam must undergo a certification process, which includes a background check, vetting educational credentials, passing an in-person interview and teaching a mock 60-minute session. Currently the company boasts more than 100 tutors, and
Cutler told the website that full-time tutors can make up to $50,000 a year.
Schools pay between $125 to $150 per student per year, he adds, which gives every student access to tutors around the clock. Peak usage hours are generally between 5 to 10pm.