Toronto-based Top Hat Monocle, providers of an in-class student response system through apps that replace traditional classroom clickers, announced today that it has a signed distribution agreement with Pearson, an education company with a stronghold in higher education, for its textbooks and online learning solutions. The initial rollout will begin with students receiving a discounted subscription to Top Hat Monocle as part of their purchase of participating Pearson textbooks.
The partnership was initially prompted by mutual customers wondering about possible integrations between the companies. Top Hat Monocle’s CEO Mike Silagadze and COO Andrew D’Souza spoke with BetaKit about how the partnership will benefit students. “Where we’re starting is simplifying the student experience, it’s a single purchase, it’s an operative discount. Then we’re moving into more interesting integrations delivering Pearson content through Top Hat Monocle, delivering grades back to Pearson products, those are all in the works,” said D’Souza in an interview.
BetaKit last covered the edtech startup when it added $1.1 million to its existing $8 million Series A round, and at the time D’Souza said the company was creating a content marketplace to enable professors and partners to distribute ready-made material for use with the platform. As part of the partnership, instructors will eventually be able to request things like clicker questions, polling, and other course-specific content for individual Pearson textbooks. Sales representatives from both companies will be collaborating to work on increasing integration between the two companies.
Top Hat Monocle is also working on researching and documenting the impact of its technology on student learning in higher education, with a pilot study proving positive correlation between its use and student engagement and attendance (though they likely wouldn’t have released the study data if it found anything but a positive result for the company). Another feature it will be piloting in Canada in a few weeks is a new tournament module that aims to gamify assignments by having students compete with each other and ranking them on how well they know a subject, with the company comparing students to show which university produces the best performance by subject.
“It’s a way to make a traditionally passive and solitary activity like assignment and homework become much more active and engaging, a social experience for students,” said Silagadze. “What the tournament module does is it changes that process so that instead of doing problems on their own, they compete with other students in real-time to solve problems…at the end of 10 or 20 rounds of that, they get a ladder ranking of where they stand compared to other students, and while they’re playing they get paired with students roughly of their same ability.”
The partnership is not an exclusive one where Pearson wouldn’t be able to tap other options like Via Response, Coursemodo or Echo360 down the road, and Top Hat Monocole is also free to partner with other education companies. However, D’Souza believes the partnership does validates Top Hat Monocle’s value proposition and offering by getting the nod from one of the larger players in the global education space. With Pearson’s distribution network now made available, Top Hat Monocle is poised to continue its growth, but will have to continue to iterate quickly to fend off any existing or emerging players in the fast-paced edtech space.