Irish tech teaches world a lesson

Digital workbooks from Adaptemy have gone from Dublin to Slovakia and Mexico, writes Trish Dromey

Adaptemy co-founders Conor Flynn and Conor O'Sullivan

Secondary school students in Slovakia and Mexico will this month start using digital workbooks which have been created using technology developed by Dublin startup Adaptemy.

One of only a small number of companies in the world to have developed personalised, adaptive learning technology for use in schools, its software is now being used in five countries and the company is in the process of raising €1.5m in order to develop global sales.

Since setting up in 2015, Adaptemy has signed contracts with four large educational publishers — including one in Germany and one in Spain — which add content to the Dublin company’s technology to create digital workbooks used to supplement textbooks.

“We estimate that our digital workbooks are now being used by tens of thousands of students in several hundred schools,” said chief executive and co-founder Conor O’Sullivan.

In Ireland, Adaptemy has partnered with Folens Publishers to create a specific maths product for Junior Certificate called Build Up, which is now being used by 158 secondary schools across the country.

Adaptemy is finalising contracts with two more educational publishers, one in Europe and one in Africa, and is also in advanced negotiations with a publisher in the US. “We are talking to publishers in 60 countries and have plans to develop sales in Latin America and Europe and also to move in to Asia,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

He said this type of product marks a significant advance in the use of technology in schools.

“We are bringing artificial intelligence to the classroom. Our digital workbook provides immediate and personalised feedback to students on their homework and makes suggestions about what to focus on next.”

Believing this is the way forward in education for the future, Mr O’Sullivan said it has been speculated that the global adaptive learning technology market could be worth €1.25bn in the next five to 10 years.

Mr O’Sullivan and fellow co-founder Conor Flynn originally began working on the technology for a digital workbook while working for Folens’ e-learning company Apierian. “At that time, nobody really spoke of artificial intelligence in education and the predominant use of technology in classrooms was for digital copies of textbooks,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

Some universities had begun using adaptive learning technology and the two men, one with experience in digital educational publishing and the other a teacher who had worked as a curriculum consultant, were tasked with developing a similar product for schools.

When Apierian closed in 2015, they decided the idea for the personalised digital workbook was worth pursuing.

Setting up Adaptemy in 2015 with a staff of five, they raised €3m. Recognised as a High Potential Start Up company by Enterprise Ireland, they raised an additional €250,000 and have now increased the staff size to 15.

“Our business model involves partnering with education publisher in each country and adding adaptive and personalised learning technology to their products,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

The first product was Build Up for Folens, and it was followed by a software product allowing publishers to customise the app for each country and curriculum. This year, Adaptemy launched a product which allows publishers integrate the technology into their existing products across multiple subjects.

Until now, the technology, which is licensed to publishers on a SaaS (software as a service) basis, has mostly been used for maths and science, but Mr O’Sullivan said he expects to see this broaden. “We are working on a projects with Dublin City University to create a virtual science lab for schools — we will be showing the prototype for this at a conference in Bucharest next month.”

R&D is continuing and Adaptemy has started work on developing an adaptive learning solution which can be used by students to learn English.

The €1.5m now being raised will be used both for R&D and also to expand sales in new markets.

By the end of 2018, the company aims to have sales in 12 countries and to have grown the staff size to 20.



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