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The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Education

01 / NYU

For opening up a second campus in Abu Dhabi. There, NYU is shepherding the most successful and ambitious attempt yet to export overseas a full-fledged American liberal arts university.

02 / LinkedIn >>

For developing LinkedIn's Career Explorer, which offers users career path recommendations that are tailored to their interests and based on the real paths of professionals with similar profiles. CEO Reid Hoffman is also actively involved in the national conversations surrounding the future of education, and envisions his company as a 21st century diploma.

03 / Khan Academy

For building a collection of more than 1,800 short, simple video lectures and chalkboard demos that cover everything from math to physics to economics. The brain behind these web tutorials: Sal Khan, a 33-year-old Harvard MBA who developed the project out of his closet. Now, with Gates Foundation funding, he's taking his adaptive learning system to classrooms.

04 / Discovery Education

For leading the way in the digital learning movement by making video-based content that reaches more than half of all U.S. schools, including 1 million teachers and 35 million students. The company developing digital math and science curricula for public school students in Chicago and Detroit.

05 / Togetherville

For creating a social network built on top of Facebook for kids, families, and teachers that allows them to express their thoughts on educational issues. Roughly 90,000 U.S. schools are already included in its database.

06 / Autodesk Sustainability Workshop

For teaching mechanical engineers (for free) the principles behind sustainable design. The workshop is the brainchild of designer Dawn Danby, who has worked on furniture, urban planning, and retail systems projects.

07 / OpenStudy

For building a social learning network where students can ask questions, offer help, and connect with other students studying similar topics. Its mission is to make the world one large study group, regardless of students' locations or backgrounds.

08 / Irynsoft

For providing the first basic mobile platform that allows users to take a course on their iPhone. It has already been adopted by MIT Open CourseWare.

09 / Straighterline

For developing an online for-profit college where the first year costs $999.

10 / Inigral

For creating Facebook apps that help students stay in college by connecting them to a community of students who share their interests. Inigral also received the first-ever venture investment from the Gates Foundation.

Browse our list of The World's Most Innovative Companies 2011

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  • Mike Noble

    Another innovative and useful site is 48 Sessions. They
    bring together thousands of videos of conference lectures from some incredible big-time
    events. It's like TED but for thousands of other events. Speaking of TED, why weren't they on the list?

  • Jane

    NYU has a good PR dept, I guess. Many universities have campuses that were recruited by, and paid for, Middle Easter countries. Abu Dhabi and Qatar are big players in this area.This is not innovation. NYU should not be on the list at all, let alone in the first position.

  • Tom

    Pretty weak list. Facebook and Iphone apps, an overseas campus, online content. Not too revolutionary.

  • Jason Buckheit

    I don't agree with many of the companies on this list especially NYU and LinkedIn and Straighterline. I think companies such as Smart Technologies, Intel, Critical Links and Blackboard are developing a lot more innovative solutions in the area of education.

  • Joan Jaeckel

    Public Waldorf Education - a distributed not-for-profit cultural network of over 45-and-growing public schools - for designing an childhood-energy-efficient real-time K-12 learning platform that allows a program delivery team of breathing Waldorf-certified teachers to presence a 21st education of Relevance, Relationship and Rigor that grows with the learner.

  • laude05

    None of these innovative methods will succeed unless or until they are accepted as the equivalent of traditional learning methods. That implies some recognized method of certification that are universally accepted by other schools and by employers. While certification for employment may not be the primary purpose of education, it certainly is important and that piece of paper proving knowledge is becoming more necessary every day.

  • Bryan

    Clearly the biggest issue is that the advancements in education lag far, far behind those in more profitable sectors. This list is dreadfully unimpressive at best. Education is extremely hard for any company to get traction in because it's so segmented and the end users are not the purchasers. Purchasing products, especially in public education is an insane process and approval for large purchases becomes a game of who has the right connections, rarely is it based on the best or most user-friendly services. It's a self defeating system and a real shame because if you look at the value a product like foursquare brings to society compared to the impact that a great educational tool could have, it's absurd to think that it should be valued at hundreds of times the valuation of basically any education focused tech company.

    Sure there are some big VC names getting involved in education, afterall there are enough schools and large enough market (in theory) that all good ideas seem like a reasonable gamble with low barriers to entry, but truth is, there are some enormous barriers to profitability. People in cash strapped schools (which is basically all of them) either expect something for free or don't take the kind of ownership of programs that make them successful enough to be worthy of future renewals. Education is a very difficult sector and it's clear that the smartest minds and best developers have avoided the sector like the plague--this list is evidence of that.

  • Clyde Morgan

    The real concern with some of these innovative companies is that the buzz outstrips the value--or accuracy--of the content. I went to the Kahn Academy videos after his TED talk and the very first one had a scientific error in the first minute or so (drawing tails on "apes" in the evolution video). It is a small, but a very real error. There were several more in that video and each of the first three I watched had such subtle scientific misconceptions and errors sprinkled throughout them.
    It's great that a lot of these people are being innovative, but innovative delivery helps no one if the actual educational content is erroneous.

  • Clyde,

    Perhaps this didn't exist in the past when you made this comment, but now Khan has the ability to "report a mistake in the video". That way, we can collectively help improve educational content so it is NOT erroneous.

  • Sal Pellettieri

    Not entirely sure I agree with everything on the list, but overall nice article. I would say that NYU opening a campus is not a big deal IMO. Also I don't think education when I hear LinkedIn. Khan Academy and Open Study for sure. I would also add to the list University of the People, MIT OCW, Edmodo and YouTube. I would also like to someday make this list with my startup (

  • Stephan Newhouse

    Knewton should be on this list. Very innovative adaptive learning technology that tailors itself automatically to each student as it learns what teaching methods are most effective and what subject matter to focus on for that individual. It's primarily geared towards test preparation (I assume because that was a good wedge business model) but they seem ultimately interested in applying their technology on a much broader level within education systems...

  • Rhodell Fields

    Extremely interesting innovations. With the proliferation of online learning, I have, for some time now, been trying to figure out how to take my experience as an online professor into the open market. That is, it is about time that universities and colleges hire qualified instructors without regard to where he/she may be located in the world. In this day and time of budget crunches, it seems like the thing to do. No benefits packages, etc., just pay by course. Anyone out there of similar thought, let's see if we can work on this together.

  • Darwin

    These companies all seem very innovative, and I'm sure they are good for education...but are they really the "10 most innovative companies in education???" They all have to do with Facebook and iPhone apps, digital learning, social networking etc... It seems like this is just a list tailor-made for the readers of this publication.

    How about non-profits like Citizen Schools, who run incredibly innovative programs like bringing in talented engineers, computer programmers and specialists of all kinds into low-performing school districts to teach after-school education and get kids excited about learning and going to college (as well as bringing in companies to contribute to the local community). Or how about Teach for America, or Jeffery Canada's programs in the Bronx...

    I realize a publication needs to cater to its reader base, but come on...