Disrupting Education

by on July 18, 2012

The Internet has revolutionized many aspects of our day-to-day lives, including everything from how we talk to how we shop, work and play. One area that has remained relatively unencumbered by this revolution has been the classroom experience. Walking into a typical university lecture hall today does not feel radically different from 10, 20 or even 30 years ago. While students do now bring laptops, tablets and mobile devices into the classroom, they are typically only used for note-taking and distractive purposes. Professors still only engage with students on a one-to-one basis, with limited overall interaction amongst the broader set of pupils. Much of the curriculum is still taught via blackboard demonstrations, handouts, slides, and textbook references. Students who utilize technology in all other aspects of their life are thus left unsatisfied with their day-to-day learning experience, a fact that presents itself in the form of low attendance figures, limited engagement, and poor performance. Educational institutions are feeling the stress of this disconnect, a situation further exacerbated by budgetary constraints and competition from online entrants. All of these factors combine to create a market that is not only ripe for disruption, but is rather begging for it.

Enter Mike Silagadze, Mohsen Shahin Andrew D’Souza. These three have taken their passion for disruption and channeled it into Top Hat Monocle. Top Hat Monocle is a mobile-based education platform that engages students and provides Professors with the real-time feedback on student understanding. Top Hat Monocle lets instructors conduct polls, quizzes and interactive demonstrations in class. Students can participate in class using any device they own, such as their cell phone, smartphone, tablet or laptop. With this technology, students can ask questions during lecture without interrupting the teacher and receive instant feedback. Additionally, because answers are saved, students may monitor their own progress, study their past work, and observe their grades on a platform that is always up-to-date.

The true benefit in the current product really lies in the paradigm shift from a one-on-one Q&A model employed in traditional teaching sessions to a one-to-many approach. The idea of having every student answer each question is a very powerful concept, perhaps the first step in the true democratization of the classroom experience. This is just one of many disruptive innovations that will be facilitated through the use of Top Hat Monocle’s technology. As the proliferation and penetration of student owned devices increases, they will combine with Top Hat’s scalable cloud service platform to enable a richer, more engaging learning experience that ultimately integrates the time students spend in and out of the classroom.

As a testament to its effectiveness, this system has already been implemented in nearly 200 universities around the world. That is an impressive feat for such a young company, but there are much larger goals now well within reach of Top Hat Monocle. Therefore, it is my pleasure to announce iNovia’s investment in helping Top Hat Monocle accelerate its journey towards fulfilling these goals. Mike, Mohsen and Andrew have done a tremendous job in a very short amount of time, and we feel privileged to support them as they continue to build, execute, plan and deliver in the midst of such a massive opportunity. I’d also like to thank our co-investors Emergence Capital, SoftTech VC, Version One Ventures and Golden Venture Partners in their commitments to join us in this exciting mission. We’re looking forward to working with them and these fine entrepreneurs.






We like the name.