Apollo to Buy Adaptive-Learning Company for $75-Million

By Josh Keller

The Apollo Group, which runs the University of Phoenix, announced on Tuesday that it plans to pay $75-million to purchase Carnegie Learning, which develops interactive math instruction that adapts to the needs of individual students.

The purchase is a major endorsement of the prospects for adaptive learning by the operator of the nation’s largest for-profit college, where officials believe that personalizing instruction will help improve retention and graduation rates.

Carnegie Learning’s software, Cognitive Tutor, continually assesses students’ understanding of math concepts and customizes lessons to their strengths and weaknesses. The company was formed in 1998 by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University.

Apollo also agreed to pay Carnegie Mellon $21.5-million over 10 years to acquire technology associated with the company.

Carnegie Learning has primarily sold its instructional materials to middle schools and high schools and only entered the higher education market in 2007. The company says its software is used by 600,000 students in grades 6 through 12.

But at a time when many college students need basic-level math skills, much of the company’s expertise is relevant for the college market. Apollo was attracted to Carnegie Learning’s decade-long expertise in developing adaptive-learning systems and its deep well of learning content, said Mike White, its chief technology officer.

“We loved the ability the technology provided with remediation,” Mr. White said. “If a student is working on a concept they might need to brush up on, say, addition, they can get that brush-up.”

Carnegie Learning’s technology and team are set to become a key part of Apollo’s expansive effort to rebuild its learning platform to personalize instruction. The company has hired tech-industry heavyweights from Yahoo, including Mr. White, and installed a team of more than 100 people to work on the project.

“We see adaptive learning as the future,” Mr. White said. “It is about individual learning outcomes.”

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of next year, and Mr. White said Apollo will incorporate Carnegie’s technology later that year. In a press release, Apollo said that due to its focus on higher education, it plans to explore “strategic alternatives” with respect to the Carnegie’s K-12 business. Read the article at the Chronicle of Higher Education