School’s don’t talk to each other, at least in terms of the student data they collect, and that’s a big problem, as far as Clever founders Tyler Bosmeny, Dan Carroll and Rafael Garcia are concerned. So the trio of Harvard classmates together created Clever to build a universal translator for educational data, making it possible for developers to access and use data from various disparate sources to build their tools. It’s actually a surprisingly simple concept, but cost- and time-intensive to build, which Bosmeny suggested in an interview is one of the key reasons behind the education market’s relative sluggishness in terms of embracing new software and technology.
“Moving and managing data is one of the biggest things holding back education today,” he said. “Educational software today is kind of like computers before the internet; there’s all these different systems, and sharing data between them is this very manual and time-consuming process. We believe data should be moving education forward, and not holding it back.”
In service of that goal, Clever takes over a task that most developers targeting the kind of personalized, learning educational tools we wrote about in an earlier article previously had to build themselves, by creating a way to take data from a variety of different student information storage and tracking systems and delivers them in a single usable format via an API that’s easy for developers to integrate into their products. This saves enormous amounts of time and energy on the development side, freeing educational app makers to focus on their own product and goals rather than on data translation.
While Bosmeny emphasizes that what the company is doing isn’t actually very complicated, it also isn’t a non-trivial undertaking. Still, the company has already managed to cover over 60 percent of the students in the U.S. in terms of which systems it’s currently compatible with, and they intend to expand that considerably as they bring on new school partners and encounter additional data management software.
Clever’s traction is perhaps its most noteworthy accomplishment, since its already managed to rack up 70 school-wide deployments in just its first month of existence alone. For educational institutions especially, which are typically slow to change and reluctant especially with regards to tech, that’s very impressive. Bosmeny attributes its success to two things: The fact that Clever is free for schools to implement and use, and the fact that developers are doing most of the legwork of evangelizing their product, since it makes their jobs so much easier.
“There’s this huge push for personalized learning in the classroom right now, and having real-time data is a crucial part of that as well,” Bosmeny explained about why the time is especially good for the introduction of Clever’s services. There are critics who argue that personalized learning could harm more than help, but Clever believes that if anything, it can help shed light on both sides of the argument around this new trend by providing access to more solid data about its use and its effects.
In the end, Clever provides data that can be used for a variety of different purposes, including sales tools, inventory management, course planning and preparation, materials acquisition and school budgeting. The limits really lie with the creativity of the developers who use it, and that’s exactly the point, since it frees them up to employ that creativity instead of worrying about compatibility of competing legacy data management systems. There are few startups out there with the potential to really change the face of education in the near-term, but Clever is definitely one of them.