Education software company and digital textbook pioneer Kno today announced new feature additions to its software as well as a new version of its app for Android devices, which will come pre-installed on Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. Both are good moves for the company, which needs to iterate quickly to satisfy customer needs in order to stay ahead of the competition in this growing space.
The new “Social Sharing” features enabled in Kno digital textbooks allow students and teachers to share highlights, notes and other in-text elements with other learners and educators. It’s a bit like Amazon’s shared highlights features, but with much tighter control over privacy, allowing teachers to share some notes just with a single class, for instance, and others with colleagues, and still others with the entire Kno user community. In addition to highlights and notes, Kno users can also share links to websites related to specific passages, as well as multimedia elements like drawings, pictures and videos.
“We’re now going beyond just a single user, allowing professors and educators to share their notes and highlights with their class, and also to enable peer-to-peer sharing among students,” Kno co-founder and CTO Babur Habib explained in an interview. “It’s a nice feature for a professor to have, since when they’re preparing for a lecture, an evening or couple days before when they’re highlighting their own textbook, they can share it immediately with their students and class to show the important things they’re going to be covering.”
For professors, there are also benefits in terms of providing a way for them to keep track of notes as they go from semester to semester, and for students, the ability to collaborate with one another provides opportunities to benefit from how the whole class studies, instead of just relying on individual strengths. It’s also another way Kno can differentiate itself from heavyweight competition like Apple’s own digital textbook initiative.
“Our main philosophy is that we want to make small, rapid incremental changes to how students study when they’re converting over from physical to digital textbooks,” Habib said, talking about how Kno’s print-to-digital strategy differs from players like Apple. “It’s hard to create an outright revolution in this space because students, teachers and educators are so used to how they teach and learn in classrooms these days, so we decided to do these small rapid incremental changes.”
In addition to the sharing features, Kno also announced the availability of its platform on Android and Windows 7 today, making it one of the more universal solutions for digital textbooks. As part of that announcement, Kno also revealed that it will come pre-installed on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1-inch tablet, which ships with an included stylus. The stylus is a natural supplement to digital textbook learning, according to Habib, and should be a good fit for Kno’s new features.
Of course, Kno is also excited about the potential of the new Google Nexus 7 tablet, which by most accounts is doing well in retail and online sales. The Nexus 7′s lower price point could help it achieve traction in eduational environments where price sensitivity is an option.
Just last week, Kno unveiled new K-12 offerings, expanding from its original vision of catering only to higher ed. Habib says the company’s focus is still on the consumer market (it aims to provide digital editions of texts to K-12 to supplement, not necessarily replace paper copies), but with more school districts embracing digital-first initiatives, the company is very much open to institutional partnerships.
It’ll take some time, but digital-first education is coming, and Kno’s approach of easing the transition via rapid iteration in time with consumer comfort seems like a smart strategy to occupy a space at the forefront of that movement.