Bridging the Gap Between High Quality Content and Technology; Why We Invested in Grupo VI-DA
How will technology impact learning outcomes? It has become increasingly clear that just getting computers to students does not improve learning outcomes. In a recently published review of evidence by JPAL, researchers reviewed 15 robust studies and found that while the interventions were effective in increasing computer skills and computer use, most failed to show impact on learning. The exception to this rule was when hardware was distributed with educational software.
So how do we ensure that the multibillion dollar educational publishing industry that historically distributed analog educational content can now deliver engaging, high-quality educational content and software? Many education technology startup companies have emerged that have struggled with the cost of content production. And, while publishers have increasingly begun to deliver eBooks (62 percent of McGraw Hill’s Higher Education revenue and 28 percent of K12 revenue came from digital products in 2017), there is a not a standard for digital tools across all publishing companies that could potentially benefit educators. Most teachers rely on books from a variety of publishers and easily use books side by side in the analog format. However, as they increasingly turn to eBooks, how will teachers retain this locus of control given publishers are delivering eBooks on proprietary digital platforms?
This is where Grupo VI-DA comes in. Over the past four years, Grupo VI-DA has negotiated licenses with over 600 publishers, for access to over 600,000 titles, including both adult and children’s books, textbooks, and literature. Grupo VI-DA has compiled what we believe to be one of the largest collections of digital, Spanish-language content in the world. Furthermore, they have built the technological infrastructure to manage this growing catalogue of digital assets and demonstrated the ability to think creatively about how they can leverage this core asset through a diverse set of products.
Products with a Purpose
The company’s largest product, BiDi, (whose name comes from Biblioteca Digital, meaning Digital Library) allows schools, universities, or other organizations to make available curated sets of digital resources to their users. BiDi delivers digital books at a fraction of the cost of physical books and a fraction of the weight of physical books for students with long commutes to and from school or their places of work. Additionally, Grupo VI-DA’s B2C products BajaLibros and Leamos extend the same content through distinct channels. To round out Grupo VI-DA’s “digital reading ecosystem,” IndieLibros is a digital publishing platform to support independent authors. Authors can publish their work through Grupo VI-DA’s platform which allows for those books to be available to the public in BajaLibros and Leamos.
We believe Grupo VI-DA is only at the beginning of their journey in exploring how to scale publisher content and deliver comprehensive and engaging digital learning products. With the funds from our investment, Grupo VI-DA will be launching a new product, TICMAS, a platform that will transform the learning experience for students, schools, and teachers. TICMAS will integrate publisher content with proprietary content, curated open source content, multimedia content, and assessment.
Democratizing Content and Access to Edtech
Grupo VI-DA is also very focused on developing content in important areas such as financial literacy and social and emotional learning that are not well-served by traditional publishers. We are excited by the potential for Grupo VI-DA to serve as a more democratic distribution channel for content and allow smaller producers and new market entrants to provide materials to teachers and students without massive, on-the-ground salesforces.
We are also thrilled that Grupo VI-DA is serving public schools in Argentina since 77 percent of schools in Argentina are public schools. Having observed edtech innovation in Latin America over the past five years, we’re disappointed that many edtech companies are still competing to serve private schools (that serve only 10–15 percent of K12 students in the region) due to the myriad of challenges in edtech procurement and large-scale implementation in government schools. While philanthropies, multilateral institutions, and governments come together to unlock those challenges, we also need suppliers willing to endure long sales cycles and political risk to reach public school students. In 2017, Grupo VI-DA closed a contract with the city of Buenos Aires for the implementation of the BiDi product across its school network. Given that Omidyar Network is committed to improving education outcomes for all children, we are proud to support a company providing students and teachers in public schools with high-quality, affordable tools and content to improve learning.
Viviana Zocco, CEO and founder of Grupo VI-DA, shares our passion for education. Zocco has over two decades of entrepreneurial, strategic and operational experience with start-ups and global corporate entities. Zocco’s first company, Risk Analysis, was sold to Standard & Poor’s and became a case study for Babson College, published by Harvard Business Review. She also founded TKM, the leading Spanish Millennial entertainment platform, and a Spanish E-Book Ecosystem. In Zocco’s words, “I am convinced that the most direct path towards a better quality of life is education. By focusing on improving student learning outcomes, we can begin to address some of the biggest and most persistent unmet needs in education. Reading comprehension is the foundation to develop students’ critical thinking, communication, and creativity. Technology can be a valuable educational tool to support teachers and students.”
For more information on Grupo VI-DA, read the press release here.