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McGraw-Hill grows digital learning through busuu investment

Educational publishing powerhouse, McGraw-Hill Education, has expanded its reach into the digital language learning sector by purchasing a minority equity stake in social learning platform, busuu.

Launched in 2008, busuu is the largest social network for language learning, now with over 55 million users

The €6m ($6.5m) investment was announced officially last week and will expose McGraw-Hill to busuu’s base of worldwide consumer users, while McGraw-Hill Education will help the language learning platform to further develop technologically.

“The exciting thing for us is to help busuu focus on job number one which is the core business”

Under the agreement, McGraw-Hill Education will also have the exclusive rights to distribute busuu in the B2B space, including selling it to schools, private language providers and universities.

Launched in 2008, busuu is the largest social network for language learning, now with over 55 million users.

The platform provides both free and paid-for courses in 12 different languages and gives learners the opportunity to directly interact with native speakers.

Although the service is growing significantly around the world, with 100,000 new users signing up every day, Mark Dorman, president of international and professional at McGraw-Hill Education, said the company is keen to help busuu extend its reach.

“The exciting thing for us is to help busuu focus on job number one which is the core business,” he told The PIE News.

“We have this great geographic reach for them in that institutional market that it would be hard for them to get on their own. I think the combination of the two companies will be really powerful.”

McGraw-Hill Education will also be exploring how to integrate adaptive learning into busuu services.

Bernhard Niesner, CEO and founder of busuu, explained that the agreement with an education publishing heavyweight adds an “additional distribution channel for busuu.”

“McGraw-Hill Education enjoys excellent relationships and a great reputation with universities and schools around the world,” he told The PIE News.

“busuu gets the opportunity to explore adding some of McGraw-Hill Education’s technology, which was developed with an investment of millions of dollars, to its consumer products.”

“People accessing content and learning are doing it more and more to mobile devices”

According to Dorman, McGraw-Hill Education has been making the transition to digital “pretty aggressively over the last few years”.

With two thirds of busuu’s users accessing the content through mobile technology, he said it was an attractive investment for them to continue the transition.

“People accessing content and learning are doing it more and more to mobile devices,” he said.

“They give us a great access to consumer market that is really focused on learning, particularly language learning, which is a growing and increasingly important segment.”

The deal is the latest in a series of investments busuu has won in the last seven years. In 2012 it received $4.7m in a series A investment from PROfounders Capital and private investors. Previously, it received angel investments of undisclosed amounts from Spanish and Australian investors.

In 2014, it entered into a strategic partnership with Pearson English that gave its users access to Pearson’s online test, gSET.

 

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