Netflix In The Classroom? Founder Invests In Online School

Reed Hastings, the founder and chief executive of Netflix, is making the jump from TV to the classroom. EduDemic is guessing it won’t be long until you can access courses, like Harvard Extension School, directly through your TV. As the popularity of Instant Netflix climbs, so does the number of people going online for everyday activities. One of those activities, Hastings surmises, is education. Here at EduDemic, we couldn’t agree more that this is the next step for online classrooms.

Hastings has announced he has financed the acquisition of DreamBox Learning, a start-up that uses online games to teach math, by Charter School Growth Fund, a non-profit investment fund for charter schools.

For now, Hastings says the future is netbooks. While I think the DreamBox app for the iPad might be closer to the future, it remains to be seen where he goes with Dreambox. He thinks netbooks will be ubiquitous in schools in a few years, creating huge opportunities for online learning software. According to the New York Times, Hastings says:

I think we’re on the edge of a real inflection point where the hardware becomes so cheap that Web learning is really throughout the schools,” he said. “But what I noticed is there’s really not that many people working on the software.

DreamBox was started last year and creates personalized lesson plans, hidden in games, based on which concepts children understand or need to work on. It’s like taking your favorite elementary school teacher and putting him or her into a video game that you actually want to play. “What makes their product so impressive is it adapts to each student’s learning, and that’s the Holy Grail of this field,” Mr. Hastings said.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images, for Sunshine Sachs

A little about the deal and Hastings from the New York Times: He donated the the money to buy the company to Charter School Growth Fund. The acquisition price was not disclosed. He also invested another $10 million in DreamBox to expand to more schools and subjects beyond math. He will become chairman of the DreamBox board, while continuing his role at Netflix, and DreamBox’s co-founder and chief executive, Lou Gray, will leave the company.

Mr. Hastings, who taught high school math in Swaziland with the Peace Corps after college, has been an education philanthropist and charter school advocate since his first company, Pure Software, went public in 1995. He has also served as president of the California State Board of Education.