Top Hat, a Toronto EdTech startup, launched an online marketplace for HigherEd content today. It provides professors with great tools to develop or assemble course materials and share those (for free or at a premium) with a marketplace. Students get the benefit of up-to-date, interactive, fully course aligned materials.

Textbook publishers selling high-priced books should be worried. The digital teaching platform is already used by 75% of the top North American colleges and universities and has three core components:

  • In class polls and quizzes,
  • Online homework, and
  • Interactive digital courseware

Professors can develop their own content. The marketplace includes lots of open resources from OpenStax (OER from Rice) and Saylor and Phet science sims from CU–in fact, 90% of the content on the platform is open.

Professors can grab a video, a unit or a whole course from the marketplace. Top Hat facilitates a community of instructional designers and editors that can help authors develop high-quality material.

Students pay for a Top Hat subscription to use across their courses. Most digital texts cost far less than traditional textbooks and many are free.

CEO Mike Silagadze, an electrical engineer from nearby University of Waterloo, sees the decentralized creation enabled by the platform and marketplace as fundamentally destructive to the archaic textbook industry.

His co-founder and chief academic officer, Mohsen Shahini, has a Ph.D. in robotics from Waterloo.

“We want to bring the HigherEd course experience into the modern era,” said Silagadze. “The go-to-market strategy is direct to professor and student pay model.” Once they’ve gained a foothold on a campus they quickly expand to other departments and course with strong support from inside sales.

Top Hat is almost eight years old, has 250 employees and is doubling in size every two years. The company has raised $41.9M in 5 Rounds, most recently a $22.5M round in February led by Union Square.

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