Lore Preps for Back-to-School with Spate of New Features

By Erin Griffith , written on August 23, 2012

From The News Desk

I know it's still summer for a few more weeks to most of us, but bear with me. Education startups are kicking it into high gear.

Think back to spring and you might remember Lore, formerly Coursekit, the online social learning community for college students. Up until today, the only way you could join the site was if a professor or instructor invited you.

That changes today, as Lore rolls out its latest version ahead of the new semester.

Lore 2.0 includes a few things:

The site is now more of a social network. That includes a feed of activities (Professor X has updated Assignment Y), friending and messaging capabilities, a profile page that lists your learning goals, and a page of activities and groups on campus. Founder Joseph Cohen says his goal is to make Lore "thee network" for campus. Sortof like Facebook, if Facebook had stuck will the whole college thing. (Remember course rosters? Probably not...)

"While the course remains the anchor of our network, there are other communities and relationships that people learn from while they're in school," Cohen says.

Lore has only been live for a semester--the company started around a year ago--so this is the site's first opportunity to upgrade based on feedback from students. The company was adopted by more than 600 schools within that semester. This year the goal is to increase penetration of students within those schools, Cohen says.

Before, Lore only showed you the classes you'd enrolled in that have a presence on the site. Now when you sign in or sign up, you'll see a dashboard of all the activity that's relevant to you and have the ability to post from there. The site is one step closer to being a full-on social network for learning.

I said at the end of last year that 2012 would be the year of the niche social network, with sites like Nextdoor (for neighborhoods) or The Experience Project (for experiences) building connections beyond our Facebook friends. It's the whole interest graph trumps social graph thing. I'm not entirely sure that's happened yet, but Lore is at least a strong example of a company trying to make it happen in education.

Cohen and crew are college dropouts themselves, building tools for their peers that stayed in school. It's a decision their investor Peter Thiel supports--he pays students to drop out of school, even though he now teaches classes at Stanford. Lore's rebrand from Coursekit earlier this spring was meant to signify it wasn't limited to just college classes. Learning communities like General Assembly use the platform to connect students with each other and their instructors after the class has ended.

Thiel invested a small sum into Lore’s previous $5 million Series A round from IA Ventures, Joel Spolsky, Michael Kearns and The Social+Capital Partnership. The company previously raised a $1 million seed round from Founder Collective, Shasta Ventures, Techstars NYC, Ralph Mach, Zach Weinberg, Nat Turner, and David Tisch.

The company is still in adoption mode, with college students on the ground encouraging their peers to sign up for the service. Eventually it will monetize with a marketplace or affiliate model.