Need to Know
- Online learning platform Top Hat has raised $55 million to continue disrupting the textbook publishing industry.
- Top Hat’s new business model will revolve around forming partnerships with textbook publishers, the first two of which are Fountainhead Press and Bluedoor Publishing,
- Top Hat plans to digitize textbooks and lower the cost for students while driving more profit to professors.
- Students spend an average of $415 on course materials every year, though many spend well over $1,000.
- Top Hat now has 2.7 million users spread across 750 institutions.
Toronto-based Top Hat has already disrupted higher education with its digital-first learning platform, and now it appears the startup is focusing even more on the textbook industry.
The online learning company has announced a $55 million raise in equity and debt financing, in addition to exclusive partnerships with Fountainhead Press and Bluedoor Publishing.
The partnerships with textbook mega-publishers Fountainhead and Bluedoor are intended to drive a digital transformation in the traditional textbook industry. The content within a course’s required textbook will be transformed into digital material and infused with flexible and interactive elements to suit every learner’s needs.
Thanks to this new funding, Top Hat will be able to scale these partnerships to bring high-quality publisher content to the learning platform, creating more engaging course content and empowering professors with the tools they need to teach it.
Plus, the digitization of textbooks aligns with Top Hat’s vision of making learning more accessible to all.
“As university students rebel against ridiculous textbook prices much as music consumers did in the early 2000s, Top Hat has emerged a visionary leader by bringing students and educators together in a collaborative digital teaching and learning experience that improves outcomes while reducing costs,” said Shawn Abbott, a partner at Inovia Capital, a Top Hat’s investor. “My partnership is proud to be part of the massive societal impact of building an enduring, trusted platform on which our children are being better educated, affordably.”
According to Top Hat, textbooks can cost as much as $372 and students are routinely spending over $1,000 annually on required readings. Nearly two-thirds of post-secondary students have opted out of buying a text altogether in order to save money. And it’s estimated that the 11.1 million students across the US could save a combined $1 billion if each student could save just $100 off their textbooks.
One of Top Hat’s publishing partners, Fountainhead Press, is committed to lowering the costs of textbooks for students, with their founders claiming they built Fountainhead as “the solution to all the misery of the mass market.”
“For many reasons, students no longer value traditional textbooks. By exclusively partnering with Top Hat to deliver our content on their active learning platform, we are newly empowered to meet the changing needs of students and instructors,” said Scott Timian, founder and CEO, Fountainhead Press.
“Fountainhead Press’s quality, interactive content combined with Top Hat’s assessment tools for measuring student learning and engagement produces total course solutions at a reasonable price. Together, we’re better equipped than ever to capture this evolving market.”