Klassly, a social media platform that facilitates communication between parents and teachers, nearly tripled its worldwide users in 2020. Now developers are working to attract more clients in the U.S and Canada.
When schools first closed their doors last year in response to COVID-19, millions of parents suddenly had to step up to help their children during remote learning. At the same time, many parents lost their link with schools through parent-teacher meetings and other regular interactions.
Luckily, there's an app to help maintain that link called Klassly — a free social media platform developed by ed-tech company Klassroom, with which parents can keep in touch with educators and stay up to date about important course information.
Though the app was almost five years old by the time COVID-19 forced school closures across the world, most parents knew little about the app before then.
Klassroom co-founder and CEO Frank-David Cohen said the company was formed in 2016, shortly after he and his friend Damien Rottemberg first began exploring ways to facilitate communication between parents and teachers. At the time, the main idea was to create a tool to help divorced parents like themselves struggling to remain involved with their kids' schools amid contentious custody battles.
As his colleague was dealing with a divorce in New York City, Cohen was living in Paris, where access to his son's school was temporarily restricted following terrorist attacks that put much of the country and its schools on lockdown.
“This was one of the main reasons we launched Klassly,” Cohen said of the two co-founders' goals. “Making the link between parents and teachers was something that we wanted to do because we’re convinced that parent involvement is important for kids’ success at school."
He said users slowly trickled onto the app until 2020, when COVID-19 school closures in France and elsewhere nearly tripled the number of worldwide users to more than 1.2 million parents and teachers.
The app now boasts about 800,000 users in France, with 400,000 others mostly in Europe. Through the help of ed-tech investors, the company hopes to expand the use of the app elsewhere to attract new users in the United States and Canada, where about 50,000 of its users are located. Apple CEO Tim Cook has also taken notice of the app's growth.
The app functions similar to Facebook, featuring a timeline where teachers can post videos, links, memos, multimedia posts and polls for parents. Users can also chat with each other and hold video conferences.
Melissa Lucero-Admasu, the company’s community outreach manager and former educator who has used the app, said she believes Klassly's growth can be attributed to its simplicity. She said the intuitive app offers an easy way to strengthen a sense of community between parents and schools.
"The core is the ability to ignite a partnership between parents and teachers, and we believe that should be free and accessible to everyone," she said.
Cohen noted that accessibility has been a key factor in the app's growth, both in terms of affordability and user-friendliness. He noted that most ed-tech platforms like Google Classroom focus primarily on providing instructional tools designed for students and teachers during remote learning, but very few help facilitate regular communication with parents and teachers.
“When the pandemic started, everyone was in a rush because teachers had little time to organize and find new ways to do remote teaching,” he said. "You can’t get inside and talk with a teacher, so you don’t have this link."
About 80 percent of the app's core functions are free for users, according to Cohen. Users can choose to purchase additional features such as Klassbook, a yearbook of timeline photos and other aesthetic features. Unlike other “freemium” apps that cost nothing up front but make money by prompting users to make in-app purchases, Cohen said add-ons aren’t required to make Klassly useful for parents and teachers.
“It’s not only about money and success. It’s about doing something we feel is right to do, so we want the product to be accessible," Cohen said, noting that he still uses the app to stay connected with his son’s instructors.
Since the app caters to schools and families, Lucero-Admasu noted that the young ed-tech company placed much of its focus on user privacy. She said the app was General Data Protection Regulation-compliant “before that was even a thing."
According to Klassroom's website, Klassly does not monetize user data and bars access from unauthorized users. The company also declined to say which school districts in the U.S. have made use of the app so far.
“Another one of our priorities is protecting each side’s privacy,” Lucero-Admasu said. “With children, you want to be very safe online with what you’re doing.”
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