Kivuto launches spinoff education "game-changer"

A new spinoff company from Ottawa-based Kivuto Solutions is going to be “a bit of a game-changer” in bringing education further into the digital age, a top executive says.

Launched this week, Texidium will “tackle an end-to-end solution” to introduce electronic textbooks into academic institutions, says Kivuto’s vice-president and chief operating officer Rick White.

“I think we’re sitting at a pretty exciting point in education,” he says.

Kivuto owns a majority stake in the company, while publisher Nelson Education has a minority share. Algonquin College learning company Pearson is also an early-stage partner providing technical guidance.

The announcement this week was the first of several more expected this summer when Texidium pilots its solution at Algonquin and other institutions. The firm is attempting to secure more financing and Mr. White says there should be more news about that this summer as well.

Texidium’s software-based platform will see students sign in to a website using their standard college credentials. Once logged in, they will be able to read all the textbooks and other resources required for their courses, already paid for as part of their tuition.

That means no more lugging heavy books or standing in line at bookstores, says Mr. White.

Once users install the Texidium reader on the devices of their choice, they can download the textbook material, which will be synchronized along all devices. Any notes or highlights a student makes while using their iPhone on the bus, for example, will be visible when they read the same text on their laptop at home.

While course fees will be slightly higher with the e-books included, Mr. White says the electronic texts cost only about half the price of books, meaning students still save money in the end.

“Because it is provided to all of these students, the publishers are prepared to negotiate deeper discounts,” he says.

There’s no cost to the institution either. Texidium will make its money by charging publishers a fee to put their books on the platform.

“The publishers … recognize that the world is moving very, very rapidly towards electronic textbooks,” Mr. White says, adding Texidium basically acts as a middleman between publishers and institutions, providing an “absolutely consistent reading experience for the student.”

The first pilots will begin in May, with summer being a good time to work out the kinks before a larger rollout in September, Mr. White says. Algonquin is expected to have e-books available for more than 90 per cent of its courses in September.

The Ottawa school is “really leading this whole charge,” he said, adding other institutions are considering following Algonquin’s lead.

“I think the time is right and we’re getting very, very positive response from other colleges in Canada that are very much interested in looking at what Algonquin is doing and trying to sort through their own adoption of a platform like this, so we have discussions going on with other institutions in Canada.”

Mr. White says the platform could soon spread to institutions across North America and around the world. The company is also targeting the elementary and secondary school markets, he added.

“We believe this is going to be a bit of a game-changer for education,” he says. “We’re looking forward to getting going with Algonquin and rolling out across the student base.”