zyBooks Secures $4 Million to Take College Textbooks into the Interactive Age

Funding to support content expansion and new product features for instructors and students

Employees at zyBooks stand in their office.

Members of the zyBooks team, with founders Frank Vahid and Smiti Bakshi in the center.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — zyBooks, a company that provides web-native STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning materials that was co-founded by UCR Professor Frank Vahid, has received a $4 million investment round led by Bialla Venture Partners.

This latest investment follows recent grants from the National Science Foundation’s SBIR program, awarded for research and development of the zyBooks platform. The funding will support significant content expansion into additional zyBooks, new product features for both instructors and students, and new sales and marketing initiatives.

zyBooks are interactive learning tools in STEM courses, with which students “learn by doing” in a highly engaging, action-oriented way. In contrast to traditional textbooks, the content features more question sets, animations, interactive tools, and auto-graded homework, enabling professors to be more efficient and devote more time to teaching rather than administrative tasks.

zyBooks was founded by Vahid, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of California Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, and Smita Bakshi, CEO of the company and a former assistant professor at UC Davis.

“Particularly in the age of the Internet and interactivity, traditional textbooks – often unchanged for decades – are increasingly at odds with today’s students and professors alike. Simply migrating such textbooks to online formats provides few benefits and several drawbacks, and add-on interactive elements often are not well integrated,” Vahid said.

“zyBooks’ interactive content is created natively for the web using animations, learning questions, tools and simulations, as well as some text and figures. Measurable results demonstrate more usage, better learning outcomes and happier students. The direct relationship between students and content creators also reduces costs and enables a tight content feedback/improvement loop.”

David Uri, managing member of Bialla Venture Partners, said zyBooks is set to be become the new standard for STEM curriculum across higher education. In conjunction with the funding, Uri will join the company’s Board of Directors.

“zyBooks has already shown that its innovative approach creates dramatically better learning outcomes for students – with proven results of up to 64 percent improvement in learning with a zyBook versus a traditional textbook – while empowering instructors with easy to use tools that save time and administrative hassle. It’s a win/win for both professors and students alike,” Uri said.

As an early example of how the new funding will be used, zyBooks has announced several new STEM course products including the first-ever interactive version of the seminal computer science textbook classic – Patterson & Hennessy’s, “Computer Organization and Design,” as well as a revolutionary interactive auto-graded programming lab submission system called zyLabs, which will be launched at the SIGCSE conference in March 2016.

Starting with just a handful of universities in 2012, the company’s computer science and engineering zyBooks are now used at over 300 colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit: www.zybooks.com

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