Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Hiring Personalized-Learning Engineers

By Benjamin Herold — March 14, 2017 2 min read
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The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will build “a world-class engineering team” to support advances in personalized learning, according to a post on the group’s Facebook page.

CZI is the philanthropic and investment arm of pediatrician Priscilla Chan and her husband Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of social media giant Facebook. The couple announced the creation of the initiative in 2015, saying they will eventually give 99 percent of their Facebook shares—worth an estimated $45 billion at the time—to a variety of causes, including education and health science.

The CZI engineering team’s first education project will be to take over development work on the “Summit Learning Platform,” a digital-learning software application created in tandem by the Summit Public Schools charter network and a dedicated team of Facebook engineers.

“Today, 130 schools, 1,100 teachers and 20,000 students are using the Summit Learning Platform,” according to the CZI post.

“We could not be more excited by the platform’s potential. We look forward to getting to work on this tool, and continuing our ongoing support for Summit’s broader efforts to help each student reach her full potential.”

In addition to directly operating 12 schools, Calif.-based Summit network also provides software and training to schools across the country as part of its Basecamp program. In 2014, Chan and Zuckerberg donated $3.5 million to the network. CZI declined to provide an updated figure.

The new announcement further clarifies a central tenet of CZI’s emerging strategy: bringing engineering talent to bear on big issues.

In September, the initiative invested $600 million in BioHub, a project bringing together scientists and engineers to better understand and treat disease.

CZI is actively recruiting engineers to work across a variety of projects, according to a spokeswoman for the initiative.

The new education-engineering team’s work with Summit Public Schools means that the network’s long-standing partnership with Facebook itself will be phased out, likely by the end of 2017.

Per the terms of their contract, Facebook will retain intellectual property rights to the code base behind the Summit Learning Platform. The company will retain the right to use that code as it sees fit, so long as the platform is offered for free to U.S. K-12 schools and any related product offerings to higher education institutions are not co-branded with Summit.

Summit will retain licensing rights to continue using and improving the software.

Monday’s announcement marks CZI’s second significant investment in personalized-learning in as many months. Education Week reported in February that the group is a contributor to a new statewide personalized-learning initiative in Rhode Island.

Photo: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at an event in 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. --Manu Fernadez/AP-File

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.