By way of context, 2014 is my 10 year anniversary working in Education technologies. My inspiration and mentors being (in no particular order) Pascal Cagni, Dieter Rams, Professor Stephen Heppell and Lord David Puttnam, together with (too numerous to mention) amazing academics and learning technologists throughout the world. I spent the first half of this period working with Apple Education, initially in Europe; leading the development of Education podcasting, managed the adoption of iTunes U in EMEA, and engagement with Mobile iOS education focused APPs. Then a period doing much of the same and more throughout Asia, based in Beijing. I have then spent the second half of this decade working with VC’s, Hedge Funds and Angel investors; investigating and carrying out due diligence on education technology startups, working with, supporting and funding startups, becoming immersed operationally, driving business development, positioning, communications, product development, content strategies, marketing, driving traction and gaining critical mass.
The major disruption in education seems to me to be focused on two key EdTech startup trends, ‘curation’ and ‘assessment’. Curation because there is just ‘too much noise’. There is in excess of a billion downloads on iTunes U, even more on YouTube education. If you then add TedED, edX, MITx, OpenLearn and Khan Academy to name a few, the abundance of material becomes clear. These online resources are full of rich learning assets contributing to extending teaching and learning beyond the classroom. The challenge is all about relevance; finding the right content, in the right place, at the right time. Mapping these resources to curriculum and individual student needs is a further challenge. Subsequently, tools that help focus and deliver these resources intuitively and seamlessly are key. Then also consider the value in leveraging the teaching community and all the user-generated education learning assets, lesson plans and content that sits below the waterline of this iceberg. I believe the following five platforms and technologies deliver relevance, engagement, and ultimately results.
Kaltura is the established major player in video asset management in the education marketplace. Video libraries, education content curated by teachers and shared with their students, available any time, anywhere, and on any device.
Mobento is the latest disruption in this digital asset management space, with their platform plus content play. Curated libraries of the “best of the web” education content, mapped to subject sets. Complimented with the school and teacher generated multimedia lesson plans and contributions. Mobento also is the early adopter and has OP3Nvoice embedded.
OP3Nvoice is a pure-play modeled software delivering voice driven contextual search, the ability to reach into a recorded audio lecture or a video recording and tag, search and find what is relevant to the student, seamlessly.
GA for conceptualizing and elegantly delivering the next generation classroom and content post school. Matched with great online tuition, commercially. A global community of individuals offering full-time immersive programs, long-form courses, classes and workshops on the most relevant skills of the 21st century.
New York based, bright startup, Codecademy, focuses on delivering computer science based curriculum online. US focused currently, but exploring ways of working with schools and education departments worldwide. With a mandate “to create the online learning experience of the future”.
Marissa Mayer, Yahoo CEO referenced this curation trend in a keynote speech at The World Economic Forum earlier this year:
‘The interest graph’, contextual search about, around and defining common interests and specialist interest. Delivering the web ordered for the individual.
The second major challenge is assessment, online assessment specifically. Degree awarding institutions will always sit at the center of this, but increasingly accreditation and less formal acknowledgement of achievement should be better recognized. In today’s world of life-long learning, continuous professional development, vocational education, and apprenticeships; assessment delivered digitally can bring significant value to the individual, the institutions and enterprise. The paradigm shift exists around data analytics. Adaptive learning with the ability to provide real-time evaluation on successful learning outcomes, with referencing algorithms providing recommendations to stretch the student and inspire further engagement is becoming fundamental. Equally at the opposite end of the learning scale, it allows a better understanding of students’ engagement and the opportunity to leverage less successful learning outcomes with supporting materials. We all learn differently, our journeys are different, but results can often be more efficiently managed digitally. One to one learning, delivered one to many, with each student learning at their own pace.
In my opinion, these are the five companies leading the charge in that domain:
Knewton is the established adaptive learning infrastructure. Built in the US, now growing internationally with the recent opening of the London hub. Jose Ferreira, Knewton’s founder, is someone I admire and greatly respect. His vision and perspectives featured in his blogs and keynotes are always stimulating and often provocative, and in my opinion need to be listened too.
Three graduates from Imperial College London have taken time to build a dynamic adaptive learning environment. Eduvee is an elegant, highly intuitive and efficient adaptive learning technology, focused currently at STEM subjects in K12 Schools. With a broader remit post funding, to support vocational education and Enterprise verticals.
Founded by Norbert Morawetz PhD, Team Match is a very early stage technology startup has a game changing objective. They are building collaborative 38 tools that evaluates interpersonal skills and matches capabilities to the team based needs in the workforce.
Online collaborative study platform. Knodium delivers peer to peer discussions groups. Enabling online study, seamlessly bridging the gap between the real learning environment and the virtual one.
And then there is “Social”. The most exciting of which being an early stage startup WamEDU providing a controlled social media environment. Private social media for schools and institutions. Built for students in the manner they choose to engage and are familiar with. Peer to peer collaboration, socially. Intuitively delivering for teachers, and parents, enhanced and secure learning networks simply, effectively and for free.
All of the above smart companies, of different scale, evolution, and funding, are disruptors in the Education space. Each in its own way enhances teaching and learning, provides real-time feedback to the learner, and increasingly to the teacher. If you have an interest in market changing trends and sustainable education technologies, these companies deserve recognition.
By Alan Greenberg, Education Technology Consultant & Investor