Pearson’s Luyen Chou on turning the publishing giant into a digital media enterprise:
Speaking with me later, Chou said that to keep up with the changing environment, traditional publishers can’t just digitize the static textbooks of the past, they need to excel at producing high-quality, interactive digital learning experiences and get them into the hands of students.
“[That includes] digital studios, animators, illustrators, producers, 3-D artists – we need to build that capacity within instructional companies like Pearson and we need the whole end-to-end supply chain to the take that from the studio to the actual users,” he said. “The folks that have done that well are the EAs of the world, digital studios. That’s not a core competency for companies like Pearson.”
Given the company’s wide reach across different corners of the market, from content to testing, at the K-12 and college levels and beyond, one of Pearson’s key assets is the massive amount of data it can use to target and personalize learning for students. And Chou acknowledged that the Electronic Arts parallel wasn’t meant to imply that Pearson only needs to focus on creating high-quality content, and not on other parts of its business.
Boston nonprofit to foster ed tech innovation:
LearnLaunch today announces its formation as a non-profit fostering the creation and growth of learning and education technology companies and the ed tech business cluster across New England. Founded by visionary investors and education technology leaders, LearnLaunch provides support to entrepreneurs at critical stages of their development to reach their next level of growth through access to peers, investors, mentors, and potential users.
LearnLaunch has already identified over 150 education technology and learning startups in New England. LearnLaunch also announces its first conference: “Across Boundaries: Innovation & The Future of Education.” The conference will examine the potential of technology to tangibly improve learning and education access, and explore market and investment opportunities; February 1-2, 2013, MIT Tang Center, Cambridge, MA (http://learnlaunchconference2013.eventbrite.com). The conference coincides with Digital Learning Day on February 6, 2013 and will involve teachers as both panelists and participants, as well as showcase successful instructional technology in classrooms nationwide.
Guest writer Emma Collins on the ed tech scene:
Venture capitalists have poured millions of dollars into education-technology startups in the past few years. Investments in online education startups having tripled in the last decade, from $146 million in 2002 to $429 million in 2011. “The investing community believes that the internet is hitting education,” says Jose Ferreira, founder of interactive-learning company Knewton, which secured a $33 million investment in 2011. At stake is both a burgeoning industry and, for millions of potential students around the globe, an opportunity for a world-class education unlike any before.
In the last two years alone, venture investments in education technology have more than doubled, from $82 million in the first quarter of 2010 to $189 million in the second quarter of 2012. While education startup investing has undoubtedly experienced a boom in the past two years, there is reason to believe the return on investment is only beginning to accrue. While Knewton has a number of different business models, including charging for access to test prep materials for standardized exams like the Law School Admission Test, most companies are still exploring methods of generating consistent revenue. Startups like Coursera, which allows users to access Ivy League lectures and coursework for free, and Udacity, which offers free courses and charges a nominal fee for testing and certification, will likely be focusing on revenue generation in the coming years as their services gain traction around the globe.
Fingerprint Digital app startup releases new products:
San Francisco-based Fingerprint Digital has created a platform dubbed Fingerprint Play, launched last December. It provides access to a bunch of apps and also has a feature called Mom Comm that lets kids share their achievements with their parents. Parents can write notes, record a voice message, or send emoticons to encourage their kids. The app can also dispatch a snapshot report of a child’s progress via email or Facebook sharing. Fingerprint Play is like a TV channel for kids, only it provides apps instead.
The new apps include four new interactive books in the VeggieTales Collection, which teach kids ages three to five how to get ready for reading. The new collection includes The Goofy Gift, Thanks for the Franks, Larry’s Missing Music, and I am That Hero! (available Dec. 20).
Quizlet bootstraps to success:
Yet unlike high-profile startups such as Inkling and Kno, which have raised tens of millions of dollars from VCs eager to cash in on the boom in smartphones and tablets in the classroom, Quizlet remains entirely bootstrapped.
“We don’t need the money right now,” said Quizlet Chief Executive Officer Dave Margulius.
He said the company is cash-flow positive and predicted that revenue would surpass $10 million in two years. Quizlet became profitable soon after it was created in 2005, according to Sutherland, who built the flash-card program for the Web and supported it by selling Google AdSense promotions that let marketers place ads on the site. As the game grew more popular and server costs rose, he raised $30,000 from friends and family and invested profits from a separate site he helped to create — an e-commerce service called Collectors Weekly — to grow the business.
Andy Oram at the O’Reilly Radar: The MOOC movement is not an indicator of educational evolution
Two more appealing trends are already big. One is DIY courses, as popularized in the book Fab by Neil Gershenfeld at the MIT Media Lab. O’Reilly’s own Make projects are part of this movement. Fab courses represent the polar opposite of MOOCs in many ways. They are delivered in small settings to students whose dedication, inspiration, and talent have to match those of the teacher — the course asks a lot of everybody. But from anecdotal reports, DIY courses have been shown to be very powerful growth mechanisms in environments ranging from the top institutions (like MIT) to slums around the world. Teenagers are even learning to play with biological matter in labs such as BioCurious. Fundamentally, DIY is a way to capture the theory of learning by doing, which goes back at least to John Dewey at the turn of the 20th century. The availability of 3D makers, cheap materials, fab software, and instructions over the Internet lend the theory a new practice.
The other major trend cracking the foundations of education is peer-to-peer information exchange. This, like learning by doing, has plenty of history. The symposia of Ancient Greece (illustrated in fictional form by Plato) and the Talmudic discussions that underlay the creation of modern Judaism over 2,000 years ago show that human beings have long been used to learning from each other. Peer information exchange raged on centuries later in cafés and salons, beer halls and sewing circles. Experts were important, and everybody could recognize the arrival of a true expert, but he or she was just first among equals. A lot of students who sign up for MOOCs probably benefit from the online discussion forums as much as from the canned lectures and readings.
The Economist: American universities represent declining value for money to their students:
More debt means more risk, and graduation is far from certain; the chances of an American student completing a four-year degree within six years stand at only around 57%. This is poor by international standards: Australia and Britain, for instance, both do much better. At the same time, universities have been spending beyond their means. Many have taken on too much debt and have seen a decline in the health of their balance-sheets. Moreover, the securitisation of student loans led to a rush of unwise private lending. This, at least, has now been curbed by regulation. In 2008 private lenders disbursed $20 billion; last year they shelled out only $6 billion. Despite so many fat years, universities have done little until recently to improve the courses they offer. University spending is driven by the need to compete in university league tables that tend to rank almost everything about a university except the (hard-to-measure) quality of the graduates it produces.
Changeist’s Scott Smith on Minecraft as the great engineering school of the future:
But clever Minecrafters haven’t stopped with oddball buildings. Numerous solo and team efforts have constructed not only ingenious Rube Goldberg machines, but also mechanical computers based on a schematic in an MIT textbook that can do basic functions and calculations, for example. Early introduction of mechanical levers, circuits, and more recently a modification to add pistons to the game have encouraged players to build increasingly byzantine machines using the most basic of materials. Recent modifications and updates to the game, and unofficial variations created by expert players, such as Tekkit and ComputerCraft, take game functionality to a new level with industrial machines and programmable in-game computers that aren’t for entertainment as much as necessary elements to feed Minecrafters’ growing appetite for engineering. Where a weekend electronics enthusiasts or desktop manufacturing fan might run down to a Radio Shack to grab some extra circuitry for an electronics project, Minecrafters are working in cross-country or sometimes multi-country teams to build energy production systems, massive water projects or underground house-making factories in the game—partly as status symbols among other Minecrafters, and partly to push the boundaries of their own skill and the game’s capabilities.
TNW covers developments at tech ed startup Treehouse:
After one year, video-focused tech education startup Treehouse has hit $3.6m in revenues thanks to its 18,700 active users, and claims 380,000 quizzes have been completed, with 330,000 hours of tutorial videos watched on the site.
In addition, the Treehouse has gone from 11 to 54 employees since 2011, and has decided, interestingly, to simultaneously expand its learn-to-code classes into print, with the release of a new book series through Wiley Publishing, starting with an HTML5-focused book, followed by CSS3 and iOS 6.
MOOCs condense and fracture course material and present it in the pithiest, shallowest form. They lack improvisation, serendipity, and familiarity. They pander to the broadest possible audience because in the MOOC economy—such as it is—enrollment is currency and quality is measured by the number of people who have checked in without subtracting the number who check out.
That’s not to say that MOOCs could not improve greatly, as I trust they will. But the unfounded hyperbole surrounding MOOCs ignores the real outstanding work professors in all fields have been doing integrating digital and multimedia tools into their courses and the outstanding work being done with online courses that have reasonable, controlled enrollments.
Triplepoint’s Technapex will host an event December 10th from 6:30 - 8:30 pm in Manhattan featuring panelists from CourseHorse, Skillshare and Lore:
We’ll have drinks and appetizers followed by the panel discussion, moderated by Laura Pappano, the award-winning journalist, author and blogger. Laura writes for The New York Times Education Life section, and The Harvard Education Letter. She recently wrote “The Year of the MOOC” article for the New York Times. You can learn more about her here.
Panelists from CourseHorse, Skillshare and Lore will offer unique insights on the edtech space. They have complementary but distinct backgrounds that will make for an interesting discussion. You can check out their bios to learn more about them below. This is your chance to meet and mingle with investors, entrepreneurs, press, teachers, and forward-thinkers in the edtech community.
Can Pearson crush ed tech startups with its scale and might?
I know Pearson does not have the best reputation among my education blogger colleagues, and probably for good reasons. But no one can deny that the company has a great digital strategy. Pearson is aggressive, and seems to understand our quickly changing landscape in education. In order to remain on top, you need to start testing new verticals early on, acquire interesting teams and technology, and/or quickly build a similar product. Sound familiar? Again, this is right out of the playbooks of major tech companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft or Apple.
Clearly, Pearson sees itself more in the league of tech and Internet-centered companies rather than being a classic publisher with a digital strategy.
“The U.S. Department of Education has announced that it will partner with online learning startup Knewton and publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a program aimed at helping millions of at-risk youth transition to traditional schools and prepare for the workforce”:
To date, most of the nearly half a million students to use Knewton’s program have been at the college level. But Liu said this partnership will help it begin to scale its K-12 instruction. One of the interesting challenges for Knewton and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will be to deliver the content in a voice that’s appropriate for the students.
“It’s not just enough to provide third grade- or fourth grade-level content, you have to speak to a 15- or 16-year-old,” Liu said.
As evidence of its success, Knewton said that in a program of 2,000 remedial math students at Arizona State University, withdrawal rates dropped by 56 percent and pass rates climbed 11 percent.
Is DC the home of the ed tech revolution?
Education technology grows still bigger in D.C. This week:
Data-startup Always Prepped announced a $650,000 raise from True Ventures and angels;
Interfolio, which sells its technology to universities and scholars, announced it has doubled its office space and expanded its staff;
2U, the company formerly known as 2Tor,rolled out its “Semester Online” course program alongside 10 colleges and universities.
And last week, Echo360 snapped up University of Michigan spinoff LectureTools. More to come next week.
We’re seeing momentum in startup and product launches, partnerships, acquisitions and fundings (see: EverFi, 2U). All the excitement and energy that surrounded the daily deal and e-commerce arena two years ago seems to have migrated to ed-tech.
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