COVER STORY: AUGUST 2012
By Hope Katz Gibbs
When it comes to forecasting the future of education, it’s no surprise that online learning is taking the lead. Similar to the dot.com boom of the 1990s, venture capitalists are eager to invest in education-technology start-ups. According to the National Venture Capital Association, investments in ed-tech hit $429 million last year, from $146 million in 2002.
In April 2012, the Chronicle of Higher Education hosted a panel of education entrepreneurs on the cutting edge. The lively discussion focused on the following industry changes:
• Technology isn’t just about generating data. It’s about transforming the education experience.
• The proliferation of available data might necessitate a new organizing mechanism with regard to decision-making about higher education opportunities.
• There is new momentum for partnerships between the private sector and existing institutions.
Meet the folks leading us into the future. We had the opportunity to interview several of the panelists who are leading the charge.
• Joe Morgan, CEO, Noodle Education A life-long education-related search company, Noodle was started in 2011 by John Katzman, founder of The Princeton Review. “Our goal is to provide a recommendation engine to help anyone find educational opportunities from K-12 to college, grad school, and professional development,” he says.
• Daniel Pianko, Partner, University Ventures Fund Led by four principals with decades of experience as entrepreneurs, investors, and leaders in higher education, this investment firm partners with top-tier universities and colleges and directs private capital in developing programs that address major economic and social needs. UV expects to set new standards for student outcomes and advance the development of the next generation of colleges and universities on a global scale.
• Matthew Pittinsky, (pictured above) CEO, Parchment also co-founded Blackboard Inc. With Parchment, his mission and passion is to unleash education credentials by unlocking the critical data they embody. “We are an education data company that works with institutions and corporations around the world helping people collect, promote, and share their education credentials in simple and secure ways,” he says. “Parchment is about ensuring that the hard work you’ve put into your education continues to work hard for you.”
Do you think college kids are lazy, slovenly, and couldn’t possibly be the entrepreneurs of the future? Think again. As Oliver St. John reports in an August USA Today article, thanks to some enterprising college students, undergrads can now outsource everything from grocery shopping to laundry and storing their dorm contents for the summer.
To read about these clever student entrepreneurs, click here.
K-12 education is also finding its way into the high-tech era. Dr. Peter Noonan knows that teaching kids to love to learn—through whatever means is necessary—is not just critical for their academic success.
It is helping to shape the careers they will have, and the adults they will become, says the former teacher, principal, assistant superintendent for Instructional Services, and now the superintendent of the City of Fairfax Schools in Northern Virginia.
“The notion of 21st century skills is incredibly relevant in terms of teaching students online, because our goal is to help them learn to problem-solve, think critically, and be a good and productive member of a team,” Noonan says. “The business world will certainly continue to get more global, and speed of technological change will continue to increase. Therefore, it is incumbent on educators to prepare students properly for the jobs of the future in many ways.”
One of the easiest ways to start, Noonan is convinced, is through digital texbooks. “The idea that a student should open a textbook and go to a page in a chapter for information, or head to the media center to do some research, is simply antiquated.”
Not surprisingly, digital textbooks are sweeping the nation. Around the country, school districts are quickly making the transition from traditional textbooks and paper-based instructional resources to Web-based instructional resource. These go far beyond just putting textbook files online.
When the Vail School District in Arizona opened Empire High School in Tucson in 2005, educators began the “Beyond Textbooks” initiative. It bought student laptops and online resources instead of traditional textbooks, which saved nearly $2,000 per high school student. “It’s not about printed versus digital, it’s about the entire metaphor of a textbook that’s essentially out of gas,” says its chief information officer, Matt Federoff, who likens the shift to purchasing songs from iTunes versus buying albums.
And when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California, he championed the California Open Source Textbook Project, a collaborative, public/private undertaking that was created to address the high cost, content range, and consistent shortages of K-12 textbooks in California. The free, open-source digital versions are expected to save the state millions of dollars.
Not surprisingly, textbooks publishers are jumping on big opportunity. Players include Houghton Mifflin, Reed Elsevier, and Pearson. Leading the charge, though, is McGraw-Hill Education, which earned gross revenues in excess of $1.1 billion in 2011, making up about 40 percent of the $800 million textbook publishing industry.
Dan Caton, executive VP of the education division, says his company has an aggressive development plan for digital program development in all subject areas. “Our digital-tools for teachers includes online teacher editions, record-keeping, assessment, data analysis, and student grouping and support.” Undoubtedly, the use of digital textbooks will grow exponentially. With it be worth the investment?
What are the 5 things all entrepreneurs need to know about the future of education? We got great insight from TIME magazine reporter Annie Murphy Paul, author of the upcoming book, “Brilliant: The Science of Smart.” Find that here: Tips for Entrepreneurs.