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EdTech in the US: An Impact Perspective

In April this year, we attended the ASU GSV Summit in San Diego, considered the "must-attend event for education technology investors" (The New York Times).

As an impact investor, it was great to see a large number of EdTech businesses trying to solve some of the significant challenges facing both K-12 and tertiary education - from addressing the 'completion challenge' in tertiary education to improving engagement and achievement in K-12 education.

Here are our key take-outs from the ASU-GSV Summit:

K-12 Education

1. Fundamental structural problem in the K-12 school system

  • 65% of high school graduates continue to college. This is declining

  • Does the workforce need more college graduates? Technical skills shortage

  • School system is primarily designed as a 'filtering process' for colleges

  • But, what about the 35% of students who don’t go to college?

  • School system needs to better prepare students for the workplace

  • Integrating work-related skills and behavioural competencies is critical

  • Big focus on changing the way we teach… the adaptive revolution

2. Adaptive learning explosion…

  • There are now 22 vendors of major Adaptive Learning Solutions (ALS)

  • Acknowledge the critical role of teacher engagement in ALS

  • Problematic issues with definitions (potentially undermine efficacy)

  • Early stage, limited system-wide data on efficacy

  • Investment in admin systems still 10x learning systems

  • A number of providers moving from maths into literacy and English


3. Digital literacy challenge

  • The digital literacy and STEM skills challenge is real

  • This is creating critical workforce shortages in technical areas

  • Significant issues with curriculum and lack of inter-disciplinary approach

  • Acknowledge the challenges of teacher professional development

  • Significant role of parental attitudes towards STEM careers

  • There remains a significant gender gap in learner attitudes

4. Companies and organisations to watch

Higher Education[endif]

1. We don’t ask ‘is there a higher education bubble’, we ask when is it going to burst.

  • ‘A degree is the surest ticket to middle class’ Obama. Is this accurate?

  • Graduate employment rates declining

  • Graduate starting salaries declining

  • Prices increasing – 7.3%, higher than real estate prices in the ‘bubble’

  • $36k average debt on graduation, 43% of students in default

  • 45% of graduates said that there current job did not require a degree

  • Demographics are working against the system – fewer students

  • Companies are losing trust in the system (see below)

  • Disaggregated data is worse

2. Tertiary education in the US has a ‘Completion Crisis’

  • 41% of higher education students don’t complete

  • Only 20% of community college students complete

  • Enormous economic and social cost to non-completion

  • Spurring a new range of ed-tech innovations

  • Focus on learning barriers & psychological barriers (Get Set, Inside Track)

  • Focus on harnessing data and predictive analytics (Civatas)

3. Lack of connections between education and employment

  • Clear disconnect between workforce needs and graduate outcomes

  • Lack of focus on the entry level skills required to secure a job

  • Mismatch between federal funding (accredited training only) and industry requirements (often unaccredited, skills targeted learning)

  • Big shift in competency-based training in higher education

4. Rise of online as the preferred delivery mode… and asynchronous

  • 49% of college students believe they can learn as effectively online as offline

  • 75% of college students want self-paced learning

  • Meeting the needs of the ‘new majority’, baking in accessibility & flexibility

  • Massive increase in the usage of online learning tools for offline students

  • Merging of pedagogical concepts in offline and online learning

5. New models of credentialisation

  • Industry is losing confidence in government accreditation agencies

  • Emerging industry-based credentialisation of competencies

  • Focus on skills and behavioural competencies for the workforce

  • Unaccredited providers gaining traction (General Assembly, PluralSight)

6. Companies and organisations to watch…

  • Cerego – personalised learning underpinned by the ‘science of learning’ (maybe)

  • Echo360 – active learning platform

  • Flat World – mobile platform for competency based learning

  • Minerva University – innovative learning system in higher education

  • Civatas – predicative analytics for learning

  • Inside Track – coaching for student success

  • Get Set – addressing the psychological barriers to learning

  • Open Classrooms – adult learning, innovative business model

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