EdTech News Roundup 2/28 - 3/6
Meet me at the Disco
No updates from me this week, onto the news!
Funding / M&A / IPOs
Reforge raises $60M: see “story” below!
Disco raises $15M: Disco’s platform provides the tools and infrastructure to grow a “live learning empire” in virtually any segment of education - microschools, bootcamps, cohort-based courses, and many more. Part of me thinks the cohort-based courses space is feeling awfully crowded - I wrote about competitors Maven and Modal just a month ago - but then I remember the market opportunity for platforms like these is, effectively, all live-taught classes
Daybreak raises $10M: Daybreak provides mental health services to students in 100+ schools in California. Given all the literature and reporting around depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems among students, it does not surprise me that a service like Daybreak is growing quickly
Tutored by Teachers (TbT) raises $10M: TbT works with K12 schools to provide small-group tutoring sessions for students, led by certified teachers. TbT’s model sounds attractive at base level; I’d like to know whether the dissolution of the for-profit tutoring market in China provided any tailwinds for their growth
Reforge raises $60M (same link as above)
Reforge provides a community and professional development courses for product managers, engineers, and marketers. More holistically, they aim to serve professionals in the “messy middle” of their careers.
Reforge belongs in the category of “unaccredited, but delivering real educational value” that I mentioned two weeks ago. I’ve been thinking about this category since then, specifically what parallels can be drawn between incumbent universities and these upstarts.
I think there are a lot of similarities. Courses still have teachers, with student volume varying based on level of specialization. Grades (or competencies) exist, with varying levels attention paid to them. There is a central quadrangle (slack group) etc.
What I’m most curious about is how these new institutions treat scarcity. Scarcity of student seats is, of course, the coin of the realm in the elite segment of today’s higher ed world. That doesn’t have to be the case for folks like Reforge. As an online-first institution, they have even fewer infrastructure costs than a traditional university, making it easier to serve additional students. But, they still might, for similar reasons to why an elite university keeps enrollment low.
I don’t have an opinion on whether this is right or wrong, it is just interesting to think about in the context of a company growing at venture scale. The easiest way for Reforge or any of the other entities to grow revenues is to admit additional students, but that comes at the cost of scarcity. They may be OK with that trade off! Or they may ask their alumni to start donating : )
SEI’s Workforce Edge reaches 640K employees: Workforce Edge is a new, Guild-like, platform from SEI for employers to manage tuition assistance. It took just 32 employers to reach that 640K employees served, with SEI’s CEO highlighting that their core businesses serve 800+ other employers. For comparison’s sake, Guild serves around 3M employees, but does not publicly break out employer numbers1
UC Berkeley may be forced to cut enrollment by 1/4: due to the litigation of a local environmental group worried that the growing student population will have adverse impact on the area. Berkeley has lost the court battle on this, but Governor Gavin Newsom is doing his best to sway public opinion, saying “This is against everything we stand for—new pathways to success, attracting tomorrow’s leaders, making college more affordable. UC’s incoming freshman class is the most diverse ever but now thousands of dreams will be dashed to keep a failing status quo.”
LA USD’s new superintendent, Albert Carvalho, on winning students back: one of the first interviews I’ve read where a public school leader talked about “winning” students back from public alternatives. Also cool to read that he still makes a point to teach classes
“Dyslexia is not for poor kids”: even as public school systems, sort of, emerge from COVID, the ramifications of 2+ years of disjointed learning are just starting to be unearthed. Testing for learning disabilities, which was poor at baseline, grew even worse. Now parents are being asked to spend thousands of dollars out of pocket to diagnose their children, even in states where this type of testing is “covered” by the state
UNLV president invests in AI chatbot…of himself: I give President Whitfield credit for attempting a different approach to chatbots than other universities, though it sounds like the execution is hit or miss. In completely unrelated news, I am raising $5M on $50M (post-money) for an “EdTech Thoughts” chatbot. My cofounders are the same folks who re-created Moff Tarkin, so EdTech Bot will have just the right amount of earnestness and snark
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Note: as you’ll see on my disclosure page, SEI is my former employer!